USB Audio: Your Favorite?

Hello from yet another Ardour convert. My question: What is YOUR personal favorite USB audio interface that works for you every time, and in what capacity/task?

I often see questions about what USB audio interface would work with Ardour, and why does my brand X, Y, or Z keep crashing. Since I have not yet carved out a proper Ardour system I find satisfactory, let me just toss it in the air and ask NOT “what works”, but “what do you like to use?”

I’m based in Washington DC, a broadcast production pro + Linux enthusiast (always dangerous), so I’ve been neck-deep in professional audio for radio broadcast since forever. Thanks ahead of time for your responses.

I am using the PreSonus AudioBox 1818VSL for recording 8 channels (and playing up to 8 channels). There are some people here having problems with it, but I don’t have got any problems with this audio interface. I am using external monitoring so I run it with pretty high latency.

Some guys say that they have problems running it with some laptops, but in my experience it just works.

It would be great if the software would run on a linux PC (so you can use it as a digital mixer and could use the low latency monitoring) but so far nobody got that running.

Backing up on the 1818VSL.

I have had it for two years now and love it. I imagine the laptop problems come from synchronization problems with USB3, but I work around that by diabling USB3.0 in BIOS setup. On my setup I get reliable performance with 128 sample buffer sizes.

I am really curious about the X32 consoles as well.

I just ordered a behringer x32 producer. I worked several times in the past with the big brother of that console. Very nice and no problems under linux with ardour.

I have been using the Behringer U-Phoria UM2 with good success. A big plus is that it’s easy on the wallet (€55) and works flawlessly for a simple home setup. Two inputs (one XLR w/phantom power which can double as a 1/4" jack, one dedicated 1/4" jack), also direct monitoring (can be toggled). It “just worked” when I compiled my kernel with USB audio support and plugged it in. I use it for recording vocals, acoustic and electric guitar (sometimes simultaneously). I get reliable performance with a buffer size of 256 samples, but I’ll admit I never tried to optimize that much.


Nice, do you use the mackie control emulation at all? Also, what kind of latency performance are you able to get with the USB card?

I had not the time to test the mackie control in depth. When I own the console I will give a feedback about this. Latency was never a problem because I used the hardware monitoring of the x32. Routing/Monitoring etc. is a really big plus of that gear.

I’m using a Mackie Onyx Blackjack interface, owing sadly to the demise of support for PCI on a lot of new machines. It works without any special drivers - well, at least it does, with the usual caveat that you need to choose your linux kernel carefully because, although it is a standards compliant USB interface, come recent kernel versions seemingly screwed up support for various standards compliant USB interfaces… sigh :frowning:

But, it has Mic pre-amps, balanced I / O - which considerably lowers the noise floor - normally one of the biggest problems with (bus powered) USB interfaces - and doesn’t require any custom software control panel / app to configure it. It is however also worth noting that very few, if any, bus-powered USB interfaces can offer (real) professional levels - this may or may not matter (and a lot of people won’t care) but it’s important to be aware of.

@jamiejessup - at 48kHz, anything below 128 samples latency is not worth the extra trouble, and will almost always lead to some stability issues - for a 64 sample improvement in latency, move (a little) closer to the speakers (it makes more difference and uses less CPU) and always use hardware monitoring.

I’m using the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 which in my experience works flawlessly in Linux (provided the kernel is new enough - I think support appeared around 3.9 or something like that).

I haven’t pushed it in terms of latency and I haven’t changed anything on my Arch installation in favour of pro-audio except for enabling realtime audio in Jack. I have done a few band recordings using all 8 preamps at 48kHz and 1024 samples latency with 0 xruns. This is using a USB 3 port (and previously a USB 2 port on my old laptop).

Hardware monitoring works out of the box with all inputs routed to the monitors (if I remember correctly) but to make the most of the incredibly flexible internal mixer you need to use the Windows/Mac Mixcontrol program which can save the configuration to the memory of the soundcard so it will remember the routing config in Linux.

Almost every forum post I’ve seen comparing the AudioBox 1818VSL to the Scarlett 18i20 seems to prefer the preamps on the Scarlett too. I don’t have much experience with preamps so I can’t say much other than that they sound “great” to my ears.

Can you set hardware monitoring from amixer in Linux on the Scarlett without saving the configuration? I still have to choose between the Audiobox 1818VSL and the Scarlett, and the ability to set the monitoring from amixer (like in my RME Raydat) would be very useful for me.

You currently can’t control the Scarlett from amixer at all using the standard Alsa drivers. That is exactly the missing piece of functionality as far as I understand (also a nice mixer GUI for the interface I guess). Some people have written patches that add mixer functionality but I have not tried them. Somebody has also reported that a Windows VM is able to run the official Scarlett Mixcontrol program and set the controls from Linux. I really hope that the Scarlett mixer patch would get merged into upstream Alsa! More info on the patch and VM solution is here

I am using a Terratec Sixfire USB. Works flawlessly.

Has anyone tried running the Focusrite or Presonus software in Wine?

Wine has no special access to devices. It relies on the same device drivers as all software running under Linux. If the device doesn’t work with ALSA and a Linux application, it isn’t going to work via Wine either.

For general compatibility questions one can look at

Personally I use an old Tascam 122, too, and, to your questions, I like using it for mobile recording. (Some people seem to have issues with it, and its ALSA-drivers are not rock-stable). I never got my equally old Esi ESP1010 to run. (there is only a rudimentary linux driver without support, that can only handle two channels).

I am from Europe, so the selection of products differs somewhat, but so far I heard only success stories about M-audio products and Linux. And a friend seems totally happy with a Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6, which worked OOTB on Debian Jessie.

I now have a MiniDSP USBStreamer which arrived yesterday. Claims USB2 Class compliance so it should work with Linux. It has just three connectors: ADAT input, ADAT output and USB, and provides 8 audio channels each way. With a Behringer ADA8200 it seems to work perfectly, though not extensively tested yet.

(Focusrite 18i20 would have been perfect, but I give up on them after having to send two back with noisy input channels brand new straight out out of the box.)

ATM I use a M-Box Mini from Avid and it works. A little crappy latency, but its stable at 512 samples with ALSA. Below there will be xruns. Unusable at 128 and less.

NI Komplete Audio 6: 4 analog in / out, 2 preamps, MIDI, SPDIF, USB2 class compliant

I use a Roland m5000 16x16 usb interface (+40 channels of reac) which works out of the box flawless on kxstudio. Occasionally I use a rme multiface which also works wonderdul apart for me having problem making it sync to an external clock.