Wanted: Audio interface recommendations

So, my trusty Presonus Firestudio Project is starting to give up the ghost, and it looks like the new macOS Mojave won’t support it anyway. And it’s my last bit of Firewire hardware so I’d might as well come limping along into the USB era, right?

UPDATE: It looks like I still have some time with this 10-year-old interface. Phew.

What are peoples' recommendations for an audio interface?

Here are my requirements: (note that the Firestudio Project had all this so I’m not being unrealistic here)

  • At least six inputs and six outputs, with separate monitor mixes to each of the outputs (note that the monitor mixes rules out M-Audio, which AFAICT only supports a single thru mix for all inputs)
  • At least two of the inputs need to be XLR with phantom power, and at least four of the inputs need to be ¼"
  • Decently low noise floor

Nice to haves:

  • 19" rackmount form factor
  • At least two of the inputs on the front panel, one of which is XLR and one of which is ¼"
  • At least one hi-Z/instrument/DI input
  • The XLR inputs being combo plugs (i.e. take both XLR and ¼") or at least having an ancillary ¼" jack for when I don’t need XLR
  • Costs under $400
  • USB class-compliant or otherwise not likely to stop working due to lack of driver updates

Things I don’t really care about:

  • MIDI (as I already have a separate 4x4 MIDI interface and most of my shit is USB now anyway)
  • Ultra-high sample rates (44/16 is enough, although I wouldn’t turn my nose up at anything higher)
  • Optical/SPDIF/ADAT/etc. is completely unnecessary in this day and age and I really don’t get why so many interfaces provide those except as a way of boosting their input/output count

(Several product links below are affiliate links.)

Right now my (very short) list of contenders is the TASCAM 16x08 (with the caveat that I’d need a bunch of XLR to ¼" adapters, but those are cheap), the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20, and the PreSonus Studio 1824. All of those meet all of my requirements (I think, I can’t get a straight answer about monitor submixes on the Focusrite) and some of my nice-to-haves. But there are other manufacturers out there which I think have stuff like this that I just haven’t heard of, maybe?

There’s also the Behringer U-PHORIA UMC1820 but again I can’t figure out if that one supports monitor submixes and also I’ve had very poor luck with Behringer quality in the past.

Also the reason I need monitor submixes (even though I work alone in the studio) is it makes things a lot easier for streaming my work, and it’s also nice to have my microphones get monitored to my headphones but not to my studio speakers. Sucks to have to remember to mute them when I switch to monitors and unmute them when I go back to headphones. So even without the streaming setup stuff, monitoring submixes are a really nice workflow thing that I wish more people recognized the usefulness of. And of course in a multi-user setting it’s great to be able to e.g. let the guitar player hear drums more and the bass player hear guitar more, and the drummer only hear themself and the vocals, or whatever.


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