One of the most crucial decisions you may make when setting up your studio is whether to purchase an audio interface. It will serve as the focal point through which all audio emanating from your instruments, microphones, and speaker and headphone outputs will flow. The Considerations for Choosing an Audio Interface.
Therefore, while trying to make those important mix decisions, having the correct audio interface might make all the difference. Here are 5 criteria to consider when selecting the ideal audio interface.
For the purposes of this discussion, an audio interface is a device that can accept analog microphone and line-level signals, convert them to digital for storage and processing in a computer, and also be used to convert digital audio signals from a computer back to analog audio signals for driving studio monitors, headphones, and analog processing equipment.
That is the lowest level. Numerous digital audio I/O formats, flexible routing options, complex monitor control features, inbuilt digital signal processing (DSP) for latency-free monitoring or signal processing, and support for numerous digital audio I/O formats are all features that certain interfaces offer.
Many people use their budget as one of the deciding criteria when creating their studio because we all want to get the best value for our money. Naturally, you want to make sure that your entire signal chain, including your microphone, interface, and monitoring setup, is as high-quality as it can be.
Spending a lot of money on a good microphone and monitoring setup is crucial, but it wouldn’t be ideal to transfer it through a subpar interface. With noise or distortion affecting the sound, even the best musicians recorded with excellent microphones won’t sound well.
Remember that occasionally spending a little bit more up front will result in much greater rewards in the long run.
2. Build Quality
Durability, dependability, and feel are the three main characteristics that consumers frequently look for in an interface, and build quality is a crucial consideration when picking an audio interface.The best interfaces are those with metal knobs and chassis since they can withstand knocks and bumps better. It may therefore be thrown into a backpack for use whether you’re on the run or taking field recordings.
Also crucial to consider is how the knobs and switches feel. You’ll use these controls frequently, therefore it’s important that they feel good in your hands. If they do, you’ll use the interface much more happily.
When buying an interface, there are several features to consider. When looking for an interface to record and mix with, it’s crucial to pay attention to vital features like monitor controls and low latency mixing.
It’s crucial to use low latency monitoring so the performers you’re recording can hear themselves clearly and without annoying delays.Additionally, having thorough monitor control makes it simple for a bot mixing engineer to monitor mixes and for artists to build up foldback mixes without relying on additional devices to do so.
4. The Sound Quality
Last but not least, make sure your interface sounds fantastic! It’s usually worthwhile to take a few minutes to look over the manufacturer’s website to review their technical details.
A nice low level of noise and distortion—often stated as Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise (THD+N)—are things to watch out for. The better the performance, the lower this number.
Additionally, you can see a number called the dynamic range. The distinction between the loudest signal and the quietest signal that the interface can process is represented by this. Typically, the better option is a larger number.
Don’t worry too much about this, though; the dynamic range of the majority of contemporary recordings will be considerably lower than the theoretical interface maximum.
Additionally, you can see a number called the dynamic range. The distinction between the loudest signal and the quietest signal that the interface can process is represented by this. Typically, the better option is a larger number. Don’t worry too much about this, though; the dynamic range of the majority of contemporary recordings will be considerably lower than the theoretical interface maximum.
5. What I/O you need
Making sure your future audio interface has all the inputs and outputs you require should be your first step. A single mic pre and a DI on a Bus-powered interface can be all you need if you’re a singer-songwriter who travels frequently. The ideal compact interface would be an Audient iD4.
Alternately, you might want to make sure you have a lot of line-level inputs and outputs if you have a bigger studio and want to employ outboard effects.
If you have gear that has digital I/O such as S/PDIF or ADAT, then having digital inputs on the interface will allow you to easily expand the I/O of the interface – perfect for more demanding, larger recording sessions.
It’s also good to consider the future when purchasing the interface. While you may have a basic setup currently, it may be worth getting an interface with a few extra inputs and outputs should you wish to expand your setup with more outboard or monitoring later down the line.
Which type of connection—USB, FireWire, Thunderbolt, or a proprietary one—will you use to connect the interface to your computer? Although some “hybrid” interfaces accept multiple protocols, this initial step will significantly reduce your search results.