What is an Audio Interface?
What is an Audio Interface? Well, unfortunately, that is not an easy question to answer. Why? Because there are many types of audio interface’s depending on your studio set-up and what you’re looking to achieve from your recordings.
Common to all audio interfaces.
DAW compatibility and interface connection to your computer is common to all interfaces.
Most DAW’s work with most interface’s but it is worth checking before you buy. The interface FAQ page will let you know if the DAW is compatible.
Connecting your computer to the audio interface can be a bit confusing, but there are 4 cable options commonly used.
Check which is the fastest Data-transfer method for your computer.
Number of Input/Outputs.
The singer-songwriter solo musician.
If you are a singer-songwriter solo musician home studio user, then you may only need an interface with 2-4 inputs and 2 outputs to connect to your speakers or to a mixer.
1 x Microphone inputs the XLR type socket that lets you input your mic directly to the interface at mic level.
1 x Line Input normally Jack inputs. Some have a guitar input that can be switched to Line level or Mic level.
2 x Phono sockets to output to your speakers or mixer.
2-4 x Phono inputs to connect your mixer to your interface to send the record signal to the DAW via USB.
Here is a good set-up for the solo musician.
Pictured is the USB (inputs and outputs all on the same USB) from your computer.
Here is the back of the Audio Interface showing the Phono Ins/Outputs and the Mic XLR input and the USB to the Mac/PC. This Novation nio 2/4 also has midi in and midi out Din plugs for connecting a midi keyboard or controller.
Here is the Mixer showing the Guitar Jack input, the Phono inputs from the interface and the sends Jacks to the interface.
Here are the Group sends from this mixer which has 2 x Group sends and a Master volume. This Soundcraft has 12-2-2 meaning 12 inputs for guitars mics and keyboards you can send the signal via the group outputs to your interface or the master outputs to your speakers. 12 inputs 2 group outputs and 2 stereo master outputs. 12-2-2.
The guitar is on channel 5 which is then routed to groups 1-2. The 1-2 button is press-on but not the MST Master button. This sends the guitar to the interface and onto a mono track or stereo tracks on the DAW to record the guitar, 1 is left and 2 is right. When the guitar is played back it outputs to the sends from the computer interface and through channel 11-12 routed to the Master output.
So the groups 1-2 are acting as the sends (1 left 2 right – records) and the Mixer in the DAW sends the complete mix to channel 11-12 which is routed to the (MST) Master mix.
Songwriting Teams/Recording the Band all at Once.
If however you are involved in a songwriting team or you want to record the whole band at once, then you are going to need more inputs. There are a number of 4-16 Channel units out there that will do the job. But of course it will cost you more money. Please visit this site to get regular updates and reviews on the best solutions for your audio interface requirements.
Main Things to consider when buying an Audio Interface.
- Number of Inputs, and if your want to get into surround sound mixes, outputs too?
- How many Mic level, instrument level and line level inputs you need?
- Do you need a preamp for your guitars and microphones?
- Do you need Phantom Power on the unit or do you have it on your mixer?
- The Analog to Digital Bit Rate and the sample rate?
- DAW compatibility and interface connection to your computer?
Analog to Digital Bit Rate and Sample Rate.
All a bit techie but basically the higher the sample rate the more ‘details’ are captured. You’re looking for 24-bit/192kHz bit rate and a sample rate of at least 44.1kHz. This is the standard CD sample rate. I use 48kHz for streaming or downloads.
If you are a solo artist looking to record yourself playing all the instruments like I am, then the simple set-up I describe above is all you need. If however you wish to turn your home recording studio into a place the band can record their latest hit, then you may need something a bit more costly.
Here is my review on the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Please have a read. I would recommend this audio interface to solo artists and singer-songwriter studio set ups.
I hope you enjoyed this post and if you have any questions about what an audio interface is, or you want to add to this post, please leave a comment below.