Best Audio Interface for Recording Drums [2022 Reviewed]

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ThumbnailAudio Interface for DrumsProRec ScorePrice
RME Fireface UFX IIRME Fireface UFX II
8.6
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PreSonus Quantum 2626PreSonus Quantum 2626
8.2
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Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd GenFocusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen
7.5
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Introduction

When choosing the right audio interface for drums, apart from sound quality, the number of inputs and outputs (mic ins and outs, as well as line ins and outs) is what matters the most. Other important features include no-latency monitoring, and bundled extras, such as DAWs, and plugins, amongst others.

At the very least, you want a total of 6 microphones: two for your overheads, one for kick, another one for snare, and one each for your toms and floor. If budget isn’t an issue, rackmount interfaces are a good option. You can then consider adding a second condenser mic on the hats, plus a snare side mic to work with an interface that has at least 8 XLR inputs.

If you really wanted to, you could record drums with a 2 channel Audio Interface (fewer mics than specified above) there are numerous YouTube videos that show you how to record drums without having an elaborate setup. However, using an interface with more inputs will allow you to capture all of the sounds individually, allowing you to get more granular while mixing your track. This is why a 2 to 4 input interface isn’t ideal for recording drums.

Most audio engineers will tell you that recording drums is difficult while making a record. While the quality of your audio interface and preamps is vital, picking the perfect mic and its placement is even more important!

We suggest you close mic everything, from snare, rack toms, and floor toms, to kick drum, and hi hat, and use twin overhead condenser mics. This will give you the best results, and while it’s expensive, it really is worth it. You can also double mic the snare and bass drums. You will need a solid audio interface to receive all these inputs.

If you want to take things to the next level, consider acoustic padding your room to reduce ambient noise. However, it’s a better idea to first try recording as is, because the acoustics of your surroundings may sometimes enhance the sound of your drums.

Best Audio Interface for Recording Drums Reviews

All text and image links lead to Amazon unless stated otherwise. All product scores are based on ProRec’s in-house scoring model

RME Fireface UFX II
8.6/10ProRec Score
8.6Average Score
ProRec Score – RME Fireface UFX II
Price to Performance
7
Input / Output
10
Sound Quality
10
Connectivity
6
Additional Features
10

The front panel on the RME Fireface UFX II has four XLR/TRS combo jacks for mic/line level inputs that go directly into the microphone preamps. You’ll find two stereo outputs on the front, which are to be used as headphone outputs.

The rear panel’s eight balanced line level inputs work on TRS connections. You also get two XLR, and six on TRS connections, as output. This makes 12 analog ins and outs on the interface itself, as well as several digital interfacing connections. This is a drummer’s dream! You don’t really need all these inputs though to record drums. However, having all this recording power is absolutely insane! You can record a small orchestra with this audio interface.

The two MIDI inputs and outputs offer 32 channels of MIDI data, and two pairs of ADAT inputs and outputs offer an additional 16 digital channels. You also get an AES/EBU input/ouput on the XLR which help balance the set.

The Fireface UFX II comes with TotalMix FX (RME’s bridging software) for direct monitoring and connectivity to your DAW. The interface allows direct USB recording (all channels can simultaneously be recorded to a flash drive) while the inbuilt DSP has the added benefit of EQ and dynamic processing. You also get seamless analog to digital conversion, and master clock to control your external digital devices on ADAT.

When it comes to sound quality, the UFX II has solid preamplifiers, they are professional grade and offer a transformer-less design. They’re beautifully transparent however, there are better options available in the market, especially in this price range. There are 4 microphone preamps, and we feel that this number is kind of low. However, the 75db gain range on the preamps is awesome!

Don’t get us wrong. The interface does sound incredible, it just doesn’t offer the preamp level as you would expect when you spend this kind of money.

The two headphone amps on the UFX II offer a lot of juice. The good thing is that if you are looking for more than two mixes on headphones, you can go ahead and use the additional amps provided. The compression and eq were more than enough for our taste. The entire routing setup integrates your inputs and the computer audio rather well. However, the reverb quality could have been better, but hopefully that can be addressed in the future.

The interface also has a wide frequency range, an excellent feature since most manufacturers don’t even define a frequency that ranges beyond normal human hearing.

One thing we’d like to really point out are the drivers! they’re highly functional and sound awesome! Most manufacturers focus on sound quality, yes, but when there’s a device with good sound and it is backed up with excellent drivers, then that is really something admirable!

Compared to the original UFX, the gain on the UFX II is definitely more prominent. Another difference between the UFX and the UFX II is the computer interface. As far as connectivity goes, the UFX comes with a FireWire/USB2 combo, the new UFX II has USB2 only, and the UFX+ goes a step further with Thunderbolt/USB3 both packaged into one, along with an additional MADI I/O. the Thunderbolt does give you better latency, however, this also depends on the rest of your setup, and the computer you use.

If you’re worried that the UFX II doesn’t have Thunderbolt, USB3 or USB-C connections, don’t be! The USB3/TB in the UFX+ may raise the channel count, but USB2 is just as good for 60 I/O without affecting latency. The USB2 works just as well with USB 3.0 ports, which makes it compatible with existing computers and also any new ones that come out in the future. Overall the interface is great. In our opinion, there is room for improvement, especially considering the price.

The standalone USB-recording option can easily be used in parallel to DAW recording. Unplugging an attached USB-device or DAW-PC does not interfere with how the other recording runs. It will do so without glitches. This interface has a great everything-to-everything Mixer, with an intuitive, easy to use control panel that won’t let you miss any feature.

Some interfaces do perform better, but we did not face any issues running this device. Two small drawbacks are that it only works with high-end USB-cables, so keep them handy. Secondly, there’s no protocol over time for preamps, making it class-2-ish. Offering a good DIN 15905-5 measurement, would be great. If we consider value for money, though slightly pricey, the UFX II is incredible and has good support. There are cheaper products available that offer more channels, but may not be as reliable.

The Fireface UFX II has the right amount of I/O for recording drums. You get several inputs, snare, kick, floor and tom, along with separate mics for each of your 2 overheads. All of this and more; 2 headphone outs, strong build, sweet sounding preamps, great latency, and to top it off, it works seamlessly. RME ‘s clean ADDA, solid preamps, great quality, and reliability are well-known. We recommend this as a pretty reliable interface, and a good buy.

Fireface UFX II Benefits

The greater number of I/O make this interface perfect for recording drums. If you wanted to, you could further expand to 60 channels.

The DSP mixer works really well, and the interface overall is pretty user friendly, even if you are new to audio interfaces (not always the case with other manufacturers).

The wide frequency range is unique to this interface. Most manufacturers don’t go the extra mile, the frequency on other products is rarely beyond human hearing.

The standalone USB recording feature works really well, especially if you run it in parallel with your DAW.

The UFX II has excellent build quality.

Fireface UFX II Drawbacks

You will need to get more expensive USB cables to work with this interface.

The USB recording option is a nice addition, however the only caveat is that not all USB sticks are compatible. It is sensitive to most plugged devices and does not work properly on most.

While the USB 2.0 works just fine, for the amount of money you spend, you would at least expect a Thunderbolt port.

The unit is pretty pricey, you’ll be shelling out a nice chunk to buy the interface.

All text and image links lead to Amazon unless stated otherwise. All product scores are based on ProRec’s in-house scoring model

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen
7.5/10ProRec Score
7.5Average Score
ProRec Score – Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen
Price to Performance
9
Input / Output
7.5
Sound Quality
7
Connectivity
7
Additional Features
7

If you’re looking for a powerful USB audio interface that offers excellent features at half the price of what most direct competitors offer, then you’ll love the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20! With 8 mic preamplifiers, one S/PDIF input, two ADAT inputs, and additional MIDI I/O, you’ll be hard pressed to find so much power in a single interface at this price point! You also have the option to patch in additional inputs via ADAT to get another 18 inputs simultaneously. A talkback microphone is also included.

You can use the 20 outputs for routing to outboard gear or for additional studio-based monitoring. With all these inputs you can easily mic your drum set and get that granularity that drummers often long after in the mix.

For the most part, the 18i20 operates as a plug-and-play interface (on both Mac and Windows) and you don’t really need any additional drivers. However, you must download and install the control software for full functionality.

The converters and preamplifiers (mics) on the 18i20 have a 56 dB gain range, with a maximum conversion rate of 24-bit/192 kHz AD/DA. What this means is that the 18i20 can record at an audio resolution above the industry standard. This is comparable to interfaces that cost more than double its price.

We went ahead with the firmware update which allowed the 18i20 to go into standby mode delivering a near latency free throughput of signal. This basically gives you the option to hear your drums simply by plugging the mics in without going into your DAW and setting up i/o.

The“Air” setting on the upgraded preamps on the third generation Scarlett line aim at recreating the signature rich, open high frequency response of Focusrite’s standalone ISA preamplifiers. The setting basically alters the signal before it goes to your DAW, so go ahead and experiment with it before aligning it with your recorded sound. We found it to be slightly harsher and crispier than what we’re used to for recording drums. Which is why, for drums, we actually prefer using 18i20’s preamps without engaging the “Air” setting. However, that is just our preference!

To be honest, the third-generation Scarlett 18i20 has the same functionality and connectivity as its predecessors, however, the materials and finish on the front panel are much better! especially on the gain control knobs. Previous generations had imprecise plastic knobs that did not offer much resistance. The new metal knobs are robust and much more accurate for your gain setting. This tells you that Focusrite has paid special attention to durability when building the 18i20!

The unit is built with sturdiness in mind! The construction consists of an aluminum chassis, which is painted a signature red that you won’t find elsewhere. However, since the interface is actually rack mounted, sadly, the red won’t be visible once you mount it, you’ll only be able to see the black front panel of the unit.

We know the 18i20 has its shortcomings but, its limitations may actually drive developing artists towards better learning opportunities and for seasoned producers, the unit will champion their efforts and enable them to do what they haven’t done before!

One thing to note is that you can either choose between 8 line outputs along with with stereo monitor output, or you may have 4-line outputs with stereo monitor outputs along with two stereo outputs for headphones. Unfortunately, the limitations are that you aren’t able to have both. However, we’ll say that the device has been engineered just right and these shortcomings are negligible, at least on our part.

We also think more premium features such as digital gain control, DSP, and advanced routing, should have been added but understand that these features add to the cost. This is why you only get those options on more high end audio interfaces.

All in all, Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 is as impressive as many other more expensive USB audio interfaces. We can confidently say it boasts state-of-the-art-technology that wasn’t around twenty years ago. It’s combined features of build quality, industry-standard recording fidelity, and expandability, at cost effective prices make it perfect for users upgrading from a less technical interface looking to record full drum sets

Scarlett 18i20 Benefits

One of the most impressive features of the Scarlett 18i20 is that it is a plug and play device for the most part! You don’t need to install any extra drivers. It works flawlessly on both Mac and Windows.

The preamps and converters have a 56 dB gain range, with a maximum conversion rate of 24-bit/192 kHz AD/DA enabling you to record your music well above today’s industry standards.

Focusrite always builds interfaces that are affordable. This is one of the biggest advantages of this unit, it is not only cost effective, but is also packed with features that you would normally get in an interface that is twice the 18i20’s price.

Excellent build quality, a significant upgrade from models of the second generation Scarlett.

Scarlett 18i20 Drawbacks

Air settings may sound a little harsh or crispy, however this is more of a matter of personal preference than anything. Some people may like that type of sound, we just found it to be off for our taste.

You lose out on line outputs for headphones (Choose between 8 line outputs and stereo monitor output, or you may get 4 line outputs with stereo monitor outputs and two stereo outputs for headphones. The design doesn’t allow you to have both.

The interface does not include premium features such as digital gain control, DSP, and advanced routing features. However, since these features cost a significant amount, they are usually only found on high-end equipment

The signature “scarlet” color cannot be seen when the unit is mounted. Only the black front panel of the unit is visible. This does not affect performance, but when you have such a nice looking interface, you may want to show it off!

All text and image links lead to Amazon unless stated otherwise. All product scores are based on ProRec’s in-house scoring model

PreSonus Quantum 2626
8.2/10ProRec Score
8.2Average Score
ProRec Score – PreSonus Quantum 2626
Price to Performance
8.5
Input / Output
8.5
Sound Quality
7.5
Connectivity
10
Additional Features
6.5

The Quantum 2626 features 8 XLR-1/4-inch combo inputs on the front panel. The Mic/Hi-Z sources are supported by Channel 1 and 2, and the remaining 3 to 8 channels are reserved for line-level/mic sources. Every channel is assigned a separate a gain knob and an LED light. The preamplifiers on the 2626 sound great! they are the XMAX variety from PreSonus.

In addition to the XLR inputs, there is also a large main knob to control monitor outputs, two gain controls with two 1/4-inch TRS headphone outputs. The power-status light stays red if the interface isn’t synced and turns blue when it is synced properly to a clock source.

The back panel of the interface has eight TRS balanced, DC-coupled line outputs. These can be addressed via your DAW, either separately or in pairs. You’ll also find two extra TRS-balanced line outputs for your monitors. These are labeled as Main Out. Two pairs of balanced 1/4-inch connectors labeled as 1 and 2 (Preamp Out), and 1 and 2 (Line Return) are also provided.

With the ADAT-S/MUX input and output pair, you can add more I/O via compatible preamp units or outboard converters. The Quantum 2626 also has an S/PDIF port on RCA connectors which provides two more channels of digital input/output for compatible devices. The BNC jacks give you the word clock in and out ports.

A really useful feature on the 2626 is the MIDI In and Out pair, on DIN connectors (5 pin). This enables you to connect any MIDI device that you either aren’t able to, or don’t want to, hook up to your system via USB. The 12V DC adapter port’s Twist-to-Lock element stops cables from disconnecting accidentally. You’ll also find the Thunderbolt 3 port on the back of the interface.

As far as how the units sounds, the 2626 is extremely clean! the XMAX preamplifiers offer 115dB of dynamic range which gives the 2626 superb sonic ability. The preamps are among the best you’ll find in this price range. PreSonus is known to offer transparent sound at a price that is unmatched by any other manufacturer in the market.

The unit boasts recording capability of (up to) 24-bit, 192kHz, which has now become the industry standard. With switchable phantom power between 1-4 and 5-8 groups, and a stunning latency free experience (almost none), you will not regret purchasing this unit. Furthermore, the Plugins allow you to monitor with practically no audible delay whatsoever! You can simply set and forget the buffer at 32 or 64 samples, and enjoy a seamless experience.

Like every other interface on the market, the 2626 does have its shortcomings. Even though you can access the ports and knobs with ease, separate phantom switches would have been a spectacular addition. The unit also lacks balanced main outs, individual headphone sends and monitoring shortcuts. These would have offered convenience and made the unit much more user friendly. If you’re one to live track, you’re going to need at least one headphone amp, and for people with a home studio or a control room a monitoring controller will be a must.

Furthermore, the gain knobs featured on the front panel don’t have the best placement. Unlike regular placements where the top row controls channels 1-4 and the bottom handles 5-8, these alternate from the top to bottom diagonally. We found this pretty confusing, it’s something that will take you a while getting used to.

Compared to the Quantum 2’s TB 2, the Thunderbolt 3 is definitely a step up! However, the unit would have been much more complete if there were two TB ports instead of just one. You’ll also have to get your own cable since the Quantum 2626 does not come with one. It is a budget unit after all, and this is how PreSonus keeps the cost down, so we don’t consider it to be a deal breaker.

Other differences include 8 preamps vs 4, the 2626 is a rackmount, a better option than Quantum 2’s tabletop form and you also get more I/O ports. The latency at 1ms at 96k (with a 32 sample ASIO buffer) is the same as the original Quantum, which makes the Quantum 2626 the cheapest Audio Interface in the market with the ability of achieving such a low round trip latency

To sum it up, the Quantum 2626 is an excellent eight input audio interface, a unique offering by PreSonus, especially at this price point. It is a unit made for recording drums with extremely low latency. Even with its shortcomings, the 2626 is a no-brainer for anyone looking to record drums!

Quantum 2626 Benefits

A solid interface with 8 XLR combo inputs, probably the cheapest offering out there with this kind of I/O that rivals its much more expensive competition.

You get Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, which is really on-point

The unit is expandable, you can add additional I/O through preamp units or outboard converters.

The MIDI jacks included in this unit are quite impressive, allowing you to hook up hardware that you don’t want to patch via the USB port.

The XMAX preamps provide a clear, transparent sound at affordable prices. Arguably the best in this price range.

The Quantum 2626 is the cheapest Audio Interface in the market that achieves a round-trip latency of 1 ms.

Quantum 2626 Drawbacks

The unit does not feature any monitoring shortcuts, separate phantom switches or any balanced main outs. While this would have been a wonderful addition, the unit still offers a bang for your buck!

The gain knobs featured on the front panel could have better placement, this is one thing that will confuse a new person operating the unit.

While the Thunderbolt 3 is a great new addition, you only get a single port on this unit. You also need to purchase your own cable. PreSonus could have added a second port and/or provided a cable, but we get that they are trying to keep costs down.

Verdict

audio interface for recording drums comparison scoring model

Based on our scoring model, you can see that there is at least 2 points of variance within any given category which indicates that the 3 units offer varying qualities. You will however find that the highest variance is in the Sound quality, Connectivity, and Additional features categories. The RME FIreface aces the scores in both the sound quality and Additional features categories yet its score plummets when it comes to connectivity which the Quatum 2626 dominates. Meanwhile, you’ll find that the Scarlett 18i20 remains stable throughout scoring 7 in all 3 categories.

As you can see, the Fireface scores the highest in 3 out of 5 categories which are Input/output , Sound quality, and Additional features categories. Not only that, the unit scores 10 in all these categories which speaks volume to its quality. It does however score 6 in the connectivity category because of its lesser USB 2.0 connection, but this doesn’t have any impact on its latency at all! It’s just an older technology but RME has done an outstanding job overall building this unit. Additionally, the unit’s comparatively low score of 7 in the price to performance category is solely due to the diminishing returns aspect which is bound to transpire at Fireface’s premium price.

We should also mention that the Presonus Quantum 2626 scores fairly well throughout as it doesn’t score below 7.5 in any category excluding the Additional feautres category. As we already established, the 2626 produces great sound quality, it is very price efficient, and it has a ton of I/O channels. Most importantly, it scores the highest in the connectivty category because of its superior TB3 connecitvity and its built-in DSP. Considering that the 2626 only costs a fraction of the price of the Fireface UFX II, there is no reason why the 2626 can’t be a viable pick if you’re on a tighter budget.

Nonetheless, according to our scoring model which is the product of extensive testing, the uncontended best audio interface for recording drums is the Fireface UFX II. leading with an overall score of 8.6, the fireface UFX II outperforms both the Quantum 2626 and the Scarlett 18i20, beating their overall scores by 0.4 and 1.1 points respectively. The UFX II has a ton of I/O channels, a great deal of additional features, and its sound quality is as good as it gets. That’s why If you’re looking for the best audio interface out there and don’t really mind paying that extra buck, we recommend the FIreface UFX II as an absolute purchase that’ll provide incredible value.

Frequently Answered Questions

Do I really need an Audio Interface for recording Drums?

There really is no way around it. For drums it is an absolute must! Your computer only has a single audio input which isn’t capable of recording multiple tracks at once. At most you get a double stereo channel, which won’t cut it. You’ll have to record each track individually if you want separation, and this really isn’t a viable choice. An audio interface gives you multiple inputs allowing you to mic each part of your drum individually. This is why we recommend an 8 input audio interface.

Can I get an Audio Interface with fewer inputs for recording Drums?

If you don’t care for tailoring individual drumheads and have them sound like the drumming you hear on popular songs, then 2 inputs are enough. All you need to do then is hang your mics on top of your drum kit (at least 6 feet from the ground) and have them placed at a 45 degree angle. However, this is not good practice, since you won’t really get to play with the recordings after. Having more inputs lets you be more creative and more importantly granular in the mix. More inputs offer more control over the end result of your final recording.

How do I setup my Audio Interface for Drums?

The best way to set up is by using the instructions provided by the manufacturer. You will have to install drivers, plug in the power, use any software if it comes with it for settings, then plug in the mics and record using the DAW. It’s not really a difficult process to get things going. A lot of interfaces in the market today are just plug and play. So, you don’t have to worry about putting in a lot of work to get things going.

Can I use a Mixer instead of an Audio Interface to record Drums?

No, a mixer isn’t the right choice for recording drums.

Mixers usually don’t allow you to separate tracks. They’re best suited for mixing multiple channels. Even though some mixers have analog outs that you can plug into an audio interface, but then the purpose of getting a mixer is already defeated. You will find some mixers on the market that do act as an Audio Interface (sort of like a two in one device), but those cost more and at that point you’re better off getting a stand alone Audio Interface. If your budget allows, you should get a reliable one with ADAT expansion capability, so you may further increase your outputs.