The Best Audio Interfaces for Live Playback in 2023 (And Why So Many People Screw This Up)

How to Choose an Interface for Running Tracks

When it comes to choosing an audio interface to use on stage, the criteria for choosing the best interface is different than the criteria you should use when looking for something in the studio.

Here’s 3 things (and a few bonuses) you should consider if you’re looking for an interface to use for Backing Tracks with your Band.

Outputs are King

In the studio, I want to make sure my pre-amps are clean, sound great, and I have adequate monitoring solutions. When it comes to choosing an interface for the stage for using backing tracks, inputs don’t matter. *

*If you’re reading this as a live looping artist, inputs matter. If you’re planning on processing vocals live, inputs matter. I’ll be talking more about this over the next few months, but in short…the interfaces I would choose for live-looping or vocal processing are vastly different than the interfaces I would use for running tracks. Which is why I can confidently say, for running tracks…inputs don’t matter.*

Here’s a few things to consider when it comes to outputs:

  • Get an interface with at-least 4 outputs. Skip those 2-output interfaces.
  • If possible, buy something with at-least 8-outputs.
  • Have the budget for more than 8 outputs? Go for it!

Balanced isn’t just for Diets

Weird headline…but I’ll roll with it…

Look for an audio interface with balanced outputs. That means you can skip buying direct boxes, or spending lots of money on a rack-mount direct box setup.

With an interface with balanced outputs, you can go directly from your interface into your stage snake and then to your audio console, making your life a lot easier and cheaper.

Keep in mind that balanced outs don’t just mean XLR outputs. For example, the PlayAudio12 has balanced outputs. I use this cable to go directly from my interface to the stage snake.

Protect Against Phantom Power Surges

The third thing to consider is whether those outputs on your interface are protected against phantom power surges. This means, if you plug into a console where someone has accidentally left the phantom power button enabled on your channel, it won’t cause harm to your interface.

More than once, I’ve seen those cute little red interfaces stop working, because someone left phantom on a channel that the interface was connected to.

If your interface is protected against phantom power surges, you’ll never have to worry about it.


As a bonus, if the interface can handle MIDI, that’s really great.

Either 5-pin DIN MIDI or USB MIDI, this can save you from purchasing an additional interface for MIDI.

BONUS: Consider a Digital Console

If you’re a band that needs to mix your own in-ears, mix front of house, and get output out of Ableton Live, consider a digital console like the Behringer X-32.

It’s like having an audio interface, and mixer in one…cause you do.

2023 Gear Guide

Get all my picks for the best gear to use for 2023!

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