Music Production

Best Drum Recording Interface – Affordable Drum Recording Setup

Disclaimer: Links throughout the article may be affiliated. If you click and make a purchase, I get a small commission. Learn more›

So you want to record drums at home. Before we begin, remember that recording drums is no easy task. Most audio engineers consider tracking and engineering drums to be the most difficult part of making a record.

But with today’s technology, we can record ourselves at home fairly easy and sound great.

So what’s the best audio interface for recording drums?

The Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 (Sweetwater) is an affordable eight-channel audio interface that will be perfect for anyone looking to start recording drums.

Focusrite is an audio company that really needs no introduction. Thanks to the genius mind of Rupert Neve, they have been on the cutting edge of recording hardware since 1985.

Recording is simple with this audio interface as it comes packed with a version of Pro Tools and Ableton Live. You don’t need to spend extra money on a digital audio workstation.

Hands-On With The Scarlett

On the front of the drum recording interface, there are two microphone inputs.

The other six are located on the reverse side of the unit. Each knob corresponds to a different microphone channel input.

You can adjust your microphone gain here before it hits your computer. To the right of the knobs is a nice display, giving you a clear sight of all your microphone inputs.

Next up are the monitor and headphone control pots. You can plug a set of studio monitors in, as well as two separate headphones to this unit.

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 — Available at Sweetwater

Lots of I/O With The Scarlett 18i20

On the backside of the drum recording interface, there are eight separate line outputs. If you plan on using this in a touring situation, you could always use these for your backing tracks.

Next to the line outs, we have your monitor outputs. This is where you will connect your studio monitors.

Expanding To 16 Inputs Is a Breeze

Next to the monitor outputs we have what is known as ADAT in and out. If you ever want to expand your input count to 16, you can add an additional piece of hardware known as the Scarlett OctoPre.

With a simple optical cable, upgrading your interface is made easy with the Scarlett 18i20.

USB Connection Made Easy

Connection to your PC or Mac is made via USB 3.0. Thankfully, we don’t have to deal with Firewire anymore.

Focusrite uses a console software called Focusrite Control for all your monitoring purposes. You can even control this software from your iPhone or iPad!

Very Low Latency For Tracking

Many drum recording interfaces suffer from what is known as latency or lag. Imagine recording yourself and hearing your drums delayed from when you’re playing.

The third generation Scarlett 18i20 interface features super-low latency. You can even monitor native plug-ins in real time.

How does the Scarlett sound?

The preamps on the Scarlett 18i20 are very clean. You’re not going to want colorful preamps for your general recording interface.

You want the cleanest signal you can get from the source to allow you to add EQ, compression, and other effects inside your DAW during mixing.

Colored preamps, like the Neve 1073, are expensive, require maintenance, and are generally suited for professional audio engineers working in world-class recording studios.

Compared to everything else on the market, this drum recording interface sounds amazing and will do wonders for you if you take things slow and apply the right skills to your drum recordings.

What is an Audio Interface?

What is an audio interface?

When recording in a home studio, it’s common to use what is known as an audio interface to convert audio from a microphone into digital data that you can manipulate inside a computer.

Interfaces contain microphone preamps that amplify the signal and sometimes, if desired, give the sound a “color” to make a record more unique.

Many modern records are made this way in home studios and basements all over the world. Technology has come a long way and recording yourself has become very affordable.

Audio interfaces come in a variety of sizes and prices and generally range from one microphone input to eight. Certain audio interfaces can also be daisy-chained together to expand the number of microphones you can record at once.

How much to spend on an audio interface?

If you’re brand new to recording drums, I suggest starting small, with an affordable drum recording interface.

As you move up the price ladder, you’ll find that even spending upwards of $1,000 won’t change the quality of your home studio drum recordings.

As you “practice” recording and engineering more and more, you’ll find that your recordings will vastly improve despite the gear not changing.

The secret lies within the engineer and his or her ears.

Audio interfaces that range between $300 and $1,000 tend to be pretty similar sounding as far as preamps go.

Some of the more expensive audio interfaces will offer things like DSP plugins, extra inputs, special preamps, and so on. For just starting out, this is nothing to concern yourself with.

How many inputs do I need on my Interface?

If you’re recording drums, it’s best to start out small. You’ll still want to make sure you get an audio interface with eight preamps, but don’t expect to be recording a drum set the size of Neil Peart’s on day one.

To fully grasp the concept of recording drums, it’s important to begin small, maybe a four-piece kit, and really get the techniques correct.

A smaller setup wins in the beginning

You may even want to experiment will smaller microphone setups, as well. A good starting point is kick, snare, and overheads. This will give you the least amount of phase issues and will get you a great sound when just starting out.

If you’re unsure about microphones, be sure to open the following link up in another tab, as we’ve outlined the best starter drum microphone kits available.

My personal setup revolves around the Universal Audio Apollo Twin. It’s a great interface to start with, but it only has two inputs.

In order to make the Apollo Twin work with a set of drums, you’d need to buy an additional preamp box, like the MOTU 8pre. For sake of simplicity, we’ll be talking about an audio interface that has more inputs.

Conclusion — Best Drum Recording Interface

If you’re in the market for a drum recording interface, look no further than the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20. It’s the best value for the money when it comes to recording drums. If you’re brand new to recording, this audio interface will be the perfect one to learn and grow on.

Related: Best Drum Overhead Microphones

Focusrite is a trade mark or registered trade mark of Focusrite Audio Engineering Limited in England, USA and/or other countries.

Nick Cesarz

Nick is a drummer, percussionist, and blogger from Milwaukee, WI. He toured extensively with Vinyl Theatre, opening up for acts like twenty one pilots, Panic! at the Disco, and more. Now no longer touring, his passion lies in gear and playing the kit as much as time allows.

Related Articles


  1. I’ve done LOTS of searching online in the last 48 hours and this may be one of the most productive articles yet.

    One thing though… can I multitrack with the 18i20? … I’d like the ability to record to six or 8 different tracks so I can edit each drum mic separately.

    Thank you.


    1. Paul. Thanks for reading. You absolutely can multitrack with the 18i20. It’s probably the best bet for both value and versatility. Eight channels are plenty for doing kick, snare, toms, overheads, and rooms even. Depending of course on how many drums and microphones you have. :)

      Another benefit to the 18i20 is the ADAT input/output on the back of the unit. You can buy another eight-channel preamp, like a second 18i20, connect 1 optical ADAT cable, and get a total of 16 separate microphone inputs.

      1. I have been looking for a question/answer like this for weeks but never receive a clear answer. Thank you for addressing this. To clarify, if a purchase a USB interface (like one of the above you’ve mentioned) I can get 8 inputs that will remain as 8 tracks once they hit my PC? I currently have StudioOne (I read Presonus isn’t your favorite). Definitely need that full control to edit each track after the fact. Thanks again.

        1. Yes! You will have control over each of the eight channels. Despite my negative view, I think StudioOne is a perfect option. In fact, I bet a lot of their newer products are much better than my FireStudio that never liked to work. I just had negative experience years back.

  2. Hi Nick,
    I got a ton of great info from this…
    I am wondering what your thoughts are on this idea…
    First of all, I am new to all this…
    I am thinking of using overhead and kick mics to record. Then run the mics in to an amplifier head, then run the amp output in to a 2 channel audio interface, and then in to my PC (software)…
    Will this Frankenstein setup actually record decent tracks? Should I use the amp settings to make it sound good or should I just set them all flat or something?

    Also, I am really only trying to get scratch tracks, I am not producing an album or anything.

    Thank you in advance!

    1. Hey Jim, thanks!

      I would most likely run the kick and overhead microphones directly into the audio interface and then, from there, manipulate the sound within the computer. That being said, give it a shot! Try recording through the amplifier head to see what kind of results you get!

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

  3. Wow can’t believe I found this! Just got off the phone with a Sweetwater consultant inquiring about the 18i20. Great info Nick thanks a lot. Can you recommend a decent recording software and are they hard to learn?

    1. Hey Joe,

      Glad Sweetwater was of aid to helping you pick!

      Regarding the varying recording software, The 18i20 comes bundled with Pro Tools | First and Ableton Live Lite. Lots of recording studios still use Pro Tools, so I don’t think this would be a bad place to start.

      There definitely is a learning curve, so be aware (you’ll be on YouTube for a while learning, I’m afraid). I like Cubase, myself, but all digital audio workstations get the job done and it’s subjective. There is no difference in audio quality between the differing software. It’s all about the source you record, the microphones, and sometimes the microphone preamps (last 5% of the sound IMO). Fresh heads, a decent room, and some good mics will get you 95% of the way to a good drum recording.

      Hope that helps!

      1. Thanks Nick. I forgot to ask one more question. Can you play to drum-less tracks with the 18i20 while listening through headphones?

        1. Yes. I am able to listen to YouTube, Spotify, my library, drumless tracks, loops, etc… while playing along with my setup.

          The 18i20 uses Focusrite Control (software that comes with) that you’ll adjust levels with.

  4. Hello! This is very informative.
    I am new to this, and I am confused of what to use in drumming. sound card or a mixer? Some say mixer and some say soundcard like focusrite with 8 channel.
    Please help.

    1. Hi,

      I suppose it somewhat depends on what you’d like to do. Mixers are easier to use and often don’t require a computer. You could use a mixer if you’re just looking to hear your miked drums with in-ear monitors or headphones.

      A lot of mixers also have a built-in audio interface (soundcard as you refer to it). In my experience, I’ve always liked using standard audio interfaces more — especially the Focusrite 18i20. For the price, you can’t beat it. I also own UAD and MOTU stuff (too expensive).

      I should also mention, I’m mainly talking home recording for drummers who want to record themselves. There’s a LOT better options out there once you cross the $2k-3k mark in terms of recording interfaces, but at that point you’re better off going to a professional studio.

  5. Hi is the headphone out loud enough for recording drums on the Scarlett? I have a steinberg and even with the volume turned all the way up, I still hear my drums over the track.

    1. Hey Greg. I’ve had this problem in the past before, as well. Sometimes it can be difficult to setup a monitor mix that is loud enough if you’re just monitoring on the way in. The Scarlett most likely won’t be a fix to this issue.

      You could try some pre-processing inside your DAW and monitoring from there. Else, something I can’t recommend more, is getting a pair of GK Ultraphones. They have insane isolation and sound incredible. I can’t imagine tracking drums without them after trying them out.

  6. Hi Nick,
    Thanks for the article brother. It reaffirmed my purchase of the Scarlett and the Octo-Pre. I’m recording projects with this equipment that have gotten amazing results. My best bud who I grew up with sings with the AWB and thinks the project s I’m recording sound awesome. My question Nick is, I’m trying to lay down separate tracks with a Yamaha DTx12 in Protools as percussion tracks i.e. bells, claps etc.
    I don’t know how to connect the DTX to the Scarlett and then hear them as separate tracks.

    Any help you can offer would be awesome. Thanks Nick.
    Rich Latimer – Drummer

    1. Hey Rich! Awesome to hear it.

      There’s really two ways you can connect your DTX to Pro Tools: via MIDI USB or recording the LR output of the DTX with a DI box. Recording the LR output will give you access to the sounds included with the Yamaha DTX.

      Recording the MIDI USB information allows you to use software/samples for additional sounds.

      I’m curious to what you mean… “hear them as separate tracks.” Are you trying to separate each of the pads and then mix them independently later on? Unfortunately, there’s no simple solution, since the DTX only gives us a stereo output. There is a work around, and I’ll explain it further if this is what you’re talking about!


  7. Hello Nick,
    Some really great information in the article.
    I’m interested to know about the work around regarding recording and mixing electronic drum pads individually when you usual only have a stereo out from the brain.
    Many thanks

    1. Hi Val! Thanks for the kind words! Unfortunately, there’s no easy solution when using only stereo out. You’ll have to pre-mix the pads, as there’s no way to change levels once the audio passes through the stereo out. The work-arounds are as follows, but aren’t totally useful:

      1) Record each pad individually with your DAW and create separate tracks.
      2) Record the MIDI performance and feed the MIDI back to your pad, recording each separately (using a USB cable).
      3) Record MIDI into your DAW and use a drum sampler like Battery (using a USB cable).

      Hope that helps! Please let me know if you have any other questions or if I missed your intent.

  8. Hi there,I’m looking for a good interface Scarlett 18i20 and Tascam 16×08 to record my drum kit
    The question I have is the Scarlett 18i20 come with Protools First but it says you can only record 4 tracks simultaneously
    The Tascam doesn’t come with DAW software but I was thinking of using the free Cakewalk Daw
    Regards Pete

  9. Hello,
    This is very informative, thank you very much. I did tests with a Behringer I borrowed, and actually it is not usable. Sounds from mic > audio interface > Cakewalk (for EQ,…) > audio interface > my headphones : Latency is too big. I’m playing with a mixer right now and there is no perceptible latency. So, is this setup (mic > scarlett > daw > scarlett > headphones) possible with no perceptible latency? As I don’t want the raw sound of mics in my headphones, but the mixed sound out of Cakewalk. Or maybe a mixer/audio interface as Zoom Livetrack or Soundcraft MTK would better fit my needs? (main use is live streaming drums)
    Thank you very much again.

  10. Hello! Quick Question;

    Juuust starting out in this side of things and i have a couple green questions; If we’re playing live and im micing up the drums and running guitar and bass into the interface, is there a way I can run it into a PA and also into logic or some other recording mixer? I bought a roland go mixer thats pretty cool and use a board to run everyone into and back into the roland go mixer. but its really hard to get the levels right. Also, if all of my drums are mic’d individually, is there a way to lock in each level to adjust the drums entirley once im trying to get the volume lined up with the other instruments? hopefully this makes sense. any advice is appreciated.

  11. Juuust starting out in this side of things and i have a couple green questions; If we’re playing live and im micing up the drums and running guitar and bass into the interface, is there a way I can run it into a PA and also into logic or some other recording mixer? I bought a roland go mixer thats pretty cool and use a board to run everyone into and back into the roland go mixer. but its really hard to get the levels right. Also, if all of my drums are mic’d individually, is there a way to lock in each level to adjust the drums entirley once im trying to get the volume lined up with the other instruments? hopefully this makes sense. any advice is appreciated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *