Looking for the best audio interface for mixing and mastering?
Have you ever wondered how top recording artists and producers get “that” sound?
You know – that radio sound where all of the elements of a song just mesh together and sound tight and polished?
Well, the secret is often found in the mixing and mastering processes.
Mixing and mastering are two of the most important steps in producing modern recorded music, and in order to professionally mix and master your tracks, you’re going to need the right audio interface.
If you're looking to get that professional radio quality sound in your music production look no further than our blog post on the best audio interfaces for mixing and mastering!
This post explains the mixing and mastering processes, and highlights four top picks for audio interfaces.
Focusrite Clarett+ 8Pre
- Midrange Pricing
- Plenty of Inputs & Outputs
Universal Audio Apollo Twin X Quad
- Studio-Grade Performance
- Included UA Plug-Ins
- Able to Emulate Famous Names In Audio
Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD USB
- High-Quality A/D
- Midas Preamps
Solid State Logic SSL2+ USB
- History of Performance
- Included 4K Button
- High Gain For Low-Volume Performances
Best Overall Audio Interface For Mixing & Mastering
Focusrite Clarett+ 8Pre
The Focusrite Clarett+ 8Pre is our overall pick for the best audio interfaces for mixing and mastering. This interface is a powerful studio-grade audio interface that provides a high-performance and versatile solution for established producers, engineers, and artists.
The interface features eight high-headroom, low-noise, and low-distortion Clarett+ mic preamps with All-analogue Air and relay control, which captures vocals, drums, and acoustic instruments with precise clarity. It also includes two JFET instrument inputs that preserve the natural tone of guitars, just like plugging into an amplifier.
The Clarett+ 8Pre comes with new and improved independent A-D and D-A converters with extremely wide dynamic range, low noise, and low distortion. The interface has an ADAT optical input, powerful and transparent headphone output, and supports MAC/PC/iOS configuration with Focusrite Control.
The interface also allows the emulation of iconic Focusrite hardware, including three classic processors from Focusrite's 40-year legacy of precision studio sound. The Clarett+ 8Pre is an ideal interface for multi-tracking a drum kit or connecting to synths and outboard equipment, as it lets you constantly develop your musical ideas while always maintaining analogue purity and extreme audio clarity.
What’s Involved in Mixing and Mastering?
Mixing is the process of taking each individual recorded part and adjusting its volume level and pan position. Essentially, this is where each individual instrument and vocal track gets adjusted up or down in volume and left or right in a stereo mix.
The goal is to blend all of the different tracks together so that nothing is louder or softer than the others, but you also don’t want similar frequencies to occupy the same stereo space. This is the reason for panning.
Mastering is the final step in the digital recording and production process. During the mastering phase, a mix is critically analyzed using a variety of meters to check for issues like peaking.
The entire track’s volume level is kept in check using tools like compressors and limiters, and a last pass of equalization (EQ) is applied to provide some final polish and sparkle.
Mastering requires high audio fidelity to catch all of the nuance and subtlety in complex digital recordings, and this is why you need the best audio interfaces for mixing and mastering if you want to do the job right.
Choosing The Best Audio Interface For Mixing and Mastering
If you’re trying to find the best audio interface for mixing and mastering, there are some great options out there. Below are our top picks for music production and specifically mixing and mastering:
- Focusrite Clarett+ 8Pre
- Universal Audio Apollo Twin X Quad
- Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD USB
- Solid State Logic SSL2+ USB
Best Overall Audio Interface For Mixing and Mastering – Focusrite Clarett+ 8Pre
- JFET high-impedance inputs for amazing fidelity
- High dynamic range A/D converters
- USB-C bus power
- Some users report compatibility issues with drivers
- Number of I/O may be too much for some users
- Included cables reportedly too short for some
Focusrite makes a lot of pro audio products, but what we love about the brand is that their audio interfaces are affordable and come packed with features. The reason we chose the Focusrite Clarett+ 8pre (and really any of the Focusrite Clarett+ family of products) as our best overall audio interface for mixing and mastering is because it provides plenty of functionality for all types of producers.
Whether you’re working in a professional studio environment, mixing live sessions or mastering your tracks in a bedroom studio, the Focusrite Clarett+ delivers high performance without being overpowered. Audio engineers will love the JFET ultra-high-impedance instrument inputs for crystal clear sound, and this interface also features relay-controlled analog circuits that do a fantastic job of emulating the classic Focusrite ISA110 for super-crisp highs.
Best Studio-Grade Audio Interface For Mixing and Mastering – Universal Audio Apollo Twin X Quad
- Able to emulate famous tones from top names in audio production
- Comes with access to library of high-quality UA plug-ins
- Includes Hi-Z inputs for separate tracking
- May be a bit expensive for some budgets
- Includes many features beginners may find intimidating
- Size may be a little too large for some mixing desk areas
If you’re looking for the best audio interface for studio-grade mixing and mastering, the Universal Audio Apollo Twin X Quad is the solution you need. Universal Audio has built its reputation on creating high-quality audio gear and plug-ins that have been used to record top hits in some of the world’s best studios.
The Universal Audio Apollo Twin X Quad is quite a bit more expensive than the other solutions on this list, but users love that the Universal Audio Apollo Twin X Quad comes with advanced modeling technology to emulate the tone of famous Marshall, Neve, Manley and API gear. On top of that, users gain access to a whole library of UA plug-ins to use in their preferred DAW software to enhance the mixing and mastering experience further.
Best Audio Interface For Mixing and Mastering on a Budget – Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD USB
- Affordable on nearly any budget
- 24-bit/192kHz audio converters
- 4 XLR/TRS inputs and 6 ¼” outputs for all your studio needs
- Potential compatibility issues with both Windows and MacOS
- Needs adapter when using more than one input with phantom power
- May be light on features for advanced users
The Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD USB is our pick for the best audio interface for mixing and mastering on a budget because this unit is one of the least expensive on the market, but it also comes with plenty of features found in more expensive interfaces.
The Behringer name is known far and wide in the digital production industry as one that can be trusted for quality and value. With the Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD USB, you get four Midas-designed preamps and a 24-bit/192kHz audio experience. This is premium performance at a price almost any producer can afford.
Honorable Mention – Audio Interface For Mixing and Mastering – Solid State Logic SSL2+ USBD
- Price point is a nice middle ground
- Easy to transport for on-the-go mixing sessions
- Works great for recording spoken word
- RCA outputs may not be for everyone
- Some find the output mix control limiting
- May not play nice with Cubase
We love Solid State Logic (SSL) and have used their gear for years. The SSL2+ USB certainly lives up to the brand’s reputation, and while not included in our top picks, we believe it deserves an honorable mention. The SSL2+ features 24-bit/192 kHz A/D converters for flawless audio, and it also includes the famous 4K button that allows users to access the legendary SSL 4000 Series sound without spending a fortune on an authentic unit.
Key Things to Consider When Choosing an Audio Interface for Mixing and Mastering
When looking for the best audio interfaces for mixing and mastering, there are a number of things to consider, including:
You want to think about what you’ll be mixing and mastering with your interface. There’s no need to spend a fortune on an audio interface if you’re just planning to use it for recording demos in a bedroom studio.
It’s also important to consider whether you’ll be able to connect your interface with your DAW. Most audio interfaces use USB or similar technology to send digital audio signals to your computer for processing, but double-check the specs of any audio interface you consider buying.
Different audio interfaces come with various input and output connectivity features. Some use USB while others use XLR inputs and outputs. RCA is another type of connection featured as an output on a number of audio interfaces. Make sure you can connect your interface before making a purchase.
Your Other Equipment
In keeping with the two points above, consider your other gear and how it utilizes your audio interface. Some gear may not be able to connect without special adapters. You also might need to get your hands on some additional cables to get everything connected properly and securely.
Final Thoughts On The Best Audio Interface For Mixing and Mastering
Although there are plenty of fantastic options out there when looking for the best audio interfaces for mixing and mastering, it’s important to remember that your ears play a big part in how well a recording comes out.
Professional mixing and mastering engineers look for small details in the recordings they produce, and all of the audio technology in the world can’t make up for experience.
Once you get your hands on one of the above audio interfaces for mixing and mastering, you still need to spend the time to learn how to use your interface to squeeze every bit of power out of it.
With time and dedication to your craft, you’re sure to be producing hits.