Five Portable High Quality Apple Friendly Audio Interfaces That Won’t Hurt Your Wallet

With programs like Garageband and iMovie bundled with OS X, its easy to begin working with music and video. While the included audio output (headphone jack) does its job, its hardly something that can handle professional work. For those starting out who want something that they can use, yet doesn’t suck, I’ve compiled a list of five quality portable audio interfaces that cost less than $300.

M-Audio Fast Track Pro
M-Audio Fast Track Pro
A combined audio and MIDI interface running over USB bus power. Compact and lightweight, the M-Audio Fast Track Pro can go anyplace. Includes surround sound playback as the digital outputs pass AC-3/DTS information to a capable receiver.

Features include:
– Two XLR / 1/4″ Inputs
– Two 1/4″ Balanced Outputs, Four Unbalanced Outputs (RCA)
– 1/4″ Insert jack for Outboard Processing
– 24 Bit / 96Khz Audio A/D D/A
– S/PDIF Digital In/Out – Coaxial
– Digital Out supports AC-3 and DTS pass through
– MIDI In/Out 1×1

E-MU 0404
E-MU 0404
A high quality USB 2.0 audio and MIDI interface in a compact, stable and nice sounding package. The E-MU 0404 is the only interface in this group which will record in 192kHz audio. This interface is the portable USB version of their acclaimed 0404 PCI Card interface.

Features include:
– Two XLR / 1/4″ Inputs with Soft Limiter and 48V Phantom Power
– Two 1/4″ Balanced Outputs, One 1/8″ Stereo Output
– 24 Bit / 192kHz A/D/A Converters
– S/PDIF Digital In/Out – Optical and Coaxial
– MIDI In/Out 1×1
– XTC Class-A Preamps

Focusrite Saffire LE
Focusrite Saffire LE
As the most expensive interface in this posting, the Focusrite Saffire LE offers the most inputs/outputs of the group. The LE model differs from the original Saffire in that it lacks onboard signal processing (DSP). However, the LE does come with the entire Saffire VST and AU plugin effects suite. If you need the extra inputs and outputs, this is the interface to choose.

Features include:
– Two XLR or 1/4″ Inputs in front and Two 1/4″ Inputs in the back.
– Six 1/4″ Balanced Outputs
– S/PDIF Digital In/Out – Coaxial
– 24 Bit / 96kHz Audio A/D D/A
– MIDI In/Out 1×1
– Focusrite Preamps
– Firewire

PreSonus AudioBox
PreSonus Audiobox
Compact, lightweight and built with portability in mind. Completely USB bus powered, you can use this interface anywhere. The PreSonus AudioBox also contains their award winning preamps as well as professional grade 102db / 24 Bit digital converters.

Features include:
– Two XLR / 1/4″ Inputs with 48V Phantom Power
– Two 1/4″ Balanced Outputs
– 24 Bit / 48kHz Audio A/D D/A
– MIDI In/Out 1×1
– Two Class A XMAX Preamps

M-Audio Transit
M-Audio Transit
If you need a portable audio interface that’s really portable, M-Audio Transit is worth a look. About the size of a laptop expansion card and weighing .1 lbs, it will easily fit into your laptop bag. A bonus for allowing AC-3 and DTS pass through, enabling you to hook into a surround system.

Features include:
– 24 Bit / 96kHz recording and playback
– Stereo Input (Analog and Digital)
– Optical Digital Output allows AC-3 and DTS pass-through

These five interfaces are by no means the only interfaces out there. There are so many that it can be confusing for someone just starting out. All five of these interfaces are made by respectable companies that deliver high quality sound. My personal preference and recommendation would be the E-MU 0404 as an all around interface. While I do think the Focusrite Saffire LE is also highly recommendable, unless you need the extra inputs and outputs, go with the E-MU.

Enjoy!

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