Find out about the 7 best audio interfaces for streaming and how they will transform your live streaming experience. Those still using onboard audio from their motherboard already know of the struggles dealing with low quality audio. From budget models aimed at beginners to fully featured professional options, let’s learn which is the best audio interface for your streaming needs.
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The Best Audio Interface for Live Streaming to Twitch, Facebook and YouTube
An audio interface will convert the analog signal of your voice into a digital signal that your PC can transmit. A USB audio interface can have varying degrees of features including inputs, outputs and offer some form of preamp or phantom power.
Below you’ll read about 7 of the best audio interfaces currently available on the market for live streaming. These are designed to be simple and easy to use and can be set up and ready to stream within minutes of unboxing. Whether you’re live streaming to Twitch, Facebook or YouTube, an audio interface will make your streaming experience a far better one for you and your audience.
TC Helicon GoXLR Mini – Best Audio Interface for Windows 10
TC Helicon GoXLR Mini
The GoXLR Mini is one of the most fully featured and easy to use audio interfaces currently available. It’s designed as an all-in-one online broadcasting/live streaming/podcasting mixer that has a built-in audio interface along with a Midas preamp.
The preamp is designed to handle the power XLR microphones require in order to provide you with the highest quality, crisp and clean sound. Along with the XLR input additional features include 3.5mm in and out jacks, USB out to a PC and an optical out for any modern gaming console.
The GoXLR Mini is able to centralize all of your live streaming equipment along with the help of their own app. Designed for Windows only, will allow you to configure and set up the apps you want to interact with the GoXLR Mini. This will grant you access to EQ effects, the built-in compressor and the built-in Gate so you can tune your audio on the fly without having to fiddle with other programs. Truly a great piece of kit, bound to improve your audio and live streaming prowess.
Elgato Wave XLR – Best Audio Interface for Streaming on Twitch
Elgato Wave XLR
The Elgato Wave XLR is a brand new product from Corsair and one designed specifically to meet the needs of anyone streaming on Twitch. It’s packed with a bunch of streaming specific features like a capacitive touch mute button or what is otherwise known as a “cough” button. It also includes 48V phantom power for condenser microphones and has a zero-latency headphone output to allow for instant monitoring.
It comes with their own custom software called Wave Link and this provides access to their low-cut filters, anti-distortion technology and more features.
Wave Link also lets you create separate audio channels for all of your audio, whether it’s your XLR microphone, in-game audio, Discord or your internet browser. You can separate the individual source of sound and control how loud or what effects you wish to apply to each channel. This allows you to be in total control of your live streaming audio and you can monitor it all in real-time before it gets sent to your Twitch stream.
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 – Best Cheap Audio Interface
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96
The PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 is a best seller for many reasons, but the main reason why is because PreSonus keeps pumping out high quality, well built, affordable audio gear.
This is no different — whether you’re live streaming from your battlestation or taking it on the road, the heavy duty steel chassis and solid construction can handle the toughest environments. It packs 2 XLR inputs, balanced line outs, along with a ¼ inch headphone out jack for monitoring.
It’s Windows and Mac OS compatible for those on desktops or laptops and it’s also compatible with Ipads, should you want to live stream a podcast. It also comes with award winning audio recording software, but it’s not something that someone streaming to Twitch would concern themselves with usually.
The key takeaways are this: PreSonus has a long standing reputation for high quality audio products, the AudioBox USB 96 is a sturdy and well built audio interface and it’s incredibly affordable.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 – Best Audio Interface for Live Streaming
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB Audio Interface
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is the world’s best selling usb audio interface. It’s a 2 input and 2 output usb audio interface featuring high performance microphone preamps and a high performance converter that enables 24-bit/192kHz recording.
The 2 balanced outputs are also hum-free, allowing for clean audio playback. Due to the orientation of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, most of the connections being in the front, it is very easy to set up and allows you to have studio quality audio within minutes. The compact and lightweight design makes it easy to place this on a computer desk and not worry about size or weight constraints.
Focusrite has been making microphone preamps for 30 years, and the newest generation 2i2 is one of the best ever. If you’re using an XLR microphone the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 has 2 XLR inputs in the front and gain knobs that can be controlled individually. The gain controls have an LED that shows colors that correspond to the peak levels of your audio. The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 allows for future expandability and flexibility with your streaming setup.
Focusrite Scarlett Solo – Best Audio Interface Under 100
Focusrite Scarlett Solo USB Audio Interface
The Focusrite Scarlett Solo is designed to be a small form factor audio interface for microphones. This is Focusrite’s simplest and most compact interface. The Scarlett Solo is aimed at those on a budget and if you’re new to streaming you cannot go wrong with this usb audio interface. It features a high performance microphone preamp, designed to be paired with a condenser microphone.
The Focusrite Scarlett Solo is not designed to handle multiple microphones and various outputs. It excels in being an uncomplicated, compact and simple design. One input and one output.
Even with this trimmed down approach, the Scarlett Solo is quite impressive for the price. It comes with the same 24-bit/192kHz converter as it’s big brother, the 2i2. The gain controls are much the same as well, with an LED showing the peak levels of your audio to help the user avoid clipping.
Another aspect that remains the same across their product lines is their build quality, rugged and compact, the Scarlett Solo has no issue staying on your computer desk or being thrown in a bag and taking it with you on the road.
Mackie Audio Interface – Best Budget Audio Interface
Mackie Audio Interface
The Onyx line of the Mackie Audio Interfaces is one where a rich feature set and a budget price meet together. The Mackie Audio Interface boasts high resolution 24k/192kHz converters along with their premium Onyx mic preamps — what does this mean to the everyday streamer? It means a high quality, true studio sound without the premium price of other products.
It’s also an audio interface designed with a rugged exterior, extremely sturdy and well-built that will handle the everyday rigors of live streaming without issue. This Mackie Audio Interface comes with 1 XLR microphone input, supporting 48V phantom power for condenser microphones, USB 2.0 out to your PC and a zero-latency headphone out so you can monitor your audio in real-time before it gets sent to Twitch.
Portable, durable and with a budget price. You cannot go wrong with the Mackie Audio Interface for all of your live streaming needs.
Behringer U-Phoria UMC22 – Best Audio Interface Under 50
Behringer U-Phoria UMC22 USB Audio Interface
The Behringer U-Phoria UMC22 is a portable and very affordable usb audio interface. As a budget option in the world of interfaces, this is a great option for the brand new streamer looking for an introductory option for their condenser microphone.
While not as fully featured as the aforementioned options, what the Behringer U-Phoria UMC22 brings to the table is top notch quality with a small footprint, perfect on a desk or on the go for portable use.
It comes packed with a MIDAS microphone preamp, making this comparable to both the Focusrite Scarlett series and Tascam offerings. This usb audio interface is far cheaper than the previous options, but Behringer didn’t sacrifice on audio quality. The ultra compact UMC22 2×2 boasts 48khz resolution with a high quality MIDAS preamp, designed with an XLR input for a condenser microphone, producing amazing detail and pristine audio quality for an audio interface typically under $50 dollars.
How to Use an Audio Interface for Live Streaming?
Now that you’ve chosen an audio interface to be a part of your live streaming setup we need to understand how to use it.
First, you need to have an XLR microphone standing by, ready to connect with the XLR input of your audio interface. Second, make sure you will be connecting the audio interface to a Windows PC or in some cases, a Mac. Unfortunately Linux or most mobile devices don’t have the software support or streaming connectivity to be used.
Finally, we’ll want to use the most popular streaming software that we can find, namely OBS Studio. Let’s take this one step at a time.
Connect to your PC
All of the aforementioned audio interfaces are USB capable and in most circles they’re simply referred to as USB audio interfaces, but that’s a given at this point because it’s the most popular bus in order to connect to a PC.
The USB port will most likely be on the back of the audio interface, probably among several other ports and you will need to physically connect this to a USB port on your Windows PC.
Fairly straight forward, now that it’s connected we’ll need to set it up with our live streaming software, OBS Studio.
This step by step approach will assume you already have OBS Studio installed and configured properly on your PC. If you’re looking for a guide on how to do that, you can check How to Stream on Twitch for more information.
In order for OBS Studio to recognize your audio interface you will need to set it as a Source.
- Click the + sign under the Sources window within OBS Studio
- Select Audio Input Capture
- Name your new Source
- Select your audio interface from the Devices drop down menu
Now OBS Studio should recognize your audio interface and you will then be able to move onto the next step of testing your settings and adjusting your levels.
Test your Settings
From OBS Studio, next to the Sources window you should see an Audio Mixer section. If you’ve chosen the correct Audio Input Capture device then you should be able to control the audio levels coming from the device in real-time.
Perform a quick microphone test in order to see the volume levels in real-time. Then adjust from there if it’s too loud or too quiet.
All the way to the right of the Audio Mixer section is the Start Streaming button and once you’re satisfied that you have installed and configured your audio interface correctly, you can begin live streaming to Twitch, Facebook or YouTube.
Audio Interface vs Mixer for Streaming
The difference between an audio interface and a mixer for streaming is a simple one. An audio interface is designed to record a clean analog signal and convert it to a digital signal on your computer and allow the audio to be on separate tracks.
Audio mixers typically offer hardware knobs and switches in order to adjust EQ, Compressor and Gate so you can mix in real-time. However, audio interfaces typically leave those kinds of features up to software or Windows.
Both are great options, but it depends on your live streaming setup — do you have a dual pc streaming setup? If you don’t have multiple PCs, consoles, etc, perhaps an audio interface is better suited to your needs.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Audio Interface for Streaming
Which is the best USB audio interface?
TC Helicon GoXLR Mini is currently the best audio interface you can purchase with live streaming in mind.
What is the best cheap USB audio interface?
This is a really good question. If you only require one microphone input and aren’t too picky when it comes to features or future expandability, this brings your options down to two, the Behringer U-Phoria UMC22 or the Focusrite Scarlett Solo.
Both are excellent choices, however the Focusrite Scarlett Solo is newer and therefore the more expensive option between the two. If price is your only concern, you would select the Behringer U-Phoria UMC22.
Does the USB audio interface affect sound quality?
Spending more for a USB audio interface will result in much better audio and recording quality compared to the onboard audio solution provided by your motherboard. With the inclusion of a preamp and a high end converter all of the aforementioned USB audio interfaces will result in a cleaner, more pristine sound quality.
What is the best audio interface for OBS?
The TC Helicon GoXLR Mini is one of the best audio interfaces for streaming and works perfectly out of the box with OBS Studio. Very easy to unbox, setup and install you can stream to Twitch within minutes.
Is Focusrite Scarlett Solo good for streaming?
The Focusrite Scarlett Solo is a fantastic audio interface and it’s perfect for streaming to Twitch, Facebook and YouTube. It’s incredibly user friendly and works with both Windows and Mac operating systems.
It comes with 1 XLR input for a condenser microphone and provides 48V of phantom power, exactly what you need to live stream studio quality audio.
Transform Your Streaming Experience with an Audio Interface
Now that you have added an audio interface to your streaming setup, long gone are the days of dealing with the hassles of underpowered and overburdened onboard audio. By installing an audio interface to your computer, you are transforming it into a live streaming setup capable of studio quality sound at a fraction of the price.