Best Audio Interface with Phantom Power [2023 Reviewed]

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ThumbnailAudio Interface with Phantom PowerProRec ScorePrice
Audient iD44 MKII

Audient iD44 MKII

8.3
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UA Volt 476

UA Volt 476

8.1
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SSL SSL2+

SSL SSL2+

7.9
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Introduction

If you’re planning on recording high-quality vocals and acoustics, then you might want to purchase a decent condenser microphone. For the unacquainted, condenser mics are extremely sensitive microphones, used in studio environments where detail and accuracy are extremely valued. However, because of how condenser mics are designed, they require phantom power aka 48V DC which is a much higher voltage than what a normal input needs. Therefore, some audio interfaces have built-in circuitry that allows them to regulate the voltage in order to drive power demanding condenser microphones.

If you look at the different audio interface offerings in the market, you will find that almost all recently released units feature phantom power. In fact, it is extremely unlikely that you come across an audio interface that doesn’t feature 48V. With that in mind, you still have to research an audio interface beforehand since It’s very common to get a device with faulty 48V switches or bad circuitry altogether. 

Moreover, even though 48V is a mandatory requirement to drive condenser mics, the quality of an audio interface’s preamps is presumably a much more important metric. Finding an audio interface with phantom power is easy, but the tricky part is landing a rather inexpensive one with transparent and accurate preamps. Provided that you’ll be mainly using condenser mics as inputs, you won’t need a ton of headroom since 50 dB of gain is usually enough to drive most condenser microphones. Nonetheless, it’s always a good idea to go for an audio interface with a higher gain range if you can afford to.

In the topic of money, you could find audio interfaces with phantom power that cost as little as $50 and some that cost upwards of $2000. To determine how much you should spend on an audio interface, you should first estimate how much your whole setups costs. If you’re eying an audio interface that costs more than 30% of your budget, then you’re probably making bad decisions. As a general rule, spend around 80% of your budget on a pair of studio monitors, headphones, MIDI controller, microphone, and an audio interface then set aside 20% toward peripherals like software licenses, instruments, and sound proofing.

Best Audio Interface With Phantom Power Review

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

SSL SSL2+
7.9/10Our Score
7.9Average Score
SSL SSL2+
Price to Performance
9
Input / Output
7
Sound Quality
8
Connnectivity
7.5
Additional Features
8

The SSL2+ is one of the best mid-range audio interfaces with phantom power. It is a powerful unit with a 2×4 I/O configuration that features a maximum sampling rate of 192kHz and a 24 bit depth.

Physically speaking, the SSL2+ is enclosed in an extremely sturdy metal but is still relatively lightweight. The unit has a tabletop form and its main panel is slightly inclined which helps with accessibility. The controls are well-spaced and are extremely smooth which we think makes the fine-tuning processes much more enjoyable.

The back panel of the SSL2+ features all of its I/O sockets which include the 2 XLR/TRS mic inputs, the MIDI I/O connectors, 2 unbalanced line outputs, 2 balanced monitor outputs, and 2 headphone outputs. You’ll also find a Kingston lock socket and the USB-C port which is used to power the unit on this same panel.

On the main panel, you’ll find a large blue monitor knob which can be used to control the output volume. It sits next to the 2 individual headphone volume controllers and the monitor mix knob. This panel also contains separate controls for the 2 mic inputs which include a gain knob, a 48V toggle, an INST toggle, a 5-level led meter, and a 4k legacy mode toggle.

In terms of sound quality, the SSL2+ contains very powerful preamps that offer an impressive 62 dB of gain. They can easily drive any instrument/mic while providing an exceptionally high headroom. We found those preamps to be extremely accurate and transparent as they boast an incredibly low noise floor (-130.5 dBu). The signal they produce is uncolored and sounds very professional. The SSL2+ can also drive any mic including condenser mics like the AT-2020 and it doesn’t severely distort the recordings even at high gain levels.

We also found the 4k preamp emulation to be extremely useful and flattering, especially for recording vocals. By activating the 4k mode, the SSL2+ applies a subtle boost to the high-end frequencies and a slight enhancement to the unit’s harmonic distortion which adds a very pleasant effect to recordings. While we could achieve the same results post-recording in the DAW, having a togglable built-in emulator is much more efficient and valuable.

As for its converters, the SSL2+ has fairly powerful ADCs and DACs which provide around 110 dB in dynamic range. They’re extremely detailed and can capture an amazing amount of details. The unit’s dynamic range might seem relatively low in face-value. However, we can attest that the SSL2+ still sounds better than a lot of audio interfaces with higher dynamic range.

The SSL2+ was released hand in hand with the SSL2 which is a slightly cheaper version. The main difference between both models is that the SSL2+ features an additional headphone output, 2 unbalanced line outputs, and it has MIDI connectors unlike the SSL2. Nonetheless, both units are identical in terms of sound quality as they’re equipped with the same preamps and converters. Considering how valuable an extra headphone and 2 balanced outputs are, we would almost always go for the SSL2+ when offered the choice.

Putting aside the SSL2+’s great prowess, we believe that SSL could have made better choices to further refine their unit. For instance, all of the unit’s I/O sockets are on its back panel which isn’t optimal for audio engineers who frequently swap equipment. And while we don’t mind this design, we would’ve appreciated it if the SSL2+ had at least 1 headphone output on the front panel for better accessibility. Another thing we noticed with our unit is that the headphone outputs sometimes produce a very low yet audible static noise. While this barely affects the monitoring experience, it’s still something you should look out for. Finally, we think that SSL should’ve included a power switch in their audio interface so that we don’t have to plug/unplug the unit.

Overall, the SSL2+ is one the most admired midrange audio interfaces by professional and amateur audio engineers alike. With its exceptionally useful features, remarkable sound quality, and incredibly user-friendly UI, the SSL2+ is undoubtedly one of the best audio interfaces in its price range. We recommend the SSL2+ as an incredibly versatile unit that can reliably produce high-end tracks. 

SSL SSL2+ Benefits

You get 2 headphone outputs which can be extremely useful.

The preamps have an exceptionally high gain range (62 dB).

The unit has amazing big quality.

The 4k mode sounds extremely pleasant. 

The unit’s converters are extremely accurate and capture a lot of detail.

SSL SSL2+ Drawbacks

All of the unit’s I/Os are on the back panel which can be annoying.

The headphone outputs sometimes produce a very dull noise.

The SSL2+ doesn’t feature a power switch.

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

UA Volt 476
8.1/10Our Score
8.1Average Score
Universal Audio Volt 476
Price to Performance
8
Input / Output
7.5
Sound Quality
7.5
Connnectivity
7.5
Additional Features
10

Universal Audio’s Volt 476 is an incredibly powerful audio interface that features 4 inputs and 4 outputs. It is equipped with remarkably powerful preamps that can drive any condenser mic with extreme accuracy.

Physically speaking, the Volt 476 has a vintage design that is infused with a twist of modernity. The unit is relatively lightweight weighing slightly above 2.5 pounds which makes it great for traveling purposes. The control buttons and knobs are very satisfying to use and they have a very premium feel to them.

In terms of I/O channels, the Volt 476 features 2 sets of line outputs, 1 pair of monitor outs, and 2 line inputs on the back panel. You’ll also find a MIDI I/O connector, a USB-C port, a 5V external power jack, and a power switch on the left part of this panel. Conversely, the front panel features 2 TRS/XLR mic inputs along with a unified 48V toggle and 2 separate INST buttons which can be used to connect high-impedance inputs. 

On the main panel of the Volt 476, you’ll find even more controls for the 2 mic inputs which include separate gain knobs, vintage mode toggles, and 76 compressor buttons. On the right side, you’ll also find a large monitor knob along with 4 different buttons that can be used to select a monitor source. FInally, you’ll find a Mono button in the center of this panel and an LED monitoring section which provides accurate metering of the different I/O channels on the upper right corner of the 476.

Soundwise, the Volt 476 is equipped with extremely powerful AD and DA converters that can produce impeccable tracks. They offer a great 112 dB of dynamic range which allows the Volt 476 to capture an incredible amount of details while preserving the signal’s original form. This is also in part due to the Volt 476’s incredibly flat frequency response curve (+/- 0.1) which prevents the signal from losing quality.

As for its preamps, the Volt 476 offers a terrific 55 dB of gain which is sufficient to drive almost all condenser mics. We found them to be exceptionally silent and transparent as they can produce very clean tracks. We were mainly recording with a Rode NT1 condenser mic with active phantom power which reliably pumped very clean and professional tracks. The Volt 476 also has a remarkably low THD+N (-103dB) which means that the audio barely distorts even at very high gain levels. We did have to max out the gain levels when we shifted to a Shure SM7B, yet, we didn’t run into clipping and the tracks were fairly loud. Additionally, the Volt 476 boasts a remarkably low noise-floor of -127 dBu which means that all recordings will be artifact-free and crystal clear.


As for the UAD plugins, preamp vintage mode, and the built-in 76 compressor, you could certainly expect nothing less than professional-level effects.  Honestly, you won’t appreciate the value of these features until you personally try them.

When it comes to the downsides, the Volt 476 is considerably more expensive compared to other similarly priced audio interfaces which offer more I/O channels and better audio specifications. Nonetheless, this price spike is expected considering that the Volt 476 features a built-in compressor which we think is certainly worth paying the extra buck for. Moreover, we noticed that inputs 3 and 4 aren’t compatible with consumer grade inputs since they’re tailored to the pro-grade +4dBu gear. This means that certain inputs like guitar effect boxes and synthesizers might not work properly on these inputs.

The Volt 476 was released alongside 4 other models which are the volt 176, volt 276, volt 1 and volt 2. The volt 276 and 176 are almost identical to the 476 both design wise and in terms of sound quality but they have less inputs and are therefore cheaper. On the other hand, unlike the 76 models, the volt 1 and volt 2 don’t feature the 76 compressor mode and they have a completely different design. Otherwise, all the volt models are equipped with the same circuitry including identical preamps and converters, so you would get the same sound quality regardless of which unit you opt for.

Overall, for a rather inexpensive audio interface, the Volt 476 offers a ton of commendable features and remarkable audio specifications that are comparable to interfaces twice the price. From the extremely useful built-compressor to the high-quality preamp, the 476 has all the tools you need to start recording high quality tracks. We recommend the 476 as an incredibly elaborate interface that can refine your recordings and provide a lot of value.

Universal Audio Volt 476 Benefits

The unit features a built-in 76 compressor which is extremely useful.

The preamps are quiet and offer a fair amount of headroom.

The unit has a very pleasant design.

You get exclusive access to the UA plugin library.

The unit is extremely well-polished.

Universal Audio Volt 476 Drawbacks

The unit is expensive compared to similarly priced audio interfaces.

Input channels 3 and 4 are tailored for pro-grade inputs (+4 dBu) so some consumer grade inputs might not work properly on them.

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

Audient iD44 MKII USB Audio Interface
8.3/10Our Score
8.3Average Score
Audient iD44
Price to Performance
7.5
Input / Output
9.5
Sound Quality
9
Connnectivity
7.5
Additional Features
8

Audient’s iD line of mid-range audio interfaces is one of the most popular amongst musicians, home-producers, and audio engineers. The most sophisticated model in the series is the iD44 which is a very powerful and multi-faceted audio interface that features 20 inputs and 24 outputs. 

In terms of build quality, the iD44 is enclosed in an extremely sturdy metal while its knobs are made-up from aluminum. The whole thing weighs around 4.4 pounds which makes it great for on-the-go sessions. The iD44 is also relatively compact considering how many I/O channels it offers and it has a rather elegant yet unobtrusive design which we really like. 

As for the I/O sockets, the back panel of the iD44 MkII features 4 Line/XLR jack inputs 2 of which have their separate send and return sockets. This panel also contains 4 balanced line output sockets, a USB-C port, a 12V port for external power, and a small On/Off switch. We should note that the majority of the iD44’s I/O channels can be accessed through ADAT (16 channels) which is why it features dual ADAT I/O connectors along with a World Clock Out socket. Other than that, you’ll find 2 Instrument inputs along with 2 headphone outputs on the front panel.

On the main panel of the iD44, you’ll find the different controls for the mic inputs which include individual gain knobs, 48V power switches, -10dB pad buttons,  and 100 Hz hi-pass filter buttons. On the right part of this panel you can also find the 2 headphone volume controllers which sit above 3 reprogrammable function buttons and a talkback toggle. The largest knob on the panel is the monitor knob which you can use to control the output volume. Below it are the DIM, CUT, and the ID button which Allows you to integrate the knob as a controller in the DAW.

When it comes to sound quality, we found that the iD44 has a rather smooth, transparent and natural character. The unit features incredibly silent preamps that provide a remarkable 60 dB of gain. They’re extremely detailed and can drive almost all mics while maintaining a rather neutral sound. They also do exceptionally well maintaining the true form of the signal as they add almost no color or noise to the recordings. For the majority of our test, we were using an SM58 dynamic mic which worked great with the iD44. Nonetheless, we still opted for an external cloud-lifter for some additional gain, but you really won’t need one.

As for the converters, the iD44 offers around 122 dB of dynamic range which translates to crisp and granular tracks. They offer a ton of headroom and can capture any recording with immaculate detail while adding zero-noise. We also noticed that the iD44 has immunity to RF interferences which is extremely important in studio environments where there are multiple sources of disturbances.

One thing we should note is that the iD44 has a maximum sample rate of 96kHz and a 24-bit depth which might be an issue for some considering that almost all audio interfaces at this price tag offer a 192kHz sample rate. However, we rarely ever use more than a 96kHz sample rate even for high-grade recording and you also probably won’t need this option. Additionally, while we do believe that the unit has top notch build quality and design, we would’ve appreciated if Audient made the device slightly tilted since the current parallel panel design can obscure your line-of-vision to the controls if your interface is set on the desk.

The Audient iD44 MkI was released back in 2018, 4 years prior to the release of the MkII. Both units look exactly the same except that the MkII metal frame has a slighter darker hue and the colors on the button were stripped away in the 2nd model. Both units also have the same number of I/O channels. However, the MkII allows you to connect ⅛’’ headphones to one of the output sockets unlike the MkI. In terms of sound quality, we saw small improvements in dynamic range, THD+N, and EIN specifications between both models. The high-frequencies on the MkII also sound much more smoother and tamed when compared to the MkI. We appreciate that Audient actually implemented notable upgrades to the iD44 considering that the time between both unit’s releases is relatively small.

All in all, the Audient iD44 MkII is an extremely reliable unit that produces exceptional sound quality and offers a lot of great features. At its price range, we don’t think that any other audio interface with a similar I/O configuration can compete with the iD44’s remarkably silent and transparent preamps. If you want a price-efficient audio interface that can consistently produce great tracks, then we recommend the iD44 as an incredibly all-rounded unit that you can’t go wrong with.

Audient iD44 Benefits

The unit’s preamps are extremely silent and provide a lot of headroom (60 dB)

The converters are very accurate and detailed.

The iD44 has a lot of onboard features that are extremely useful

The unit has RF immunity.

The device is well-designed and has great build quality.

Audient iD44 Drawbacks

The iD44 only features up to a 96kHz sample rate and a 24 bit depth.

The unit’s parallel panel design isn’t very practical.

Verdict 

phantom power audio interface quantitative analysis comparison

Based on our scoring model, you can see that there is a 0.4 score variance between the highest and lowest scoring units. If you look at the scores in each category individually, you’ll find that the highest variance is in the Input/Output and Additional features categories. The iD44 takes the lead when it comes to the Input/Output category which is expected considering that it features a 20×24 I/O configuration compared the Volt 476’s 4×4 and the SSL2+’s 2×4 configurations. On the other hand, the iD44 scores on par with the SSL2+ in the additional features category where the UA Volt 476 excels because of its built-in compressor, vintage mode, and extensive UAD plugin library.

The Audient iD44 remains fairly consistent throughout as it doesn’t score below 7.5 in any given category. It also scores the highest in 2 out of 5 categories which are the Input/Output and Sound Quality categories. Compared to the other 2 units, the iD44 offers the highest dynamic range and gain range along with the largest number of input channels. It also has a lot of great features like the talk-back function and the iD scroll-wheel . Conversely, the iD44 scores the lowest on the Price-to-Performance category which might indicate that it might be unreasonably priced. However, the iD44 is still exceptionally price-efficient, but it’s simply not as price-efficient as the SSL2+ and the Volt 476.

We should also mention that while the UA Volt 476 doesn’t provide the best sound quality compared to the other 2 units, it is still as an extremely all-rounded device. As you can see, the Volt 476 aces the score in the additional features category while it hovers an average score of 7.5 in the other 4 categories. It is also relatively inexpensive considering the great features it offers which makes it great for people who want to set foot in music production.

Nonetheless, when it comes to the best audio interface with phantom power, the iD44 emerges as a clear uncontended winner. With its remarkably silent, transparent, and high-gain preamps to its extremely accurate converters, the iD44 can produce nothing less than professional grade tracks. It is also an incredibly reliable device that doesn’t have any major bugs/glitches that can negatively affect your recording experience. If you’re looking for a really powerful interface that can flatter your mic inputs and produce exceptional recordings, then we recommend the iD44 as a solid purchase that you won’t regret.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I need Phantom Power on Audio Interfaces?

You will need Phantom power on Audio interfaces if you want to record using condenser mics since they can’t function on the standard 5-12V DC power. Audio interfaces with phantom power have built-in circuitry that allows you to step-up the voltage on the mic-inputs to 48V through a press of a button. That way you can toggle phantom power whenever you connect a condenser mic and deactivate it when using any other input.

What is the most important aspect of choosing an Audio Interface with Phantom Power?

If you’re searching for an audio interface with phantom power, then you probably want to use a condenser mic. In that case, you should really emphasize getting an audio interface with high-quality preamps that can compliment your inputs. You want to make sure that those preamps offer a transparent and uncolored output while also providing sufficient headroom. Phantom power barely affects the quality of the recordings. On the other hand, the unit’s preamps are what makes or breaks a unit when it comes to sound quality.

Is there an alternative to a Phantom Power Audio Interface? 

You could buy an XLR-to-USB adapter like the MXL Mic Mate Pro which is a type of 1 channel mic preamp that allows you to connect a condenser mic directly to the computer’s USB port. However, for any recording purpose that requires using more than 1 channel, you’ll find that this is an extremely impractical solution. To put it simply, an audio interface serves multiple purposes besides providing phantom power such as accommodating several I/O channels and converting audio signals. Instead, the most plausible alternative to an audio interface would be a digital mixer which to a certain extent serves the same functionality as an audio interface.

How much should I spend on a Phantom Power Audio Interface?

It really depends on how much you’re willing to spare. The price of a phantom power audio interface ranges from around $50 to a couple thousand bucks or more. You could settle for a cheap $100-200 unit and expect fairly adequate results. However, you’ll be missing out on a lot of features and might not be satisfied with the unit’s sound quality. Generally, we would recommend going for a $350-600 audio interface since at this range you can get a professional sounding unit without getting severely hit by diminishing returns.