How to choose an audio interface? Audio interfaces have become the central and essential point of every modern studio. From the Homestudio to professional studios, they have some audio interface between their equipment. For a good reason, since, without them, the work of recording directly to a computer would not be possible.
In this article, you will know what to look for and everything you need to make such an important decision for musicians and producers alike.
What is the audio interface?
The audio interface is the tool that allows us to capture the sound of the instruments through pre-amplifiers that amplify the electrical signal captured by the microphones.
It is also the tool that allows us the inter-connectivity between the interface and our computer to capture the audio in our preferred recording software.
That said, I find it extremely important that you know these 5 essentials when you decide to buy an audio interface to make sure you make the best choice.
How to choose the perfect interface for me?
With years of experience in the field, our experts have defined 5 important questions that every person should ask themselves when looking for their next audio interface:
Before focusing on technical details, you must define your budget to acquire the interface.
From there, the options will widen or narrow depending on your range.
You must know that it is important that you invest in obtaining a good sound quality while choosing an audio interface.
You can find interfaces from 100 to 1000 dollars. The big difference between the lowest and highest cost is in the quality of the pre-amplifiers.
The lower the quality of the pre-amplifiers, you will be subject to less fidelity in the capture of the audio, the less resolution and a lot of noise introduction when increasing the gain.
My recommendation if you are starting is that you leave for a medium price where the pre-amplifiers you will get will be of good quality.
2. Inputs and outputs
Do you need to record only a guitar and vocals, or do you need to record a full drum set?
The more microphones you want to capture at once, you will require more inputs.
Generally, the home interfaces come integrated with at least two inputs for the XLR cable (the one that connects to the microphone) and one or two TRS inputs (the typical cable that you connect to an electric guitar or bass).
Something very important, remember that not because an interface has more inputs is of better quality. An interface of 8 inputs can often lower quality to one of 2. That is why prices fluctuate a lot.
Another very important aspect to consider in the inputs is if you want to use external analog equipment. Perhaps it will become difficult to achieve that task with a home interface if this is the case.
On the other hand, outputs are also something very important. All audio interfaces come with at least 1 stereo output for your monitors and listen to the audio played. But if you want to have multiple systems to reference your productions, it is also essential that you verify this aspect in your new interface.
You must already choose your preferred software; Pro Tools, Fl Studio, Logic, Cubase, Ableton?
Having already defined this, you must check if your interface has good compatibility with the software. It is useless to have an interface of excellent quality if it does not have good compatibility.
This, in the long run, will cause you a lot of headaches, and you will wish you had never acquired it.
I can tell you that nowadays, most interfaces have good compatibility with all popular recording software. However, still, you must check it before buying it.
4. Connection type
This aspect is one of the most important and comes 100% hand in hand with the computer you have to use your software.
Depending on how old your Mac or PC is, some will only support USB 2.0, FireWire 400, or 800, or others will have the latest USB C, USB 3, or Thunderbolt technology.
USB 2.0 is the slowest connection between your interface and computer. This translates into more latency when recording and, therefore, can result in an inefficient workflow.
Consequently, it is followed by FireWire 400, a slightly faster connection than USB 2.0, but it has nothing to do with today’s technologies.
The FireWire 800 was the best connection for a long time, but since USB 3 and Thunderbolt arrived on the market, the FireWire has been replaced.
This explanation leads us to what I believe is the best connection and speed in the interface market, Thunderbolt 3.
If your computer has Thunderbolt connectivity, I recommend searching for an audio interface with a Thunderbolt connection. I promise you it is worth the price for the speed and sound quality.
If not, don’t worry; it can still work just fine with the other connections.
The last aspect I would like to consider is the portability of the interface. For this, you must define: What and where will be the use you will give it?
If you are interested in recording in your home studio, probably with a robust interface, you will not have any problems.
But if you need to travel or do live sessions, then it is the portability of the interface that you have to take into account a lot.
You wouldn’t want to be often charged with a 10-kilo interface for all sides.
My favorite recommendations
Here I want to share some of my favorite recommendations to make your life a little easier when choosing an audio interface:
Without doubt of the options that I have seen the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 or Audient iD4 is the best option.
For me, in this price range, I would recommend three options:
This price range already opens up a few more options for the purchase of your interface:
Things get quite interesting because the quality starts now if it goes up a lot. This is the price range in which many semi-professionals start investing:
There are quite portable interfaces that offer excellent sound quality.
What to consider when buying an audio interface?
Before buying an audio interface, you should check the quality of its preamps, the quantity and types of inputs, and the compatibility with the DAW.
Now you know what to look for when buying an interface that suits your needs. However, our needs will change over time. For example, we may need more microphone preamplifiers, which can be exclusively designed to find options with much higher quality and richness in sound.
The important thing is to constantly learn and get the most out of the tools we have at hand. For the same reason, I recommend that you continue learning all the basic audio concepts that will be key to recording and producing music in the best way and achieving more professional results.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you find this information helpful.
For any doubts, “contact us through the comments sections, and I’ll be happy to answer any questions.