To start with, an audio interface is the hardware that you need in order to send the sound signal in and out of your computer or laptop. It upgrades the overall sound quality of your device because it has high-resolution signal and it helps music producers to create, edit and mix their productions with great sound quality.
The purpose of using an audio interface
One the main advantages of an audio interface, is the ability to provide amazing quality recordings for artists and musicians. With it, you can record vocals, electronic or acoustic instruments and listen to the recordings in great detail through headphones and studio monitors.
When having an audio interface, you can record audio from the device of your choice. There are excellent audio interfaces available in the market, with USB connectivity that you can plug in personal computers, laptops, tables or smartphones, and start using them immediately.
The quality of your recordings depend upon other factors too apart from the audio interface. For example, having a decent condenser microphone, a good pair of studio monitors and headphones, a mixing console, the quality of the cables that you use to connect your hardware and many more.
Good quality audio interfaces, along with the help of decent microphone and the appropriate cables, have the ability to improve the sound signal that goes into your computer through the microphone or the input lines. This means that they eliminate any self-noises of the hardware used, and they reduce the hiss and any unwanted background sounds or noises that you do not want to get captured during your recording.
Furthermore, such interfaces are also capable of improving the sound signal that goes out of your computer to your speakers or studio monitors, too. This is particularly helpful for music producers and beatmakers, as it gives them the ability to listen to what they create in more detail, and manage to edit and mix their music productions in ways that are more efficient.
Why you need an audio interface
If you are a music producer, beatmaker, audio engineer, musician or artist that want to record his music into his computer or laptop, no matter the purpose of the recording, you definitely need an audio interface.
It is an essential tool that you are going to need, in order to record your vocals or instruments into your computer in decent or great quality, depending on the quality of the audio interface that you are going to purchase.
Even very affordable interfaces can deliver great sound quality, and reduce substantially unwanted sounds, room space noise, or microphone hiss. What is more, with them you can have more control over the volume adjustments or filtering of your microphones and other inputs.
Audio interfaces are external sound cards, and they do the exact same job like soundcards used to do some years before. They are better when it comes to connectivity because you do not need to open your computer insert them, you can just you the USB ports of your device. In addition to this, they are portable and you can take with you if you travel a lot along with your laptop, to continue your work.
Ways to connect an audio interface to your computer
There are three main ways to connect an audio interface to your computer:
1 – USB
This is the most common way to connect an audio interface with a PC or laptop. All computers and laptops have USB ports nowadays, so that you can plug in the interface easily and start using it right away. The connectivity cables come very cheap and very easy to find.
2 – Firewire
The second most common way to connect an audio interface to a PC. You need a Firewire port on your computer, and an audio interface with the ability to connect via Firewire. Such audio interfaces tend to be a bit more expensive than the USB ones, but they run faster and depending on their price, sometimes they deliver even better sound results.
3 – Thundebolt
The third way to connect your audio interface to your device of choice. It is the most expensive way of the three, and the most advanced technology as well. You need an audio interface with Thunderbolt connection, and Thunderbolt ports on your PC as well. Such audio interfaces tend to be the most expensive type of the three types described here, due to their amazing sound quality results.
How you can record into your computer without an audio interface
In order to record audio into your PC without the use of an audio interface, you need a USB microphone. If not all, most computers have USB ports, so you can plug in them the USB microphone of your preference and start recording immediately.
Most USB microphones do not need any installation either. After you connect them to your computer, your operating system recognizes them automatically. All you have to do, is open the music software (DAW) you use, find the options, and select the particular microphone as your main input source, so that you can start recoding.
USB microphone do not need an audio interface to function, because they essentially are both mics and audio interfaces in one single device. They come very in very affordable prices, and you can also purchase shockmounts, foam caps, tripods or stands to improve your recording experience.
Furthermore, you can soundproof your recording room, to improve even more the sound quality of your recordings, by reducing sound reflections from hard surfaces, so that you can avoid muddiness and noises that may occur.
How to purchase the proper audio interface
When you are about to purchase an audio interface to record audio or create music, you need to consider a few things.
First of all, you should focus on the quality of the interface. Read all the specifications carefully, go through reviews and critics in order to find out the advantages and disadvantages of the hardware. Make sure that you test and preview the audio interface before you buy it, so that you learn about the sound quality it delivers first hand.
You need to check out the latency of your audio interface, as it is one of the key factors that will ensure that the high functionality of the interface. Make sure that you buy one with as low latency levels as possible, for more convenient recording sessions.
Some other features that are crucial for the efficiency of an audio interface, is the sample rate, the 48V phantom power, internal and external pre-amplifiers, midi ins and outs and drivers necessary for the proper installation of the interface into your computer.
All these factors determine the overall quality of your audio interface, and should be taken into serious consideration before the purchase.
Below, we have gathered some great audio interfaces, within different price ranges that are suitable for every music producer, musician or artist that wants to record audio in his computer.
Audio interfaces that we recommend
1 – Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
The sound quality of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is amazing. Pro Tools is an excellent addition and a very useful feature of this audio interface. If you need the 2i2 for playback reasons only, you do not need to install any of the provided software.
The main power source of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, which is an all-purpose audio interface, is the USB connection. It has a great and very affordable price considering the fascinating sound results it delivers, and it is suggested for both beginner and professional music producers and sound engineers.
2 – BEHRINGER U-PHORIA UMC404HD
The Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD can record four channels at once without any problems whatsoever. The audio interface works great both with Mac and with Windows machines, and it has a great feeling when it comes to using the knobs and the switches that control the volumes and inputs/outputs on the board.
The price of the UMC404HD is very affordable, and one of the interface’s biggest advantages. Working with four channels at once feels amazing, and it is very easy to install and setup the audio interface. Perfect hardware for those on a limited budget, which will deliver extremely good sound results.
3 – PreSonus AudioBox
The PreSonus AudioBox is an amazing product that will satisfy even the most requiring customers. It includes the Studio One music software, which is a very easy to use DAW. You can plug in the audio interface, choose it within Studio one as your main input and output source and start recording in no time.
The PreSonus AudioBox is one of the simplest audio interfaces available in the market. You can record instruments and vocals at the same time without any problems due to the XLR connectors. The knobs work great and the headphones monitoring along with the main control are very easy to use and look amazing.
4 – Steinberg UR22MKII
The Steinberg UR22MKII is an audio interface with an obvious quality, due to its metal body which helps the device stand out as a design compared to other similar interfaces. It also makes it tough enough to last over time, which makes it an audio interface worth the purchase.
The knobs feels very solid, and they have great designs and color. The mic pres are very quiet both at low and high gain settings, convenient for those that use different settings for various instruments. The Steinberg UR22MKII has two headphone outputs and two mixes, a convenient feature for people that record multiple instruments and vocalists at the same time.
5 – TASCAM US
The Tascam US-16×08 is a killer audio interface, which works great with any music software. It has amazing pre-amplifiers with a 96kHz/24 bit resolution. The particular audio interface had eight line outputs, and the knobs and switches provide a great feeling to the user, along with a beautiful design.
The sound of the Tascam US-16×08 is fascinating. It delivers stable and warm sound, eliminates the hisses and noises to the minimum. The overall functionality of the interface is almost perfect, which makes it worth investing money into such an efficient piece of hardware.
6 – Alesis MultiMix 8
The Alesis MultiMix 8 is both a mixing board and an audio interface. It is perfectly suitable for those that want to equip their own home studios without purchasing too many extra hardware devices. It is very quiet as an audio interface and it words extremely well with most of the Digital Audio Workstations (DAW).
It has some standard effects on the board, with great switches and knobs, and it delivers a professional sound quality that is far above the average, especially considering its very affordable price. The Alesis MultiMix 8 is an amazing mixing board, with nice features and controls, suitable for all home and professional studios.
7 – Mackie Onyx Blackjack
The Mackie Onyx Blackjack is another great audio interface in a very affordable price. It has a pre-amplifier that does an amazing job, along with awesome sound quality, which makes this audio interface a great option for both beginners and professionals.
When you set up the particular audio interface, you do not have to make any special adjustments to improve the sound, as the Mackie Onyx Blackjack has already done them for you. The build quality, the sound and the design of this audio interface, are the factors that make it stand out from the rest.
8 – Audient iD14
The Audient iD14 is an extremely well-functioning audio interface with a fascinating pre-aplifier. It comes with software that you can very easily install, set up and use without even reading any tutorial, and it has a simple but very effective design when it comes to using the knobs and switches to adjust volume levels.
The sound quality of the Audient iD14 is excellent. It can record clearly both vocals and instruments, without causing noises. The converters of the audio interface sound incredibly well and the functionality of the talkback, mute and mono/stereo buttons is exceptionally nice. An audio interface with great sound quality that will last over time.
9 – Universal Audio Apollo Twin
The Universal Audio Apollo Twin is one of the greatest options for those that are looking for an extremely functional audio interface, with an awesome sound quality. It is one of the most well designed small format interfaces, with lots of power to satisfy even the most demanding users.
The interface has onboard UAD digital signal processing, one of the main advantages that makes it stand out from the rest, an ADAT optical input which gives the user the ability to record independently drum or entire groups of vocalists. The Universal Audio Apollo Twin is an amazing audio interface with a very affordable price, that works great with plugins, music software and records extremely well all types of audio.
10 – Behringer UMC1820
The efficiency of the Behringer UMC1820 is one key factor responsible for the reputation of this awesome audio interface. It has a great monitoring process during the recording. The audio quality is amazing, and once you get used to it, it is very easy to use.
It is one of the best options when it come to equipping your home studio with an audio interface. The Behringer UMC1820 is among the most affordable audio interfaces, considering its specifications and it has 26 inputs and 8 pre-amplifiers that result in a fascinating, high-quality sound result.