Choosing the right audio interface for your Mac is vital if you want to record audio as efficiently as possible. Gone are the days of needing to book studio time to use large mixing desks, now you can do it all from the comfort of your home studio.
Audio interfaces come with widely varying capabilities. To get the best out of your Mac, you require certain connectivity options and other specifications. In this detailed guide, I'll present you with the best options to suit your specific recording needs.
The Best Audio Interfaces for Mac OS
Table of Contents
- The Best Audio Interfaces for Mac OS
- Audio Interface for Mac – Must Have Qualities
The Apollo Twin MkII DUO is an improved version of the highly-popular original model. Featuring a number of enhancements, the second edition performs smoothly and acts as the central hub for your recording and production process.
AD/DA converters are two of the most integral components of any audio interface. The Apollo Twin MKII boasts premium converters, for streamlined audio capturing that can cope with whatever you ask of it.
The dynamic range of this interface is one of its standout features. Combined with a Mac and a pair of high-end studio monitors, it produces crystal-clear sound with exceptional attention to detail.
The warm, immersive analog sound produced by the Apollo Twin MKII is largely down to the built-in UAD processing. This gives you access to numerous UAD powered plug-ins, available both when tracking in real-time or retrospectively when mixing.
As far as connectivity is concerned, Universal Audio has opted for the gold-standard with a Thunderbolt connector. Known for its minimal latency, ultra-fast performance and impressive bandwidth, this type of connection are superior to USB or Firewire and perfectly suited to Mac.
If you find that your Mac struggles to cope with large numbers of tracks within your DAW, the Apollo Twin has got you covered.
With the built in UAD-2 processing power capabilities, the load is eased on your Mac and the interface uses its processor to share the burden, leaving you more CPU for adding extra tracks and effects.
Boasting high-speed Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, high-performance 24-bit/192kHz converters and eight XMAX mic preamp inputs, the Quantum 2626 by PreSonus is a magnificent audio interface for Mac users.
With its slimline design, the interface will slot nicely into any home studio, or mount onto an effects rack. It offers an extensive dynamic range, reaching heights of up to 120dB. There's no danger of stutters or lag, thanks to the rapid processing power of the 2626.
If 8 inputs and 2 outputs aren't enough for your recordings, rest assured. You can expand the I/O to 26 ins and outs by using the Quantum's dual ADAT inputs. This provides you with all of the options you could need for recording.
In addition to the X-over feature, the Bass Clone also houses several other parameters. Bass control can be used to adjust the presence of your dry tone, without affecting the chorus effect.
PreSonus has built a reputation for utilizing only the best converters possible within their interfaces. The Quantum 2626 has solid clocking, making it well-equipped to withstand multiple functions simultaneously without its performance suffering at all.
The interface also comes with the Studio Magic Plug-in suite, which is an extensive collection of useful VSTs from renowned companies such as Maag, Lexicon, and Arturia.
These plugins include effects presets, compressors, reverb units, modulation units, and emulators of some classic mixing tools.
The Scarlett 2i2 by Focusrite is an affordable and portable audio interface that works seamlessly with Macs. Building upon the first two generations of this model, Focusrite has further improved the best-selling interface in the world.
With high-performance 24-bit AD/DA converters, speedy USB connectivity, and ultra-low-latency, it's not difficult to observe why the Scarlett is loved by so many musicians and producers across the globe.
The third-generation Scarlett offers a pair of upgraded Scarlett mic preamps for smooth and accurate audio capturing. They also include optimized preamp gain capabilities, so you can set the ideal levels of the inputs before recording.
The mic preamps also feature the renowned Air mode, which Focusrite designed to provide inputs with a touch of their legendary transformers used in the ISA console of years gone by.
Air mode adds clarity to your recordings, evoking a brighter and more distinguished tone.
This audio interface also includes independently adjustable headphone and monitor outputs, and comes with a variety of software for optimal performance.
4. MOTU M2
The MOTU M2 is a reliable audio interface that is ideal for Mac users who want to set up a small home studio. With its 2-in/2-out design and USB-C connectivity, this mobile interface requires no prior experience to set up and operate.
Compact and conveniently sized, the M2 includes ESS Sabre32 Ultra DAC technology. This ensures the sound it captures and plays back is of the highest quality possible. The optimized drivers combat any potential latency issues and keep lag at bay.
What separates a great 2-channel interface from average competitors is the quality of preamps that are installed. The pair that is housed in the MOTU M2 sounds crisp, and are fitted with individual gain adjustment parameters for pre-recording tweaks.
In addition to the gain controls, both of the preamp inputs have phantom power, especially for recording condenser and ribbon mics. You can monitor the hardware with a single touch, which keeps the tracking smooth and streamlined.
On the front panel of the MOTU M2, there is a highly visible LCD screen in full color. This display screen allows you to keep an eye on the metering of the front-panel, and spot any inconsistencies as soon as they appear.
If you intend to use your MAC for podcasting or live streaming purposes, you'll be please to know that the MOTU M2 offers unique loopback functionality.
This blends the microphone's signal with the output from your MAC, then re-sends the mixture back into the computer.
The Clarett 4Pre is an extensive audio interface perfect for recording large numbers of instruments and microphones simultaneously. It acts as the centerpiece of your recording studio or can be linked to your Mac for live performance purposes.
Featuring a generous total of 18 inputs and 8 outputs, this Focusrite interface is kitted out with premium quality mic preamps that get the very best out of your condenser and dynamic microphones.
The dynamic range of the four mic preamps is exemplary and combines with the fast processors to promote low-latency, reliable performance. The result is a warm, natural-sounding tone that doesn't over-color your recordings but enhances them subtly.
Most audio interfaces that offer 18 inputs and 8 outputs are likely to be bulky in size. However, somehow Focusrite has worked their magic and compacted the impressive number of I/Os into a manageable sized-chassis.
Despite its comprehensive controls and a large number of in/outputs, the Clarett 4Pre doesn't feel crowded at all.
In fact, it is very easy to familiarize yourself with. Also included with this audio interface is Focusrite's Air effect, which can be switched on at any time.
Additionally, the Clarett 4Pre offers flexible connectivity including analog, S/PDIF I/O. It is hooked up to a Mac via a standard USB cable and includes dual-headphone outputs with +48v phantom power provided to each preamp.
Universal Audio's Apollo x4 is, in their words, the most powerful desktop interface they have ever created. It offers the highly respected UA sound and performance, with incredible processing and flawless recording capabilities.
The x4 may be a condensed version of the Apollo X, but it certainly doesn't lack in terms of capabilities. With classy features including 5.1 surround monitoring and +24dBu operation, this interface interacts with your Max extremely efficiently.
One of the reasons the Apollo range is so highly rated amongst recording engineers is the unrivaled ability to record multiple sound sources without any blemishes, lags, or processing issues. For this reason, they are a staple of professional studios.
The Apollo x4 has upgraded top-tier AD/DA conversion abilities. This allows it to quickly switch between modes, and handle heavy workloads with ease.
The four Unison preamps provide you with access to preset models of some of the most iconic hardware to ever grace recording studios around the world.
The Thunderbolt 3 connectivity offered by this UA interface furthers its effortless operation and performance. It is compatible with the revered LUNA software, which can interact with Logic, ProTools, or whichever DAW you have installed on your iMac or MacBook.
Included in the LUNA software is a variety of tailor-made presets, processing tools, plugins, and real time tracking capabilities. Recording with the Apollo x4 is a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
The EVO 4 by Audient is a minimalistic, easy-to-use audio interface that is perfect for Mac users taking their first steps into the world of recording. An innovative model amongst affordable interfaces, it combines intuitive operation with solid reliability.
Central to the performance of the Audient EVO 4 are two transparent preamps. Additionally, there is a JFET input for directly recording guitar, bass, keys, or any other electronic instrument.
This allows you to record without the need for an amplifier, straight into the chosen software on your Mac Pro or MacBook.
The converters installed within this audio interface perform to a level you'd expect from a much more expensive model. Then there's the 24-bit/96kHz sample rate, which provides you with recordings that aren't lacking in clarity.
For playback purposes or direct monitoring, there is a useful headphone output with dedicated volume control. Stereo monitor outputs are also included within the interface, and these work best with a pair of balanced XLR cables.
This affordable audio interface is powered simply by connecting it to your Mac via standard USB. This removes the need for an external power adapter and makes the EVO 4 an ideal choice for on-the-go recordings.
It's so small that you can easily pack the interface into a backpack and take it on the road with you. Whether you need to quickly demo an idea or record a professional-sounding track, the EVO 4 is an option worthy of your consideration.
8. MOTU 828es
Classy, versatile, and unique in appearance, the 828es by MOTU is a newly improved version of the legendary original model. Redesigned with an ESS Sabre32 DAC, this interface offers everything a producer or engineer requires for their studio rig.
Providing you with impeccable audio playback quality, the 828es boasts a dynamic range of 123dB. It records just as impressively, presenting minimal round-trip latency of 1.6ms at 96kHz.
If you're likely to be recording drum kits or other sound sources that require you to have multiple channels armed at once within your Mac DAW, interfaces don't get any more generous than this MOTU beauty.
The stack of I/O includes 60 audio channels that can all be used simultaneously, a pair of warm-sounding preamps, a whole host of digital recording options, and if that wasn't enough, it also offers AVB networking.
Although the 828es takes a little time to familiarize yourself with the huge selection of parameters and recording options, it's a time-worthy process. It can function as a standalone mixer, recording interface, or simply for audio playback through a phone, tablet, or another device.
There's also the inclusion of the 828es's powerful mixer, driven by DSP. This provides you with 48-channel mixing, and a wide variety of digital sound effects, mixing tools, and samples to choose from.
The Solid State Logic looks more like a mixing console than an audio interface at first glance, but when you examine the features more closely, you'll find a range of highly useful tools to enhance your recording and playback in the studio.
With over 40 years at the top of the recording industry, Solid State knows how to design an intuitive audio interface. The Logic provides you with access to the legendary Solid State sound in a compact format that will slot into your home studio nicely.
Packed with a set of professional-grade preamps that bring the best out of your microphones, the Logic sounds warm and sharp. Pristine 24-bit/192kHz converters ensure that it runs smoothly at all times with minimal latency.
The I/O options included in the Solid State Logic interface consist of four line outputs, a pair of headphone jacks which can be accessed both on the front and back panel of the unit, and 5-pin DIN MIDI in/outputs.
A standout feature of the Logic is the 4K Legacy mode. When activated, this allows you to add some of the quality from the revered SSL 4000 series analog console with a simple push of a button.
The materials used to construct the SSL are of the highest quality. Solid, durable, and sturdy, the metal chassis is greeted by Neutrik connectors and Alps pots. Both of these are known for their longevity and solid performance.
Audio Interface for Mac – Must Have Qualities
Many music producers and audio enthusiasts consider Mac to be the gold standard for recording and playback. However, to enjoy the full capabilities of a Mac, you must look for an audio interface that offers the following qualities.
Audio interfaces commonly connect to a laptop or computer via two main connector types, USB and FireWire. It’s important to check that your Mac includes an input for the relevant connector offered by the interface.
If an audio interface uses FireWire connectivity which isn’t facilitated by your Mac, it is possible to get an adaptor in most cases.
Inputs & Preamps
When recording using microphones or directly plugging an instrument into an audio interface, the quality is largely dependent on the preamps installed on each input.
Preamps are devices that essentially prepare the audio signal to be received by the DAW on your Mac, and they vary in terms of quality. Some add slight coloration to the recordings, and others attempt to keep the sound as clean as possible.
The number of inputs included on the audio interface is also an important thing to consider. If you intend to record onto your Mac using several microphones simultaneously, as you would when capturing a drum kit, for example, you’ll need to make sure the interface has enough inputs to achieve this.
When you’ve connected the audio interface to your Mac laptop or desktop computer, you can use monitoring to aid the recording process.
Some audio interfaces allow you to listen to the recordings you make onto your Mac in real-time, and this is a necessity for recording vocals or acoustic guitar. You can use headphones to ensure that the click track or other present tracks don’t spill into your recordings.
A/D & D/A Conversion
Audio interfaces must be capable of performing two types of conversion – analog to digital, and digital to analog. These processes make it possible for audio to be sent to and from your Mac, and for playback through speakers or headphones.
The conversion speed and efficiency of an audio interface impact the way it interacts with a Mac. This is a capability you should look out for and compare before you make your final decision.
If you’re using a Macbook with an audio interface, this provides the advantage of having a mobile recording studio. Choosing a compact interface will improve the portability of your setup, and allow you to make music in a variety of settings.
Audio interfaces are one of the wisest investments any musician, producer, or recording engineer can make. They play a pivotal role in any recording studio, and the quality of your chosen model will greatly impact the results you can achieve.
Macs and MacBooks have taken over as the industry standard for recording audio. That's why choosing one of the ideal audio interfaces featured in this article is a great idea to ensure that the combination works flawlessly together.