USB Audio MIDI Interface Units

A USB audio MIDI interface is a unit that allows you to record both audio AND MIDI into your computer (or mobile device, in some cases).

In order to get great sounding audio into your computer, you need a good audio interface. And I talk a lot about those. But what if you want to connect a keyboard to also record MIDI?

Not all audio interface units have MIDI inputs and outputs. So if you want to record BOTH audio AND MIDI, you’ll need a USB audio MIDI interface unit. This is assuming you use USB, as most of us do. But if you use something different – like thunderbolt – you’d obviously need an interface specifically for that.

So which units have audio AND MIDI?

One terrific USB audio MIDI interface unit is the MOTU (Mark of The Unicorn) M4. As the name of the model implies, you can plug two mics into it (2X for “2 XLR”). And there are also 2 line level inputs in the back for external preamp or pother effects/processor, or instruments that put out a line level, such as synths, keyboards, drum machines etc.

And of course, there is a MIDI input where you can plug in a MIDI keyboard, as well as a MIDI Output.

So with this interface, you can record 2 mics with pristine preamps. And then you can create MIDI tracks to play your virtual instruments in your DAW recording software.

Other USB audio MIDI interface units

Obviously the MOTU unit is not the only USB audio MIDI interface out there. But if you want to plug a MIDI keyboard into your interface, you really need to be sure before you buy one that it has that MIDI capability. The interface I usually recommend – the Focusrite Scarlett Solo or Scarlett 2i2 do NOT have any MIDI I/O. The Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 interface, however, DOES have MIDI capability. So make sure you do your research.

One other USB audio MIDI interface is the Steinberg UR22mkII. It is similar to the MOTU, except the Steinberg can ALSO record into your iPad! It also has what it calls “Loopback” for streaming performances live to the Internet.

As far as I/O it’s very similar to the MOTU. Both units can record at 24-bit/192kHz. The Steinberg does not have 2 separate instrument inputs, but since the mic inputs are combo units, you can plug instruments into those.

List of a USB audio MIDI interface units

So here is short list of interface units with MIDI I/O. Obviously this isn’t a list of every unit in the world. But it should give you a good starting point if you need audio AND MIDI recording capability:

Focusrite Scarlett 2i4
Focusrite Clarett 2Pre USB
Steinberg UR22mkII
iConnectivity iConnectAUDIO2+
Mackie Onyx Producer 2.2
IK Multimedia iRig Pro Duo (works with iPhone and iPad also!)

There are lots of others, of course, but this list should give you a good selection to choose from if you are looking for a USB audio MIDI interface.

4 comments on “USB Audio MIDI Interface Units”

    1. Hi Alice. Really the most important aspect of recording your own stuff is to deal with the room sound in a typical room in a house. It’s too echo-y/reverb-y to sound professional without some way to minimize that. I address that, among other things you would need, in this post series

      As for gear, if all you’re doing is your own audiobooks, I think you can get by on a very affordable USB mic – I’d recommend the Samson C01U for excellent quality. It’s only about $80 and you can usually get them at your local Best Buy, though of course on Amazon, etc. You can get better gear but this is the minimum for professional sound (as long as you follow the tips in that post series!).

      the 6th and final tip in that series talks about treating your room with acoustic foam, which can be expensive. But you CAN take care of the problem in a free way. See (and hear) how you can do it in this video here: I hope that helps!

  1. Hello, I have a drumbrute impact and a Scarlett 2i2 hooked up to a 2017 Mac. I read somewhere that I need a midi cable specifically to sync time on logic through their midi settings. Any info before I go out and buy stuff? I have been playing the drum machine w/ usual 1/4″ into the Scarlett but I’m lost.

    1. The Scarlett 2i2 does not have any MIDI capabilities. So if you want the MIDI data from your drum machine to get into your computer, you’d need another interface of some kind that can feed MIDI into your computer. You can already get the audio for the drums into your computer via the 2i2. But for MIDI you’ll need to do something else/extra. I BELIEVE (I don’t have this drum machine) that the Drumbrute Impact has a USB output that you can use to bring MIDI into your computer. So before I went out and bought another interface or any MIDI cables, I’d try that.

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