We’re no strangers to audio interfaces, and today in our specific search, we wanted to find some Mac OS only models to take into consideration for your recording studio. The only difference (and advantage many may claim) is that Mac audio interfaces can be hooked up to your studio in a few different ways aside from USB — FireWire and Thunderbolt. The advantage? Faster data processing, less latency, and at times, better audio quality in general.
Guidelines to the best Mac audio interface
Audio interfaces don’t have to be tricky to shop for. In our experience, the biggest concern (aside from of course budget) is how many ins and outs you’ll actually need, as well as the audio resolution. Nowadays in this day and age, we do not recommend you go any lower than 192 kHz and 24-bit! We don’t care what anybody else says. If you are investing in an entirely new audio interface or it’s your first one, keep up with the times. Be strict on this.
With that being said, just any audio interface that says it goes up to 192 kHz isn’t the same as others. For example an audio interface under $300 won’t be the same as a higher-end RME interface that goes for nearly a grand, even though they both record with 192 kHz. You can have the same audio resolution but different types of ways in which it processes your audio signals. This is either with the mic preamps themselves or the processing built-in to the interface’s skeleton. This is why you’ll see many interfaces start to hike up in price even though they have the same resolution — the inner parts are higher quality and more expensive, and whether or not it ‘sounds’ better will totally be up to you.
Aside from quality and how interfaces sound, we lastly want you to keep in mind what inputs and outputs you actually need. There are some out there 16×16 or even higher, but if you don’t need those, don’t get it! We have gotten by with just a 4×4 or even 2×2 before; however, it will really just depend on your intended use and what type of music or sound you record.
The best audio interfaces for Mac
Universal Audio Apollo Twin MK2
- Audio resolution: 24-bit/192 kHz
- 2×6 Thunderbolt audio interface
- LUNA Recording System
- DUO or QUAD Core Processing
- Unison technology
- Built-in talk back mic
- Monitor remote functions and monitor controls (Mute, Mono, DIM, and ALT)
- Two (2) mic/line preamps (premium Unison)
- One (1) front-panel instrument input (Hi-Z)
- Two (2) line outputs
- Up to 8 channels of additional digital inputs
- Two (2) analog monitor outputs (digitally controlled)
Here’s one of our favorite picks as the best audio interface for Mac. We have a Thunderbolt-only connection here with some brilliant audio resolution and core processing. In our opinion more than enough ins and outs, especially at a good number of channels and mic-preamps for your recordings. A built-in talk back mic is useful if you record others, otherwise what really stands out here is the way they process their sound. Their Luna recording system is a technology of theirs that increases the speed of recording through DSP-powered plug-ins with zero latency, and also offers some real time monitoring. We love the Apollo Twin Mk2 for Macs simply because of the quality of sound.
You can also look into the Universal Audio Arrow for a bit less features but at a cheaper price. The audio quality there is beautiful, too. We can’t get enough of UA’s sound.
RME Fireface UCX
- 36-channel USB and FireWire interface
- Audio resolution: Up to 192 kHz
- Up to 18 channels of recording and playback
- Low Latency mastering grade converters
- Two (2) mic preamps
- TotalMix FX (UFX DSP engine)
- Eight (8) x Analog input/outputs
- Two (2) x XLR/TRS Mic/Inst/Line
- Two (2) x Line/Instrument Input
- One (1) x SPDIF and One (1) x ADAT in/out
- Two (2) x MIDI hook ups
- Compatible with iPad
Up next as another one of our favorite choices as the best Mac audio interface, we have a heavy hitter by a brand RME that is synonymous with higher-end and more professional-geared studios. They have quite a few other options so we recommend checking out their interface lines but this is one of our favorites for Mac. It’s compatible with both FireWire and USB, and offers up to 18 channels of playback and recording.
The converters are beautiful which is what you’re really paying for — the resolution is nice but what’s inside is best. Add in some FX DSP engine, two mic preamps and tons of ins/outs as you can see in the list above, and we have another great pick with the RME Fireface UCX as the best audio interface for Mac computers.
- 16 x 14 Desktop Interface
- Audio resolution: Up to 192 kHz
- Connect via FireWire (Bus-powered) or USB 2.0
- Two (2) mic inputs (individual preamps)
- Two (2) Hi-Z instrument inputs
- Two (2) pairs of line inputs
- Four (4) analog outs
- MIDI I/O
- Two (2) headphone jacks
- Analog trim (digitally controlled)
- Balanced line inputs and main outputs
- Digital optical I/O
- Adjustable 48V phantom power and -20 dB pad
- Built-in instrument tuner
Let’s talk about a Mac OS audio interface that packs a powerful punch in a small package. Connecting via FireWire, the Track16 uses a clever way of being able to hook up so many ins and outs to a small little interface. You connect a variety of cables into a universal I/O connection they have there at the front of the interface.
Combine this with some Onboard DSP, latency-free effects and processors and some nice hands-on control on the unit itself, and we have a great interface for Mac in the MOTU Track16 to keep in mind if you wanted something a bit more smaller in size and less in price.
- 2×4 audio interface
- Audio resolution: Up to 192kHz / 24-bit
- AD/DA conversion
- Two (2) analog ins (mic preamps for each)
- Four (4) analog outs (2 balanced 1/4″ and 1/4″ stereo headphone)
- MIDI connection
- Top panel high resolution display (OLED)
- Two (2) assignable top panel control touch pads
Let’s continue to talk about something more simple yet still focusing on the most important part of a Mac audio interface — audio quality! We couldn’t count how many times we’ve had the Duet recommended to many, especially those in a smaller home recording studio. We have the essential ins\outs here, with a nifty OLED display at the top (we use the metering more than we thought we would), and of course, some pristine AD/DA conversion. The audio quality of Apogee Duet‘s are famous now.
You can also look into their their Apogee Symphony if you want even more in/out.
Solid State Logic SSL2
- 2-In / 2-Out USB-C Audio Interface
- Two (2) Solid-Sate Logic microphone preamps
- Legacy 4K effect option for each channel
- On-board monitor mix control
- Balanced monitor ins
- SSL production pack bundle included
- USB 2.0 bus-powered
We got a chance to try this baby out and in fact, we purchased on just a few months ago. It isn’t necessarily an audio interface strictly for Mac but we have a feeling these thing is going to be listed in a lot of our audio interface guides in the future. The audio quality of this is just amazing — and combine this with their “4K Legacy” button they have for each mic channel (it’s a preset effect that puts some warmth on the audio channel — great for vocals or guitars), we have some beautiful capturing here. Yes, one of the best Mac audio interfaces even though the Solid State Logic SSL2 is only USB.
Be sure to read our SSL 2 audio interface review for some more information.
Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 Mk2
- Audio resolution: Up to 192 kHz / 24-bit
- 6×6 USB audio interface
- Four (4) analog ins/outs
- Two (2) digital ins/outs
- Two (2) headphone out
- MIDI in/out
- Digital stereo input and output (S/PDIF / RCA) (lossless signal transmission)
We’ll end our guide with another USB only audio interface but we really like recommending this to many if it fits their budget and needs. Native Instruments puts a different spin to their gear and is only worth buying if you’re in need of a ton of FX and sounds. The processing on this interface is also great and the ins\outs will be most for many.
What you’re really buying here are the sounds however. You have multiple GB of sounds, FX, and software. Ableton Live Lite 10, their trial version of Traktor, and more. Don’t get this unless you need all the software, but we did want to end our article on the best Mac audio interfaces with this option in the Komplete 6 Mk2 just in case.