Consider Adapters – Be sure to pick up any necessary adapters especially if you have an Apple Computer. Also, if you ever need to replace your power cord, keep in mind that many audio interfaces use proprietary cables, so you’ll need to order them directly from the brand itself for your equipment to work. In the event that you need a replacement.
Audio Interface Buyer’s Guide
What Is An Audio Interface?
An audio interface is an incredibly useful device for computer-based audio production. If you want your computer to be able to capture professional-level quality from an instrument or mic, then it’s essential. This is even more true when you need to have more than one input going in at the same time.
Podcasters could just about get by with a high-end USB microphone, but for producing music, you’ll definitely want to be able to route multiple inputs through one port.
Let’s move onto our all-important buyer’s guide!
What Does An Audio Interface Do?
An audio interface does several tasks. First, it provides the necessary connections for recording vocals and musical instruments. Anyone who is a home producer, either of music or podcasts, will certainly need this device for better recordings.
Second, it also acts as your computer’s sound card when it’s plugged in. That means that you get better sonic capabilities. Also, an AI provides you with a better digital clock and superior circuitry when compared to a stock computer sound card.
An AI allows you to connect to your computer via different ports. A lot tend to offer a USB 1 or 2 connection these days. Some connect through FireWire or even PCMCIA/ Express card slots. Generally speaking, this is dependent on how many inputs your device can manage. If you’re going to use two microphones, for example, a USB 1 should do the trick. The bigger the demands of the AI the higher the bandwidth of the recording interface.
They convert analog signals into digital audio information and send it to your computer they also simultaneously receive the digital information from our computer and reconvert and send the signal back into analog.
The inputs you require on your recording Interface is subject to what you intend to get out of it. If you plan to play electric guitar/acoustic guitar/bass guitar and sing you will need 1 XLR and 1 TS or Jack. A lot of modern models combine the two as one connection and XLR for three pins and a TRS in the middle for your jack (combo input). If you want to get recording vocals and electric guitar or acoustic guitars separately in individual takes 1 input would be sufficient however if you want to play or record the two together you will obviously need 2 inputs minimum.
Additionally, If you plan to use MIDI instruments you will need MIDI connectivity ports. MIDI capabilities are awesome because they run on a series of computer-based commands they allow you to have a remote control way of controlling the MIDI instruments that your DAW may or may not have. If you hook up a MIDI synth and play it into your computer the signal is literally information so you can change it completely from the computer side afterward.
You will also want to consider your outputs typically they have one set of stereo line outs on board as well as a monitor out, if you were looking to DJ you might look for one with a double stereo line out so you can use one set for the house and one privately. So as you can see your input/output configuration is a key factor to be conscious of before you buy.
Lastly, if your microphone requires phantom power to work you will want an audio interface that offers this feature. Many of the AIs on our list include phantom power, so make sure to check if the one you purchase has it, as well as what power capabilities it offers.
What Is The Best Cheap Audio Interface?
There are lots of great audio interfaces around that you can get for a low price.
In our opinion, the best cheap audio interfaces available are the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4, the Steinberg UR242, and the Behringer U-Phoria. Each of these products delivers a huge amount of quality for a very affordable price tag.
Check them all out to see which one offers the features you need.
Are Budget Audio Interfaces Good?
In a nutshell, yes. You can find some excellent audio interfaces for a budget price. As you can see from our list, low-price AIs offer the same functions and features as more expensive models.
Let’s have a look at some of the key areas and how they perform.
Key Areas to Look Out For
First, we have sound quality. In our opinion, budget AIs can offer you competent sound that will be more than suitable for home recording or broadcasting. If you’re an amateur or budding producer or podcaster, then purchasing an AI in this price range will be a good investment. You won’t likely need the added features that much more expensive products will offer you. So, a cheap AI should do the job while you’re finding your feet. You’ll also notice a marked improvement compared to the quality your computer offers.
Second, a low-price AI will include a good digital clock and decent sync devices. These features will provide you another improvement on your computer’s stock sound card. Yes, if you pay a few hundred bucks more, you will be able to get a device with better components. But the question, again, is do you need these advanced features at this stage in your career?
Durability is another feature to consider with low-price audio interfaces. It is here that you may find the unit wanting. Manufacturers tend to keep costs down by putting less money into the building process, as well as the materials of the chassis. As long as you look after the AI, though, then it shouldn’t break easily.
To ensure that you buy the best product, we recommend that you choose a respected and well-renowned brand. You’ll have noticed that most of the products on our list have been made by some of the most famous manufacturers around. This is not an accident. When you purchase from a respected brand then you’ll simply get a better product.
Also, we can highly recommend any of the products on our list. If you decide to buy a budget AI that isn’t on our list, then we cannot vouch for its quality. So, take that risk yourself. But be aware that you may regret the purchase.
Over the last ten years or so, we have observed the immense developments that have occurred with audio interfaces. Not only do they become better, but they become cheaper too. That’s down to technological advancements during this time, as well as manufacturers being able to build them more cheaply. Another reason for the price being so low is that more manufacturers are making them, and the competition in the overcrowded marketplace has driven prices down.
It’s consumers who benefit from the low prices. And as you’ll have seen on our list, there are some awesome products around nowadays. To make sure you buy a good one – and not a dud – then keep an eye out for the following.
You need to know what your I/O requirements are. You should also check the specifications of each device closely. Remember, if you’ll be needing phantom power, then check the device offers it.
You should also ensure that the device is durably built, as this will make it last longer. Although, we do think this is the least important feature of budget audio interfaces. If you take care of it, then it shouldn’t break.
Make sure to look out for what extras you get too. Many of the products on our list come with a range of DAWs, as well as plug-ins and samples. Remember, you also need the device to be compatible with the DAW you use.
Now you’re in a good position to make a purchase. We hope that our article has introduced you to your next audio interface. And we also hope that you’ve found the information in this article valuable. Good luck with your recordings and broadcasts. You’ll notice a big improvement with an AI!
If you want to use dedicated plugins without placing the load on your computer you can look for an audio interface with DSP capabilities. The Steinberg UR242 that we’ve reviewed is a good example.
Did You Know?
The Focusrite Scarlett series traces its lineage back to the Focusrite Forté. That was an incredible device that’s still regarded as one of the best of all time. The problem was that it took four years to develop and nearly bankrupt the company. As a result, it wasn’t mass-manufactured, and only two are currently known to be in existence!