Best USB Audio Interfaces for Teaching Purposes

It has been posted in the previous blogpost that to get high quality audio for teaching purposes, USB microphone can be opted. In this post, I present 7 high-quality USB-based audio interfaces for teaching purposes.

To create digital audible content for teaching purposes, it is not necessary to have stuff like audio interface, audio mixer, or USB microphone. However, if you deserve quality, then devices listed in this post are worth to be considered.

Audio interface is mainly fuction as converter. It simply converts analog signal like your voice to digital signal. The basic version offers 1 mic preamp (which can be used interchangeably with guitar or bass). Some others offer 2 mic preamps which are ideal for recording 2-person talking in podcast, recording high-quality audio in interview session, and for any other purposes.

The application of the following audio interface is relatively similar. No need for technical installation - just plug-and-play via USB connection to laptop/PC and/or smartphone. If your device needs further setting, just make sure that the audio input and output are set to the device you use.

To use it for recording your digital audible content (e.g. podcast, Youtube), you will need a DAW (digital audio workstation) software. Most of audio interfaces nowadays come with a bundled free software (such as Ableton Live Lite, Steinberg Cubase, etc.). In case you are not familiar with the bundled software, GarageBand (for Mac only) and Audacity which costs totally free for Windows-based PC/laptop can be opted.

The devices are listed based on the most superior. However, it should be noted that the list is subjective. Here are the list.

#1 CEntrance Portcaster R4D ($500)

CEntrance officially labels the Portcaster as podcast mixer and audio recorder. It is equipped with 2 xlr input ports, 1 aux-in port, and 1 dedicated output port. It is also capable of handling audio streaming such as Zoom Meeting, Google Meet, Cisco Webex, etc. Based on the technical specification as advertised by CEntrance, the Portcaster offers -129dB of EIN (equivalent input noise) which is literally an ultra-low noise. Technically, the -129dB of EIN will not introduce white noise or hiss in your recording file so that your voice can be heard clearly.

Portable, tough (build like a tank), and multi-features lead me to place this unit into the first list. It is battery-powered device with built-in non-replaceable battery. In case you run out of power, single USB type C can power this unit.

The Portcaster is also equipped with mix-minus feature - a feature that enables you to add call-in guests into the recording. It prevents annoying audio feedback from traveling back to the caller through the phone-line.

#2 CEntrance MixerFace 3 ($450)

The features of MixerFace are similar with the Portcaster. Although the MixerFace is exclusively addressed for musicians and content creators, it is also capable of handling online meeting and of creating digital audible learning content. The EIN is also -129dB which technically ultra-low noise. The most noticeable physical difference is on the input ports which come in combo jack (XLR + 1/4mm).

#3 Zoom F3 ($350)

It is basically a field recorder which capable of handling audio - both in and out - of your computer/laptop. It is also capable of handling your online meeting. The Zoom F3 offers 2 XLR inputs that capable of handling condenser mic which requires phantom power and and dynamic mic which does not require phantom power. In addition, it can also function as line in.

The Zoom F3 is a 32-bit float recorder/interface that lets you just plug the unit to your laptop/PC through USB-C connection and you are good to go. Zoom Corporation claims that the Zoom F3 has -127dB of EIN (equivalend input noise) which technically means ultra-low noise. In the field, you will notice that the F3 does not produce significant white noise.

#4 Tascam Portacapture X8 ($500)

The Tascam Portacapture X8 has 4 dedicated combo jack input ports that accept XLR and 1/4 inch jack inpuut. It is capable of handling audio interface function on both laptop/PC and smartphone through USB type C. It is battery-powered and has stereo (L&R) mic capsule.

Among audio interface/mixer mentioned in this post, the Portacapture X8 by Tascam is the only one that is ready-to-use. The other still needs additional microphone - either dynamic or condenser.

#5 Arturia MiniFuse 1 ($100) & Arturia MiniFuse 2 ($150)

The most significat feature which does not belong to their competitors are the fact that Arturia Mini Fuse 1 and Arturia Mini Fuse 2 are equipped with a USB slot behind the unit that enables users to attach USB-based devices.

The Arturia MiniFuse 1 offers single combo XLR and 1/4inch slot to attach regular microphone - dynamic, condenser, or ribbon. The Arturia MiniFuse 2, as the name suggests, offers 2 combo XLR and 1/4inch slot to handle 2 regular microphones at the same time or 1 mic and 1 guitar/bass. Both MiniFuse 1 and MiniFuse 2 offers 110dB dynamic range and a class-leading equivalent input noise of -129dB which is ultra-low noise.

#6 Universal Arrow Volt 1 ($140) & Universal Audio Arrow Volt 2 ($190)

Based on technical measurement, the Universal Arrow Volt 1 and Universal Arrow Volt 2 has -129dB of equivalent input noise (EIN) which technically meaning that the preamp inside the units are quite enough - ultra-low noise. For preparing digital audible content for students, these audio interfaces are reliable enough. The difference between the Volt 1 and Volt 2 is only on the number of input socket it provides.

#7 Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Generation & Focusrite Scarlett Duo 3rd Generation

The Focusrite line-up has been around podcasting and voice-over world for years. The Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Generation has 1 XLR mic input which works with condenser, dynamic, and ribbon microphone. It is ideal for those who concern with digital audible content creation because it has decent dynamic range mic pre-amplifier. In addition, the self-noise (hiss, white-noise, or simply noise) of the pre-amplifier is nearly ultra-low noise -128 dB (A-weighted). The Focusrite Scarlett Duo 3rd Generation can also be opted in case you need 2 input. The pre-amplifier sounds exactly similar with the Solo 3rd Gen.

#8 Elgato Wave XLR

With up to 75dB of pre-amplifier gain, the Elgato Wave XLR your voice must be audible to your listeners - either you use it for creating pre-recording audible content or for online teaching via online conference application. This unit is mainly used by online gamer and streamer around the world to deliver crystal-clear voice.

Content posted on blog may contain subjective interpretation. You are highly suggested to check the reference quoted in every page of the blog to ensure the validity of information provided.

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