Best Audio Interface For Ableton – Our Top 5 Picks

Audio interfaces can be thought of as the centerpiece of any studio. 

They are what links your DAW to all your instruments, mics, speakers and headphones. They are also responsible for dealing with latency issues. And, from my experience, can either be a massive pain in the butt to get working correctly or be simple and easy to set up and never give you a single issue. 

Using all the info and experience I gained when choosing an interface for myself (twice). I have compiled a list of interfaces that will help you choose the right one for your needs and budget.


Here are the top 5 best audio interfaces for Ableton in 2019:
  1. Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6
  2. Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2
  3. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
  4. PreSonus Studio 26
  5. Steinberg UR242

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Do you NEED an audio interface to produce electronic music? 

No, not at all. Remember, they are just there primarily to handle inputs and outputs. All laptops and PCs already have an auxiliary output. So you can easily plug in your headphones and get producing. 

We all know Skrillex produces killer dance hits using only a laptop and headphones.

So if you have no plans to connect microphones, studio monitors or record any instruments and have no latency issues then you might just be fine without an audio interface. 

However, if you plan to produce music for the long run, chances are you will eventually want to connect professional gear to your DAW and will need an audio interface to accommodate.

Things To Consider Before Buying An Audio Interface

  • The number of required inputs and outputs – how many instruments, mics and speakers are you connecting?
  • Type of inputs and outputs – is your mic using an XLR, or 1/4 inch jack? What type of jack do your monitors use?
  • Will you be using hardware synths that require MIDI in/out? 
  • How much power do you need? Some mics require additional voltage to power them. Certain interfaces can provide this voltage through something called phantom power.
  • DSP (Digital Signal Processing) – DSP allows your interface to process certain plugins, taking the load off your CPU. 
  • Portability – will you be travelling with your interface or is it going in a rack in your studio?
  • Connector type – common types include USB, Firewire, Thunderbolt and PCIe. Make sure your PC or laptop is compatible and consider the speed requirements you may have. For example, thunderbolt and PCIe will be the fastest types of connectors so opt for them if possible. However, just like me, you may only have it in your budget to use a USB powered interface which works perfectly fine for my requirements.
  • Budget – Like most things in life, you get what you pay for. Can you get a good audio interface for under $200? Yes. But spending more will obviously afford you more features, faster speeds, better aesthetics etc.

Why is this article aimed at Ableton users? Are there any differences?

In theory, no. But I am an Ableton user, and I found I had various issues with certain interfaces when compared to some of my other producer buddies who are using FL Studio and other DAWs. 

For example, the first interface I ever bought was the Focusrite Scarlett Solo which was recommended by a friend using FL Studio. I bought it and had terrible of latency issues and my drivers kept crashing even though we were both using the same ASIO driver. I eventually got my hands on the NI Komplete Audio 6 which solved all my issues and to this day runs like a dream.

Lastly… I wrote this article primarily for users like myself, typically bedroom producers who don’t have a huge budget or the space, or the need for extremely expensive, high end interfaces. So I will be reviewing interfaces that are mostly in the $80-$300 range.


Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 MK2 (Winner)

Native instruments really hit the nail on the head with this interface. It looks great, feels solid and most of all worked seamlessly out of the box for me. 

A slightly more expensive interface but well worth the cost. The NI Komplete Audio 6 MK2 is a 6-in/6-out USB Interface that comes with a whole host of awesome NI plugins. It is also comes with MIDI in/out so you have the option to dabble in hardware synths without having to upgrade in the future.

Features include:

  • 6-in 6-out audio/MIDI interface 
  • 4 analog inputs, 4 balanced analog outputs
  • Digital stereo input and output (S/PDIF / RCA)
  • Two 1/4″ headphone outputs with independent volume controls
  • USB powered
  • 2 preamps with individual gain controls
  • Direct monitoring 
  • 48v phantom power
  • Comes with gigabytes of plugins and effects from Native Instruments


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Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2

The Komplete Audio 2 is Native Instruments cheapest interface yet. But don’t be put off by the low price point. A perfect little piece of hardware for anyone who only requires 1-2 inputs, headphone monitoring and 2 outputs. 

It looks great, feels solid and has all the basic features you would expect from an entry level interface and more. It has phantom power to power condenser mics, independent headphone volume control and comes bundled with some powerful plugins and Software. Unfortunately it does not support MIDI in/out, but that’s no surprise at the low price point.

If I was on a tight budget I would 100% go for this interface.

Features include:

  • 1 XLR input, 1 x 1/4″ jack input
  • 2 x RCA outputs
  • Phantom Power (+48V)
  • Desktop form factor
  • Headphone Output with independent volume control
  • USB Powered
  • Ableton Live Lite, Machine 2 Essentials, Monark, Replika, Phasis and Solid Bus compressor.


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Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

The Focusrite Scarlett range is probably the most recommended and most popular on the market today. Easily recognized for their scarlet red aesthetic. They come in various different sizes, prices, and configurations.

Coming in at under $200 the 2i2 is one of Focusrite’s cheaper, entry level audio interfaces. Perfect for most bedroom producers, it has all the required I/O’s to run headphones, a couple mics and monitors.  It lacks MIDI in/out so if you need that then you might consider the 2i4.

Features include:

  • 2 XLR inputs
  • 2 1/4 inch outputs
  • Phantom Power (+48V)
  • 2  preamps with switchable Air Mode to give recordings a brighter sound
  • Desktop form factor
  • Headphone Output with independent volume control
  • USB Powered
  • Comes with a Softube Plugin Bundle, 3 Month Splice Sounds Subscription, Addictive Keys and more awesome plugins.


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PreSonus Studio 26

PreSonus are the guys behind the well respected, up and coming DAW called Studio One.

It is therefore no surprise that the Studio 26 comes bundled with Studio One Artist version as well as a nice plugin bundle. It is USB powered, lightweight, compact, low-cost, features Presonus’ award-winning preamp technology, and although you would think it’s built for Studio one, the Presonus Studio 26  is fully compatible with Ableton Live.

Features include:

  • 2 x XLR inputs 
  • 4 x 1/4″ outputs
  • USB powered
  • 2 XMAX-L mic preamps
  • Headphone outputs (unfortunately no independent volume control)
  • MIDI in/out


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Steinberg UR242

Steinberg is no stranger to the scene. Best known for their Cubase, they are a well respected company and have had their teeth firmly in the software market for decades. However, they don’t only excel in the production of great  software. 

This little box packs in a lot of bang for it’s buck with MIDI in/out, 4-in/2-out, 2 high-quality mic preamps with individual gain control and more. And, like most other interfaces, comes bundled with some powerful plugins.

Features include:

  • 2 x XLR 1/4″ inputs 
  • 2 x 1/4″ inputs
  • 2 x 1/4″ outputs
  • USB powered
  • +48v phantom power 
  • 2 D-PRE mic preamps
  • 1 Headphone output with independent volume control
  • MIDI in/out
  • Basic FX Suite, Cubase LE and Cubase AI included


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Conclusion

Based on my experience I would have to choose the NI Komplete Audio 6 MK2. I have been using the 1st generation of this interface for over two years and haven’t had a single issue ever. It works beautifully and looks great. The MK2 looks even better. It has all the required inputs and outputs for my needs and even has MIDI in/out for when I start to dabble in analog synths. 

If the price point on the KA6 is too high I would opt for the KA2 as it still has awesome features like independent headphone monitoring control and phantom power, it looks awesome with it’s jet black design and neat little LED VU meter. 

I’ve heard good things about the Scarlett 2i2 but I wouldn’t buy it personally based on my terrible experience with the Scarlett Solo. However, many users reported a great experience and, based on the spec and price, I still think it’s a good option.

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