This post lists the cheapest 24-bit/96KHz audio interface and DAW software for Windows 7 laptop and desktop PC. This can also be used in Windows XP and other OS. I created this list because I received a lot of questions pertaining to this topic mostly from the starters/beginners in home music production. Also, they are not still well-informed about audio interface and will have a hard time doing some research on what to buy.
In reality, there are really a lot of choices out there and you will be spending a LOT of time in doing this research. Luckily, I already done this and would like to share all the results here. This saves your time. What I will do here is not to recommend a single product but to present a complete list (as of December 2011). Its up to you what you find is most important to your needs. It can be the price, features, the rating or the brand reputation.
If you are in the hurry, go directly to the Recommendations section near the bottom of this tutorial.
IF you are new to audio interface, I recommend you will read this useful post on the beginner FAQ on audio interface
Criteria to look for Audio Interface
First, these are the minimum requirements which all audio interfaces to be listed should have:
a.) 24-bit/96KHz A-D conversion (analog to digital conversion and vice versa- for more information read pulse code modulation tutorial.
Why 96KHz? It is because this type of audio interface can handle up to 96KHz recording sample rate. So it’s not required to record everything at 96KHz, but you can also record at 44.1KHz, 48KHz or other supported sample rate.
You can read this post on deciding the best sample rate and audio bit depth for Recording Projects.
b.) Compatible with Windows 7 or Windows XP
c.) USB connectivity – this is selected because of its advantage in modern PC (using Windows operating system), USB is often used as an extended connectivity more than Firewire. In addition, you can also read this article on USB vs Firewire audio interface.
The data for the audio interface are presented based on the following information:
a.) Amazon rating – the higher the rating, the better the product quality in reality because these are rating by real users.
b.) Number of Amazon raters – the higher the number of raters guarantee that the results are more or less reliable.
c.) Number of preamp inputs – the higher the number of preamp inputs, the better. This has some advantages doing a multi-track recording session.
e.) Price – the lower the better, of course not compromising the above listed criteria.
List of Cheap 24-bit/96 KHz Audio Interfaces with important data
Please look at the summary table below for the most important information you need regarding the audio interface.
Note: Data updated as of June 14, 2014 in Amazon. Prices, ratings and number of reviewers can change. It is sorted according to ratings.
Well, it depends on what you seem to be absolutely important. If you need one with the lowest price (as long as it complies with the minimum requirements stated earlier); then you should have either a Tascam US-144mkII or TASCAM US-122mkII.
If you want the best deal out of the price and features(particularly the number of inputs/outputs), you might want a TASCAM US-800 which has 6 pre-amp inputs and 6 outputs for only $159.
If you want a highly rated audio interface, you need to look at Roland TRI Capture, PreSonus AudioBox 22VSL or Focusrite Scarlett 2i4.
Some people wanting to buy an audio interface needs to be sure that there are quite a number of users out there, primarily because it is easier to ask for help in the support forums or other home recording forums. In this case, you will settle for a popular audio interface such as Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (which receives a high number of reviews indicating a large user-base).
The bottom line is that the audio interface you need should be sufficient for all of your project needs.
What about DAW software?
The only affordable digital audio workstation I know which I could recommend for most beginners is Reaper. It cost only $60 (as of December 2011) to license.
This software is complete and allows you to use VST/Direct X plugins. It also allows full ASIO multi-tracking feature (recording a lot of inputs simultaneously) for very low latency. You can easily use this software for both tracking and non-destructive audio mixing. And finally this works for Windows 7 or Windows XP.
There are no free solutions for DAW in Windows 7 that can compete with the above features. Audacity is free but it cannot be used to do all the tasks needed listed previously. Visit their site here.
You can read this Reaper DAW tutorial on how to get started using Reaper.
Content last updated on June 14, 2014