Recommended USB Audio/Midi Interfaces for Ardour?

Hey all, please forgive me if this topic has been hashed out before. I have done what I think are some pretty comprehensive searches here on the forums, and elsewhere, and haven’t found much discussion about it other than specific devices that people have been looking for help with, or really old (out of date?) discussions.

TL;DR version: What USB Audio interface have you been having good results with Ardour & Ubuntu 18.04?

If the answer is a link to someone else’s list or guides, that’s totally fine, and I will continue to use Tha Googz to see what I can find. I just need a little help - I will take every recommendation and every piece of advice into consideration.

Okay, on to what I have going on. I’ll make this point form.

  • My wife is a singer/songwriter with tons of experience and a loud voice (haha)
  • She composes primarily with a Yamaha E-Piano or an Acoustic piano (can’t remember the models off hand), and until now we’ve primarily just recorded using the audio signal (as opposed to MIDI) or mic’d up the Acoustic
  • Up until now, we’ve been doing all our recording in a professional studio with a producer. It gets expensive (but at least that lets me call myself an Executive Producer, right?)
  • We have a custom PC with some decent horsepower currently running Ubuntu 18.04
  • I’ve been a Linux user since 2005ish but I haven’t had to dig around in *.conf files (etc) in quite some time so I am probably rusty but not incapable
  • I have dabbled with one of the older versions of Ardour back when she was in a full band, but it was only for rough demos and we were all just thrashing around figuring out stuff as we went (if I am honest, that’s what I still do haha)
  • We are in the process of sourcing a laptop with the primary purpose of convenient recording & editing; probably a System76 ServalWS with a few upgrades
  • Once we get the laptop, I believe I should get a decent USB Audio interface to connect her mic to it for best results with Ardour for which I will be getting a subscription
  • While price isn’t really an issue, I think it’s reasonable to suggest I’d like to keep it under $500 CAD for the interface. Obviously there’s a bit of you get what you pay for going on, I also know that more expensive doesn’t always mean better.
  • We only need 2-in-2-out, but a little more room for growth would be nice

Now, my research has led be to think that the M-Audio Air line might be nice. But I have only begun to scratch the surface, and I’d prefer not to buy something excessive. I am quite aware that I don’t need excessive sample rates, for example. From what I have gleaned over the years, 48khz is probably the sweet spot. At the same time, I wouldn’t mind if it had a few extra bells & whistles in case we figure out that we can do this whole recording of music thing fairly well ourselves. At least for high quality demos.

My biggest concern is whether or not these devices have weirdness associated with either Linux in general, or Ardour/Jack in particular.

Whew, long winded. Sorry 'bout that. I’ll stop there. I’d be happy to give more information, and I’ll reiterate, I’d be content with a link to some already established lists that have thus far eluded me.

Sorry this is a long thread but there are lots of two channel interfaces mentioned here:

I suggest you select one that has “Zero latency monitoring” because then you can use big buffers and you get very reliable recording / playback.

Edit: I fixed the link, it was not pointing to the correct post in the thread.

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Haha, impeccable timing. I was actually in the process of reading another post here on this forum from back in 2015. Thanks for the link, I will definitely scour it for info; and thanks for the advice, too. I was already on the right track, it seems, so that’s good.

Here’s the thread I was looking at. It’s 5 years old, but I assume most of the information is still valid: audio interfaces, which ones work wih Ardour?

I see that the quoted message above is about the MOTU Ultralite AVB. As an owner of the said sound card, this is not a good idea to buy it. It has one very annoying quirk under Linux and MOTU does not seem to intent to correct it. Plus they now have released a new model with updated hardware under the same reference (wtf, isn’t it?) that makes the quirk harder to work around.

That being said, @irelandm is right, pick a model that has zero-latency monitoring.

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For MOTU Ultralite AVB, firmware 1.3.2+520 is the last one known to work under Linux. You can downgrade by getting the FW here:


I have been happy with the Behringer UMC1820. It has 8 ins and 8 outs and is expandable with a ADA8200, which I also have. There is no fussing about with proprietary software or firmware; all controls are accessible via the hardware, so it is fully functional on Linux. Behringer has a reputation of poor quality (my luck with their products has been good, but I am pretty gentle with my gear) and some do not agree with their copycat style of manufacturing, but for my needs, it has been solid and capable.

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@josander Except that newer Ultralite AVBs are shipped with 1.3.5+637 and seem uncapable to downgrade. I’m running 1.3.4+558 and sometimes run into the shifting outputs issue but it’s otherwise pretty stable. I’m following this topic :


When I was using Linux I had good results with my Sound Devices USBPre2. It’s more expensive than your budget, but has excellent preamps and is a sort of Swiss Army knife for audio. A recent kernel update reportedly made it unusable in Linux, but it’s possible that a subsequent update has fixed it; I no longer use Linux so can’t verify.

I also had good luck with a Mackie Onyx Blackjack.

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The Roland Rubix 24 is another device that some on have said works well on Linux, but I have no firsthand experience with it.

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@baptiste thanks for the head-up about the MOTU devices. While I’m not totally averse to mucking about with different versions of this or that firmware or kernel, I’m thinking at this point I have the luxury of dodging that entirely.

@GuntherT Interesting, I’ve noticed that Behringer often has relatively low ratings on a lot of their devices, so I sorta started filtering them out. But perhaps I should look more closely at the reviews to see what people are complaining about - since my devices are unlikely to undergo a lot of physical abuse, that might be a direction I can go. Also, I haven’t noodled around on yet, so that’s obviously my next go-to.

@Bhurley I don’t mind forking over a few extra shekels for a device if it provides sufficient justification. I’ll put your suggestions on my List-Of-Things-To-Compare!

Thanks to everyone for their input. I feel more prepared now. I’m always open to more suggestions or info, of course.

Oh, and once I get something, I’ll be sure to post here about my experience. :smiley:

@baptiste Thanks for warning me! I’m looking for a new interface this days and after some checking, I was really considering this one.

So here’s where I’m at, feedback (especially warnings of devices being not so good) is super appriceiated. It looks like there are quite a few small boxes that would be a good entry point so I can try something before forking over significant cash. By and large, it sounds like Native Instruments has good reviews and possibly plays nice with Alsa/Jack, so I sorta put that brand at the top of my list. For now, if I try to cross-compare 2-in-2-out devices with USB (or the closest variant), I can gauge my next steps. Of course, if I am barking up the wrong tree, please someone stop me!

I’ll include links from a music vendor I’ve used before, but I have no vested interest in where I buy it. Heck, if I could get it from a local music store to support local businesses, that’d be the way I go. Price is not a factor in this list.

In No Particular Order

  1. Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2 Details [This one’s big brother was well received by someone else on this forum]
  2. Steinberg UR22MKII Details
  3. M-Audio AIR192X4 Details
  4. PreSonus AUDIOBOX96-USB Details
  5. Behringer U-Phoria UMC204HD Details
  6. iConnectivity ConnectAudio2/4 Details This one specifies Linux in its description!

I am sure there are dozens more to look at, but I am going to search for each one of these devices to see if anyone, anywhere, has discussed their viability in a Linux/Jack/Ardour environment. I’ll report back with any useful findings.

I actually have one of these but bought it only as an interface for playback of my MIDI keyboard (which is also Native Instruments); I’ve never actually tried plugging microphones into it to evaluate how it sounds. At its price point I’m skeptical that the preamps and converters are high quality, but it might be good enough for your purposes. Are you sure this is class-compliant and will work on Linux? It’s plug-and-play on Mac, but for Windows I had to download an ASIO driver. It’s possible that the only reason for that is the interface’s high default sampling rate.

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The native seems to work well on linux

How about focusrite @irelandm ?

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I’ve been having good luck with this:

It’s a 4+6 channel mixer with a 4 channel USB audio interface, for bedroom recordings with Ardour I think it’s great. The advantage is you get a whole mixer for only a little more €€€ than an interface.

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@Bhurley windows has complete support only for USB 1 Class Audio. win10 has a USB 2 Class driver but it does not have the complete spec implemented. This is why you need a driver on win10 for Class Compliant USB devices, a driver is needed if the device is USB 2 Class compliant. microsof recommends that vendors create their own drivers for USB 2 Class audio devices, so I guess the native windows support is not going to get better any time soon.

Native Instruments says on their web site that Komplet Audio 1 / 2 / 6 mk2 are all Class Compliant. I just ordered Komplet Audio 6 mk2, I will report back how well the device works on Linux.


I’ve seen sorta mixed reviews with the focurite products … they do have a fair number that seem to fit the bill, though. But yeah, the Komplete Audio 6 is already on my radar - in fact, all the reviews (both Linux and otherwise) seem to be favourable.

@samthursfield I hadn’t considered mixerboards with USB interface functionality, but that’s a pretty cool idea. Is this something you already have, or is it one you’ve had your eye on? I’d be curious to hear if anyone has had any issues with it (either Linux-related or otherwise).

@mhartzel yeah the Class Compliant stuff has been what I’ve been led to believe is the key concern - that and whether or not a device has hardware controls or if it requires some sorta weird software controller. Obviously I’d be much happier with hardware controls anyway. Anyhoo I’m extremely interested to see what your initial impressions are when pluggin’ that into your setup.

@bradhurley that’s an interesting observation, the concern about the microphone sound quality. I would have thought that the quality of the microphone would have been maybe a little more critical, so I wasn’t going to worry about that (we have access to quite a few different microphones, so I will be able to fiddle about until I find one we really like). And the thing with microphones is you can’t go wrong with a good quality microphone anyway, so I’m not averse to buying a new one if none sound the way we like. I guess what I might wanna do is see if I can find audio reviews of the same microphone vs different interfaces. If you decide to plug in a mic to check it’s sound, let me know your impressions!

In this case I was referring to the quality of the preamps and converters in the Native Instruments interfaces. You’re right that having a good microphone (and finding the best placement for it) is the most important factor, but preamps and converters also have a role to play. The main issue you’re likely to encounter with poor preamps is noise, but if your music isn’t quiet or you don’t have moments of silence in your music it might not be an issue. Preamps can be “transparent” or “colored,” in terms of the extent to which they affect the sound, but as long as you like what you’re hearing that’s all that matters. Good converters (analog to digital and digital to analog) can also make a difference but the converters in most interfaces today are good enough unless you have really high standards or demanding clients (or work in classical music or distribute for audiophiles).

Using good mics and positioning them properly will make a lot more difference to your sound than the preamps and converters; it’s just that once you have invested in good mics you can get the very best from them by optimizing the rest of the signal chain. That can come later, though, and might not even be necessary.

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I use Fedora, Ardour and loads of other plugins. For midi in, I use M-Audio 2 in 4 out. For audio, I use Beringher Xenyx 1832 which has USB audio.

Both have never let me down in 4 years of use - and are completely plug and play with Linux (as is nearly all Beringher stuff I am told). It is a super way to go in my opinion.

I mostly record live guitar and saxophones, and use phantom mics, standard and a Rode USB mic as well. They all work perfectly.

For my setup, this is perfect, quiet, stable and rather cheap.

Win win.


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I bought it a few months ago and have already recorded some tracks successfully. No USB issues – seems to be fully class compliant. Build quality also good.

My only complaint is that routing to & from the computer can be tricky. You can choose one of 3 combos of inputs to send. The combos are: M1,M2,M3,M4 (the main inputs); M1,M2,L,R (2 inputs + main mix), or M1,M2,AUX,FX. A couple of times I’ve had the wrong settings and accidentally tracked my monitor mix.

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