So you want a setup for putting together demos but you need more inputs? To tackle this problem, we’re looking at some of the best multichannel audio interfaces that provide you with the features and expandability to take on recording projects in almost any genre.
Whether you’re working with a mixing desk, a patch bay, or simply running multiple mics and instruments directly into the interface, having multiple channels gives you plenty of creative flexibility for different workflows and configurations.
Choosing the best multichannel audio interfaces
Multichannel interfaces are not only a considerable investment, but they also involve connecting with a wide range of equipment. This makes it important to select something future-proof, no matter what end of the market you’re shopping in.
Compatibility with current and future versions of your OS and DAW is essential, and you may even want to expand your interface with additional inputs at a later stage.
For this purpose, we’ll be looking at various options that are rack-mountable, with ADAT expandability to provide versatile solutions with a certain degree of longevity.
PreSonus Studio 1824c
The Studio 1824c interface from PreSonus offers a huge amount of connectivity and up to 24-bit 192 kHz recording at a reasonable price. It offers eight preamps and ten DC-coupled line outputs that allow you to send CV/Gate signals from your DAW.
On the digital side, you get 16 channels of ADAT I/O. In addition, the Studio 1824c is equipped with S/PDIF, MIDI I/O, and word clock out.
On the front panel, you have two independently controlled headphones outs, input gain controls, and the main level knob. What’s more, the 1824c connects via USB-C and offers latency-free monitoring for quick play-through access.
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Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen
The widely used Scarlett 18i20 is a 24-bit 192 kHz interface with eight combo inputs and ten outputs. Two of the preamps double up as instrument inputs, and all inputs have access to the AIR function. What’s more, the optical I/O gives you 8 channels at 48 kHz or 4 channels at 96 kHz.
Aside from this, the 18i20 has S/PDIF, MIDI I/O, and word clock out. Moreover, convenient features like the built-in talkback mic makes sense when you’re working with a recording booth.
Although the headphones outputs prefer headphones with an impedance rating of 80 Ohms or higher, the Scarlett series is still a sure choice considering its reputation and you can expand your number of inputs with the Octapre and Octapre Dynamic.
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Audient EVO 16
The EVO 16 is a relatively compact 24-bit 96 kHz USB interface that can be easily used in both desktop or rack mount configurations with the optional rack ears. It offers eight inputs with Smartgain, eight outputs, two sets of optical I/O ports, and word clock out.
The EVO interface is incredibly straightforward and it also allows multichannel Smartgain functionality, even when connected with the SP8 preamp expander.
All of the front panel features are adjusted via the main rotary encoder, which is certainly simple and fast. Although the design of the EVO series might not be for everyone, you certainly can’t argue with the audio quality.
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Focusrite Clarett+ 8Pre
If you’re playing with a slightly bigger budget, the Clarett+ 8Pre features improved conversion, clocking, and smoother sounding mic pres than the Scarlett series. Apart from that, the features are very similar between the two.
The Clarett+ 8Pre offers eight inputs, ten outputs, eight channels of ADAT I/O, S/PDIF, word clock, and MIDI I/O. The inputs are modeled on the sound of the classic ISA110 preamps, so you certainly get your money’s worth there.
When it comes to expandability, you can add eight additional inputs via ADAT with the Clarett Octapre.
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Antelope Discrete 8 Pro Synergy Core
If you’re looking to enter the more professional domain, the Discrete 8 Pro Synergy Core is an option that offers plenty of value. It’s a 24-Bit 192 kHz USB/Thunderbolt interface with high-end AD/DA converters that give you up to 130 dB of headroom and 64-bit AFC (Acoustically Focused Clocking) technology and jitter management.
It comes equipped with eight discrete console-grade 6-transistor preamps, two TRS re-amping outs, and eight DC-coupled analog outputs via D-Sub 25. On the digital side, you get 16 channels of ADAT I/O, S/PDIF I/O, and a word clock I/O with three outs.
In addition, the Discrete 8 Pro has an impressive software-controlled routing matrix and a low-latency DSP processing core with 37 Synergy Core plug-ins included and 60 more that can be added to your library.
- More from Antelope Audio
More about Multichannel Audio Interfaces:
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- PreSonus Studio 1824c: Presonus
- Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen: Focusrite
- Audient EVO 16 (rack ears not included): Audient EVO
- Focusrite Clarett+ 8Pre: Focusrite
- Antelope Discrete 8 Pro Synergy Core: Antelope Audio