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Best Small-Format Interfaces in 2021

Virtual NAMM just happened and it's a shame we couldn't be there to witness the release of some pretty incredible gear. In this article, we'll highlight the best interfaces that came out and help you decide which one is right for you.

Antelope Audio Zen Go - $499

Antelope has been well known for their unmatched word clocks and high end conversion typically at price point unattainable to most small studios. The new Zen Go takes Antelope's high end sound and breaks through the market at under $500. It has two discrete preamps with 65dB of gain, enough for any mic, with up to 127dB of headroom on the converters. 

What sets this interface apart (other than the incredible specs) is the FPGA and DSP chips inside that work together to give you the best processing combination possible for either tracking or mixing with Antelope Audio's own FX collection that sounds just as good, if not better than hardware units. There, I said it and I meant it. 37 FX are included, but you can always expand your library on the Antelope website. 

 

 Audient iD14 MKII - $299

If you've watched our show, PPA Unfiltered, you'll know that we are fanboys of Audient. They take the sound of their large format consoles and brings it to small format interfaces. The new MKII interfaces have an updated look, sound and functionality.

The new converters with higher headroom and lower noise were a very welcome improvement. The most notable update on the iD14 is the additional set of monitor outputs. Audient's iD44 is well beloved for the monitoring capabilities and they recognized the demand on the smaller interfaces. When it comes to raw sound and monitoring functionality, it's hard to beat the Audient iD14 MKII.

MOTU M4 - 229.95

 MOTU is well known for their legacy in well-made interfaces, and the affordable M-Series is no exception. The M4 builds upon standard 2-channel interfaces by adding two TRS line inputs, two more pairs of line outputs, and expands the meter count to give you aesthetically pleasing visual feedback for ins and outs. MOTU builds the M4 with the highest standards both in specs using the legendary ESS Sabre32 Ultra converters and the all metal body and knobs that are meant for heavy use.

MOTU's new drivers for the M-Series are also lightning fast and make the loopback feature incredibly easy to use. For streaming, podcasting and online guitar lessons, efficient loopback is essential to mix computer audio with the mic/line inputs. Not only is it useful, but it sounds great too!

You can't look up recording gear without seeing SSL. They are the kings of hardware and have delved into the interface realm by releasing the SSL2. These bus-powered interfaces boast 62dB of gain to juice up all your low-output mics and sound clean and clear. If you want a little color, SSL included a 4K button that gives the signal harmonic saturation like the 4000-series consoles. Honestly, I don't record without it. 

One of the best parts of the SSL2 is the ease of use. There is no software mixer, no menus. Just good, old-fashioned analog routing with a knob and button for each function. 

PreSonus ioStation 24c - $299.95

With the release of the ioStation 24c, PreSonus changed the game for small format interfaces. Essentially, blending a Studio 24c and a FaderPort to give you an incredible combo. There is so much in here that it's easier to show you in this video:

Thanks for checking out our list of the best small-format interfaces of 2021! Here is a comparison chart so you can see them side by side:

 

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