An audio interface is the middle man for recording and playing audio back. To answer the question on whether you need it or not, the answer is yes. You need an audio interface if you’re trying to record quality audio.
Audio interfaces take the audio signal and convert it into your computer using a A/D converter. The scientific process behind it is pretty cool.
All of this starts with air molecules, and it converts those into electrical energy. To make this easy to understand, an audio interface generates electrical energy from air molecules. The air molecules have to move back and forth at high speeds which then causes the same movement in the recording device (computer, etc.).
This causes the current to do the same in the wires. This is where the audio interface comes into play. Its job of recording and playing audio back comes from converting this energy into a signal. Vice-versa happens when playing audio back. The audio signal has to be converted into electrical energy so we can hear the audio coming from the computer into the mic.
Now that you know what an audio interface does, which one do you choose?
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Determining your Audio Interface
Figuring what audio interface you need depends on what you’re going to record. There is no one-size-fits-all audio interface which means you need to be specific about what you need. There are interfaces more suitable for music production compared to others.
One simple audio interface is a “line-level” interface which is responsible for creating a network amongst electronic devices. It’s used to connected preamps, synthesizers, and more.
If you’re looking to record with multiple mics then find an interface with the right mic preamps. These might cost more than line-level interfaces , but their audio playback and recordings are more full due to the range of frequencies it can cover.
Another type of audio interface worth looking into is for instruments. These interfaces pick frequencies from instruments better and produce full sounds as well.
Audio interfaces built for instruments in mind offer flexible connectivity and software out of the box. Consider really looking into an audio interface if you plan on recording multiple instruments simultaneously.
Audio interfaces that aren’t built for multiple instruments will receive problems you don’t want. After determining what you need in an interface, determine what type of interface works for you.
Types of Interfaces
- USB interface
USB interfaces are the most common type.
All you got to do with this is plug it in and you’ll be ready to go. The setup time is minimal. A big advantage with this is you don’t need a power supply for this which makes it portable.
Firewire interfaces are great for instrument recordings. If you have a band, or plan on multiple instruments recording simultaneously, this is a great option. One caveat is that you’ll have to look for the right cable to connect your computer.
Thunderbolt interfaces are a great technology for interfaces. They work well between devices due to its network speed between those devices. This speed also means it can handle huge bandwidth of information.
Looking for an interface that is another fast option? This is it. The ethernet allows you to get your audio interface in different places of the house. It’s commonly used in multi-room studios and big facilities. This is an expensive option, but it’s used by a lot of professional audio engineers.
Common Audio Interface Problems
A beginner should just get a normal audio interface just to get used to everything. But, if you know you’re going to be serious about recording audio, make sure the interface you get has enough inputs. This is especially important if you plan on incorporating instruments in the future.
Another common problem interface users face is software and interface compatibility. One way to fix this is by updating the driver and any software the interface has. Look for a handbook or the manufacturer’s website to learn how to update its software.
One problem that’s not so easy to see beforehand are driver conflicts. Sometimes the software might not recognize a difference in interfaces. This is why it’s so important to do your due diligence before buying anything. This goes in line with understanding what your situation is and figuring out which audio interface is compatible.
You need to make sure your computer’s specifications are in line with your audio interface’s requirements. You’ll find the interface specificadddddtions from the product page, or handbook that comes with the interface.
The final common issue you need to check are cables. It’s easy to overlook cable connections and make sure everything is where it needs to be. Sometimes the cable is not in the right interface which sounds obvious, but life happens.
- Not enough inputs
- Computer/operating system compatibility
- Driver conflicts
- Cables connections and volume
Finding the right Interface
Audio interfaces are required for people who are planning on recording quality audio. There is no debate for this. Whether it’s music, podcasting, or interviewing, an audio interface is needed.
There are important factors you need to consider when looking for an interface. For beginners, a Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 or Behringer U-Phoria UM2 are a good start. Both these interfaces are great for beginners because they’re easy to use, durable, and don’t need constant updates. The sound quality is great too.
Consumers looking for something more are usually more experienced with interfaces. They look more closely at factors like what they’re going to record, how many inputs they need, connections, and more. A beginner can just pick a standard interface and be fine 95% of the time.
Hopefully, this post has answered your question and given you information you need to make the right decision.