Most people think of a mixer or an amplifier as being the heart of all music recording and mixing. But how about if we take another look at what’s involved with a typical setup of two mixers, an amplifier, and a speaker? How about if there is also a sound card added on to this setup? Do all these components need to be in their respective stands or cabinets, or can they each be placed on a different stand? A lot of people don’t realize that the way in which the component sections of their interface are set up may have a big impact on the sound that they hear coming from those units.
Basically, the way that the sound card is connected to the rest of the interface works by having different pads arranged in a certain layout. When this pad is connected to the front side of the amplifier, you get your signal. When you connect it to the back side, however, you change the sound card to what is known as an active insulator. In other words, it will serve only as a noise suppressor.
What does this mean for the sound that is produced using the interface? The active insulator will dampen or eliminate all sounds that are created by the mixing console and other components when a signal is sent through the mixers or amplifiers. This makes it very difficult to distinguish between signals that come in through the front of the mixer or the back of the sound card. It will also dampen all sounds that come from the monitor and are sent through the sound card. Basically, you will hear distortion on any high frequencies that you are hearing coming out of the speakers.
There is one good thing about having two different sets of sound cards for your interface though. You are able to run two separate sound cards and use each one in a different way. If you are running an audio interface that sends digital audio over a FireWire connection, then you can run two sound cards with two different operating systems and have each one sending different signals back to your computer.
If you are using an analog interface with 16-bit audio programs running through it, then you will only be able to run one interface and have the program running in single-channel mode. The advantage of this is that you can adjust the volume levels on the computer and still hear everything correctly. The disadvantage is that you lose some quality of sound because the signal level has been dropped by a few volts.
A passive insulator, on the other hand, works very much like the active insulator in that it creates a damping of noise that keeps the sound from being damaged. It also works to dampen the sound but does not eliminate it entirely. The benefit is that it can actually improve the quality of the sound coming through the audio interface.
It is especially useful if you use a computer with a lot of software that generates sound automatically, such as those used by live game audio streams. In addition, you might also find that a passive insulator allows for better monitoring of your sound card. Some sound card manufacturers recommend using a passive insulator on their cards because it improves the quality of sound and eliminates interference from nearby wireless devices.
Your next step is to check the drivers that are installed in your computer. Audio interface drivers are meant to be loaded before any other drivers, which include sound card drivers. Make sure that you update your drivers often because outdated versions could be causing problems. Finally, keep your hands up and make sure you pay attention to any problems that are being experienced. Audio interfaces are designed to make your computer’s overall operation better, and if they are working properly, then you will not have to worry about doing any technical work or troubleshooting.