Table of Contents
- What is an Audio Interface?
- Features to Pay Attention to when Looking for an Audio Interface?
- Best iPad Audio Interfaces – Comparison Table
- How to Know if Your iPad is Compatible with an Audio Interface?
- 6 Best iPad Audio Interfaces in 2021
- 1. Best Portable Guitar Audio Interface for iPad Under $100 – IK Multimedia iRig HD 2
- 2. Best Portable MFi-Certified Audio Interface Under $150 – Shure MVi
- 3. Best 2IN/2OUT iPad Audio Interface Under $150 – Focusrite iTrack Solo
- 4. The Most Compact Interface with Two Mic Inputs – Audient EVO 4
- 5. Best Guitar iPad Audio Interface Under $200 – Apogee Jam Plus
- 6. The Most Versatile iPad Audio Interface Under $300 – MOTU M2
A growing number of today’s audio interfaces are fairly flexible and can be used on the go with your iPhone or iPad. However, not all interfaces are compatible with iPads and we are here to help you find the right one. We will discuss the most important features of audio interfaces, talk about compatibility between iPads and audio interfaces, and present to you our selection of 6 best iPad audio interfaces in 2021.
What is an Audio Interface?
An audio interface is one of the crucial parts of any home or professional recording studio. It’s basically a middleman between your instrument/voice and your computer/iPad/iPhone. It receives all the analog signals coming from your gear, turns them into digital, and sends them to your recording device. Also, it allows you to monitor your recordings through speakers or headphones.
Features to Pay Attention to when Looking for an Audio Interface?
The decisive factors for choosing the right audio interface are your current/future needs and your budget. First of all, how many instruments and microphones you want to connect? The answer to this question is crucial for your decision. When you answer it, you will know how many inputs/outputs your audio interface should have.
After determining the necessary number of I/O, you can pay attention to the additional features – gain knobs, phantom power (you’re going to need it if you want to use a condenser mic), direct monitoring (monitoring with zero latency), additional inputs and outputs (optical IN/OUT, MIDI IN/OUT, dual headphone outputs, multiple line outputs, etc.).
Finally, you have to think about the price. A simple mono audio interface with one mic input and one guitar input could cost you less than $100 but if you want a quality one, the price can go up to $500. Luckily, the market has a lot to offer so you should be able to find something that meets your requirements, even if you are on a budget.
Best iPad Audio Interfaces – Comparison Table
|iPad Audio Interfaces||Rating||Price||Review|
|IK Multimedia iRig HD 2||4.4||Check Amazon|
|Shure MVi||4.5||Check Amazon|
|Focusrite iTrack Solo||4.5||Check Amazon|
|Audient EVO 4||4.5||Check Amazon|
|Apogee Jam Plus||4.4||Check Amazon|
|MOTU M2||4.6||Check Amazon|
How to Know if Your iPad is Compatible with an Audio Interface?
Most audio interfaces are compatible with iMac, MacBook, and PCs running on Windows but they are not all compatible with portable devices like iPads or iPhones. There are a few things an interface should have to be compatible with an iPad. First of all, some of the included software tools (and there’s always a software bundle that comes with an audio interface) should be compatible with iOS (or iPadOS).
Connection compatibility is not crucial since there are all kinds of adapter cables that you can buy (USB-C to USB Type-B, lighting to USB-C, etc.), but there’s one thing closely related to the type of connection that can be very important and that’s power supply. Many portable audio interfaces don’t have a dedicated DC input. Instead, they get the power through the same connection port used for communication between the interface and your recording device. That’s not a problem when the interface is connected to a PC or iMac/MacBook, but it can be a problem when trying to get enough power from an iPad. That’s often the reason why an audio interface is incompatible with an iPad. In some cases, this problem can be solved by using an adapter cable and a powered USB hub.
The best thing you can do is check if the interface you want to buy is tested with an iPad. If it’s approved for use with an iPad (or with iOS devices) or if it’s MFi-certified, then it’s definitely compatible.
Now that you understand the basics and know what to pay attention to when looking for an audio interface for iPad, we can move onto our selection of the 6 best iPad audio interfaces in 2021. The following devices are our favorite models for different purposes and different budgets. You just have to go through our categories and find the best one for your needs.
6 Best iPad Audio Interfaces in 2021
1. Best Portable Guitar Audio Interface for iPad Under $100 – IK Multimedia iRig HD 2
iRig HD 2 is simply perfect for mobile use. It’s compact, easy to use, and works flawlessly with iPads and iPhones. If you need a fairly affordable portable guitar audio interface, this is your best choice.
Things we like
iRig HD 2 comes with a micro USB to Lightning cable and USB Type-A to micro USB cable. So, if you have an older iPad, you don’t need to buy anything. If you have one of the latest iPads, you will have to buy a micro USB to USB-C cable. The packaging also includes a Velcro strip and a simple-looking clip so you can attach it to the mic stand.
The interface is compatible with macOS, Windows, and iOS. There’s an app for each of these operating systems and it’s called AmpliTube. This is free recording software with some guitar amp emulators and pedal emulators.
iRig HD 2 has a very simple and intuitive interface. The front panel houses only one LED gain indicator (green – low, red – too high, orange – good) and the iRig logo.
On the bottom, there are two ¼in connectors – one guitar/bass input and one amp/mixer output. On the top, there’s a 3.5mm audio output (for connecting headphones and monitors) and a micro USB port.
On the left side, there’s the gain dial. On the right, there’s the volume dial and a simple plastic switch with two positions – FX and THRU. THRU will send an unprocessed signal to your amp, and FX will send the processed signal. The max supported conversion bit depth and sampling rate is 24bit/96kHz.
Things we don’t like
iRig HD 2 doesn’t work great with Windows devices. It delivers much more reliable performance when connected to macOS and iOS devices.
2. Best Portable MFi-Certified Audio Interface Under $150 – Shure MVi
Shure MVi is just like the previous iRig interface, quite compact and easy to use. However, this one is a certified MFi device (MFi – Made for iPhone/iPad) and it has an XLR input so you can connect a professional mic to it and not just guitar. Shure MVi is perfect for home recording and podcasting.
Things we like
Shure Mvi audio interface comes, like the iRig HD 2, with a micro USB to Lightning cable and a micro USB to USB Type-A cable. It can be directly connected to older iPads. If you have the latest iPad/iPad Pro, you will have to buy an adapter cable (micro USB to USB-C).
The unit has an interesting design with a very small footprint. It kind of looks like a mini alarm clock.
All the inputs/outputs are on the back, and all the controls are on the front. The rear panel houses one combo input port (XLR/6.35mm), one headphone output, and a micro USB port.
The whole front side is a touch-sensitive control panel. You can use it to mute/unmute the mic, activate phantom power, select one of 5 available EQ/DSP modes (sing, acoustic guitar, loud, flat, and speech), adjust the input gain, and adjust the headphone output volume.
To engage the phantom power for condenser mics, you have to press the mic button for 3sec. The unit will provide 12V phantom power when connected to an iOS device or 48V when connected to a PC/Mac.
For all the additional settings, you can use the ShurePlus MOTIV recording app for iOS devices. This app also allows you to control all the other MOTIV devices (like MOTIV mics).
Shure MVi will adjust some settings (like compression, EQ, and limiting) automatically to provide the optimal performance. The max quality of the recording is 24bit/96kHz.
Things we don’t like
The included Lightning cable is quite short.
3. Best 2IN/2OUT iPad Audio Interface Under $150 – Focusrite iTrack Solo
Focusrite’s latest Scarlet line is one of the most popular budget-friendly audio interfaces, but those interfaces are not designed for iPads. They will work with iPads (you would have to use an adapter cable and a powered USB hub) but they are not the perfect choice for that purpose. Luckily, Focusrite makes interfaces that are designed for iPads and can be directly connected to an iPad. iTrack Solo is that kind of a device. If you need an interface to record both – your voice and your guitar at the same time, and you need something affordable, Focusrite iTrack Solo is a great choice.
Things we like
iTrack Solo comes with a device LINK cable (for connecting iPads) and a standard USB-A to USB Type-B cable (for connecting PC or Mac).
The interface features a simple and clean design, with a metal chassis and intuitive control/input scheme.
On the front, you have a standard XLR mic input and a ¼in instrument input. There’s a dedicated gain dial with a color-coded gain indicator (green-good, red – too high) for each input. The mic input also has a phantom power button.
On the right end of the front panel, there’s a large volume dial (controls the volume of the monitors and headphones), an LED power indicator, 6.35mm headphone output, and a button for direct monitoring with zero-latency.
On the back, you have a pair of monitor outputs, a DEVICE LINK connection (for connecting iPads), and a USB Type-B connection.
iTrack Solo delivers flawless performance with all kinds of devices and operating systems. To record audio on your iPad, it’s recommended to use the GarageBand app, but it should work with all the popular recording apps for iOS.
Things we don’t like
An adapter cable is required if you have the latest iPad Pro with a USB-C connection. Also, you can’t use the DEVICE LINK port to connect the latest iPad Pro – you have to use the USB Type-B connection. The good news is that you don’t need a powered USB hub – the new iPad Pro can supply enough power to the iTrack Solo.
4. The Most Compact Interface with Two Mic Inputs – Audient EVO 4
EVO 4 is another compact and portable audio interface. It’s perfect for home recording and podcasting. It has intuitive controls and it is very user-friendly. EVO 4 is one of the rare compact interfaces with two XLR mic inputs and it’s the most hassle-free solution for the latest iPad Pro (direct connection without any additional equipment).
Things we like
EVO 4 comes in a compact packaging. The box also contains a USB-A to USB-C cable and a software bundle. Most of the software tools are designed for macOS and Windows, but there’s also the CUBASIS LE3 app for iOS devices (iOS recording app). If you’re connecting the unit to an iPad, you can also use other popular recording apps (like GarageBand).
EVO 4 has a very intuitive interface. On the front, there’s a guitar input and headphone out. On the back, there are two combo XLR/6.35mm inputs, monitor outputs, and a USB-C connection port.
All the controls are on the top. Each button has a simple icon indicating what that button controls. Right in the center, there’s a large dial with a circular LED indicator. This dial controls the gain for each channel. It also controls the headphone/monitor volume. On the left end, you have two buttons for channels 1 and 2, the phantom power button, and the mic button (used to mute the microphone or to adjust the gain for both channels automatically).
On the right end, you have the output volume button and the mixer button. The purpose of the first one is pretty obvious. Press it to switch between headphones and monitors, and then use the large dial in the center to adjust the volume. The mixer button is used to mix the input and output signals (adjust their balance or enable direct monitoring).
The included EVO Control app (for macOS and Windows) looks exactly the same as the control panel on the EVO 4 and offers the same functionality.
EVO 4 works flawlessly with the latest iPad Pro. If you have an older iPad with a Lightning connection, you will need an adapter cable and a powered USB hub.
Instructions on how to connect an iPad to Audient EVO 4
Things we don’t like
The connection port on EVO 4 has a USB-C geometry but doesn’t use USB 3.0/3.1 protocol. Instead, it uses less capable and slower USB 2.0 protocol.
5. Best Guitar iPad Audio Interface Under $200 – Apogee Jam Plus
Like the first iRig HD 2, Apogee Jam Plus is made for guitars only. It has a similar set of features and offers the same max bit depths and sampling rates as iRig HD2, but delivers slightly better performance with less noise.
Things we like
Apogee Jam Plus comes with a mic stand adapter, download/install instructions for the BIAS FX JAM software, Lightning cable, USB-C cable, and a USB-A cable. Regardless of the iPad generation, you have everything you need to start recording immediately – you don’t need adapters or powered USB hubs.
The unit is tiny and looks like some sort of an mp3 player. There’s a guitar input on the bottom panel, and a headphone out and USB port on the top.
The front panel houses three LED indicator lights (status/input gain/Blend mode), one button for the headphone output blend control, and a single dial that doubles as the Override/Clean mode button.
Apogee Jam Plus is compatible with all the popular recording apps for iOS. That button and dial on the control panel enable you to select one of the available modes. By pressing the button, you will engage the output blend mode, which allows you to blend the input and output signals and monitor with zero latency.
By pressing the gain dial, you can engage the Overdrive or Clean mode. The OverDrive mode simulates the amp and pedal. The Clean mode gives you the purest possible signal and noiseless tone.
Apogee Jam Plus supports 24bit/96kHz conversion and works flawlessly with iPads, Macs, and PCs.
Things we don’t like
It takes some time to get used to and remember the meaning of different LED indications so make sure to keep the user manual nearby.
6. The Most Versatile iPad Audio Interface Under $300 – MOTU M2
MOTU M2 is a very versatile audio interface and offers a great price/performance ratio. The manufacturer claims it’s perfectly compatible with iOS devices but the truth is that you need some additional equipment to make it work (Apple Lightning to USB3 Camera Adapter and a powered USB hub). MOTU M2 is a great choice if you want to connect MIDI instruments and/or two guitars, or two mics, or a guitar and a mic.
Things we like
The unit comes with a USB-C to USB-A cable and with its own software bundle, like all the other audio interfaces.
It features a simple boxy design and has a strong metal chassis. The user interface is quite intuitive. On the front panel, you have two combo mic/instrument inputs, with two dedicated gain dials. There’s also a dedicated phantom power button for each input as well as a dedicated MONITOR button for each input. The front panel also houses LED VU meters for the inputs and outputs, monitor volume dial, headphone output, and a headphone volume dial.
The rear panel houses MIDI input and output, one pair of ¼in monitor outputs, one pair of RCA monitor outputs, USB-C port, and a power switch.
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MOTU M2 supports direct monitoring for both inputs (in mono or stereo). Also, the unit supports the loopback feature (great for video streaming, creating podcasts, and recording).
M2 may work with the latest generation of iPad Pro (the one with a USB-C connection) without any additional equipment but it may stop working when you engage the phantom power. If you have an older iPad (with Lightning connection), you need an adapter (Apple Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter) and a powered USB hub.
Things we don’t like
In order to connect an iPad and get stable performance, you need additional equipment.
This was our selection of the 6 best iPad audio interfaces in 2021. Hopefully, this article helped you find a perfect audio interface for your iPad or at least figure out what to pay attention to when looking for an iPad audio interface. For additional info, read the FAQ section. As always, we encourage you to share your experience with audio interfaces.
Q: What audio interfaces work with iPads?
A: In order to be compatible with iPads, an audio interface should come with software that works with iOS and should not be too power-hungry. Ideally, an iPad audio interface should have low power consumption or, even better, a dedicated DC input (separate power supply). If an audio interface consumes too much power, then you can’t connect it directly to your iPad but, luckily, there’s a workaround. In some cases, using Apple’s Lightning to USB3 Camera Adapter and a powered USB hub will allow you to connect your iPad with the audio interface and get stable performance.
Q: Can you use an audio interface with an iPad?
A: As mentioned in the previous answer, some audio interfaces are compatible with iPads and can be connected to an iPad without any additional equipment. Some are even MFi-certified (they are made for iPhones/iPads).
Q: How do I connect an audio interface to my iPad?
A: Ideally, an audio interface and iPad should have the same kind of connection. So, if it’s a new iPad Air/iPad/iPad Pro, it would be ideal if your audio interface features USB-C or Thunderbolt connection. If it’s one of the older iPads, something with a Lightning port is a good choice. Luckily, even if the interface has a USB Type-B port or some other kind of connection, you can always use an adapter cable and hook them up.
Q: What is the best iPad audio interface in 2021?
A: It is impossible to give just one answer to this question. There are so many different kinds of audio interfaces, with different I/O connections and different price tags. That’s why you have our selection of 6 best iPad audio interfaces in 2021 – check it out and find a perfect interface for your needs.
Q: Do iPads have a microphone jack?
A: iPads don’t have a dedicated mic jack. They have built-in mics but no dedicated mic inputs. Older versions had a 3.5mm headphone jack that also had mic support but there was no way to connect a high-quality professional mic directly to the iPad. Some USB-C mics may work with the latest generation of iPads but if you want to connect a mic with an XLR or 6.35mm jack, the best option is to buy an iPad audio interface and use it as a middleman between the microphone and your iPad.
Hello, my name is James Longman.
I’m a writer and editor at AudioReputation. I disassembled my first portable AM/FM radio when I was only 8. At the age of 11, I burned the circuit board on my old boombox cassette player. I’m not going to explain how but it was reckless and stupid.
Since then, I have become much more careful around radios, boomboxes, and other audio devices (at least, I like to think so) but I have never lost the passion for audio equipment. Throughout 20 years of my professional career, I’ve been working for various audio equipment manufacturers and even started building speakers on my own in my little workshop.
I love the work we do here at AudioReputation. Testing, comparing, and evaluating all kinds of audio devices (speakers, soundbars, headphones, home theater systems, etc.) is something I truly enjoy. I try to be unbiased and give you my honest opinion on every piece of equipment I test. Still, you should take my reviews with a pinch of salt and always be just a little bit skeptical. The fact that I liked some speaker or soundbar doesn’t mean that you are going to love it. If you have the opportunity, you should test it/hear it before buying it.