The Best Audio Interfaces for Live Performance

If you’re looking for an audio interface for live performances, there are a few criteria that are really important. You want an audio interface that is sturdy and not going to let you down, and it also needs to have low latency.

In this guide, we recommend a few excellent audio interfaces for live performance, as well as some other tips for reducing latency.

Best Audio Interfaces for Live Performance

Below you can find three excellent audio interfaces. These are all well-built, reliable, and have super-low latency making them perfect for live performances.

You will find that for some of the audio interfaces we have chosen, there are different models with a different number of inputs, outputs and preamps. If a different model suits your needs, by all means go for it. The models we have chosen are simply the ones we believe will be suitable for most people.

In terms of which brand to choose, if you can afford it, you should deffinetely go with RME. They are well known for being stable, reliable, and having low latency due to their excellent drivers. However, they are quite pricey. The Focusrite Scarlett is a good option for live performances if you’re on a budget, but it isn’t on the same level as an RME.

Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 (2nd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First
RME Babyface 24-Channel Audio Interface with Audio-Technica ATHM30X Headphones
RME Fireface UCX 36-Channel, 24-Bit/192kHz High-end USB & FireWire Audio...
Budget
Mid-Range
High-end
Interface
Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 (2nd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First
RME Babyface 24-Channel Audio Interface with Audio-Technica ATHM30X Headphones
RME Fireface UCX 36-Channel, 24-Bit/192kHz High-end USB & FireWire Audio...
Analog Inputs
2 x XLR-1/4" combo, 2 x 1/4" (line in)
4 x Analog Inputs (Mic, Line, Instrument)
8 x Analog Inputs (6 x TRS Balanced, 2 x XLR/TRS Balanced Combo)
Preamps
2
2
2
Analog Outputs
4 x 1/4" (line out), 2 x 1/4" (headphones)
4 x Analog Outputs (2 x XLR, 2 x Phones)
8 x Analog Outputs (6 x TRS balanced, 2 x Phones (TRS - Stereo)
Connection
1 x USB 2.0
1 x USB 2.0 (USB 3 compatible)
USB 2.0 and FireWire
Price
from $269.99
$759.00
$1,599.00
-
Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 (2nd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First
Budget
Interface
Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 (2nd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools | First
Analog Inputs
2 x XLR-1/4" combo, 2 x 1/4" (line in)
Preamps
2
Analog Outputs
4 x 1/4" (line out), 2 x 1/4" (headphones)
Connection
1 x USB 2.0
Price
from $269.99
RME Babyface 24-Channel Audio Interface with Audio-Technica ATHM30X Headphones
Mid-Range
Interface
RME Babyface 24-Channel Audio Interface with Audio-Technica ATHM30X Headphones
Analog Inputs
4 x Analog Inputs (Mic, Line, Instrument)
Preamps
2
Analog Outputs
4 x Analog Outputs (2 x XLR, 2 x Phones)
Connection
1 x USB 2.0 (USB 3 compatible)
Price
$759.00
RME Fireface UCX 36-Channel, 24-Bit/192kHz High-end USB & FireWire Audio...
High-end
Interface
RME Fireface UCX 36-Channel, 24-Bit/192kHz High-end USB & FireWire Audio...
Analog Inputs
8 x Analog Inputs (6 x TRS Balanced, 2 x XLR/TRS Balanced Combo)
Preamps
2
Analog Outputs
8 x Analog Outputs (6 x TRS balanced, 2 x Phones (TRS - Stereo)
Connection
USB 2.0 and FireWire
Price
$1,599.00
-

What To Look for in an Audio Interface for Live Performance

When you’re choosing an audio interface for live performance, there are certain things you need to prioritise. That’s not to say these aren’t important for a home studio too, but they’re really important for performing live. These are the primary factors we considered when choosing the audio interfaces in the table above.

  • Reliability – For any performing musician, the thought of equipment failing during a set is an absolute nightmare. Technical problems in the studio are certainly annoying, but not the end of the world. But for live performances, you want to make sure you’re using the most reliable gear you can.
  • Good build quality – Obviously, if you’re going to be moving it around a lot, you want to make sure the build quality of the audio interface is excellent.
  • Low latency – This is incredibly important for live performances. You want as little latency as possible when playing live, so we have only picked audio interfaces which have very low latency.
  • Compact size – This one isn’t necessarily a big deal, but if you’re going to be using the audio interface for live performances, you will probably want it to be fairly small and portable.

Other Things to Consider

As well as choosing an audio interface suitable for live performance, you also need to consider things that are specific to your requirements.

  • Number of inputs – You will need to decide how many inputs you need. If you’re performing solo or as a duo, you won’t need too many inputs. But remember, some instruments like drums will require more than one input.
  • Type of inputs – The type of inputs are also important. Most audio interfaces will have plenty of 1/4″ inputs, but only a few XLR inputs. Make sure you know the types of inputs you need as well as how many.
  • Number of outputs – As well as having enough inputs, make sure you have enough outputs for whatever you will need them for.
  • Connection type – Finally, you will need to consider the connection type. Most audio interfaces come with USB and/or FireWire. There’s isn’t too much between these connection types so as long as your computer has the appropriate connection type, you should be fine.

Combating Latency

When it comes to performing live, one of the biggest hurdles you will face with an audio interface is the latency. You want to reduce latency in any environment, but for live performances it is particularly crucial.

The audio interfaces we have picked are often praised for their low latency and how well they perform in a live setting. RME audio interfaces in particular have excellent drivers with a very low latency. However, there are some other things which affect latency too.

  • Your computer specs – A faster, more powerful computer will reduce latency. Make sure you have a powerful CPU, plenty of RAM and a fast hard drive.
  • Background programs – Programs running in the background can slow down your computer. Make sure you close down any unnecessary background programs.
  • Plugins – Sometimes plugins can cause latency. If you are experiencing particularly high latency, delete them one by one to try to identify the culprit.

Conclusion

When choosing an audio interface for live performances, you want to look for something well-built, reliable, and with a low latency. The three audio interfaces we have chosen all fit this bill. Along with choosing the right audio interface, you also want to have a fast computer with as few background programs running as possible. And if you notice unusually high latency, check your plugins.

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