Why do audio interfaces have so many outputs? Let’s say, for example, that you are building a car audio interface that has five speakers, and each speaker has a separate output. If you connect the front of the car to the left speaker, the center to the right, and the back to the left, you will get five separate outputs. So if you were connecting an amplifier to the front, and a cd player to the left, you would have six separate outputs.
Now think of another scenario in which you may want to transfer your vocals from computer to tape. If you were connecting a tape recorder to your computer, there would be only two different outputs: one from the computer, one from the tape machine. If you wanted to make a recording of yourself singing, you would then need a digital audio interface with two outputs.
Why do audio interfaces have so many outputs? In order for us to operate our computers with a high quality sound, we must be able to send and receive sound as appropriate. For example, if you were working with a band that was recording a demo of their new song, you would need their vocals to be heard over the headphones, the guitar through the amplifiers, and the drum kit through the drum pads. How does this end up with you? We hear the vocals, guitars, and drums through the appropriate output.
How do you set up your audio interfaces to handle all these devices and not create interference or blockage? You do this by using output connectors. Basically, every device has a set of physical controls which, when pushed, will cause an output to occur. Audio interface output connectors are pads, connectors, or sockets that have a physical pin positioned on the board itself, which will push an output when pressed.
Digital devices, on the other hand, use a different kind of technology. While most computer systems use digital signal to communicate with external devices, some use analog signals. Why do they use one type of signal instead of another? Simply because digital signal is easier to convert to and from analog than analog is to digital, thereby making it less costly for us to send it to another piece of hardware.
So, what does this all mean? When designing your own audio interface, you will be presented with options to choose the best output for your computer system. Often times, connecting your digital signal, such as your vocal chords, guitar intros, and drums, to your speakers through an audio interface will provide a better sound, but if you’re not using a clipping device, then you’ll get clipping sounds. Clipping allows you to insert a signal level into the signal that will eliminate any unwanted effects of digital conversions.