Technology has truly revolutionized music. The right music gear has the power to inspire an artist, speed up the work, enhance music composition, and guarantee audio quality. But before all of that, the first thing you ponder when you take off on your journey in music production or begin to compose your music is how to get sound in and out of your computer. Still, wondering how to do this? The answer lies in the technology called audio interfaces and in this article, you will know all there is to know about it.
What is an Audio Interface and What does it do?
An audio interface converts the microphone and instrument signals into a format that a computer and software can recognize. The interface also routes audio from the computer out to the headphones and studio monitors. Interfaces are typically connected to a particular computer via USB cables, though some also use Firewire, Thunderbolt, or even ethernet. The price ranges from as low as USD 100 to as expensive as several thousands of dollars. However, you must know that even the most affordable interfaces with the basic features provide great sound quality.
What are the advantages of using an Audio Interface?
- One may use any XLR microphone.
- It is possible for one to use more than one microphone at a time (though USB mics allow only one mic to connect).
- The headphone output in a USB interface sounds better and louder than the headphone output of a USB mic or laptop, phone jack.
- Most audio interfaces provide inputs for guitar/bass/keyboards as well as for mics
- Audio interfaces provide volume control for at least one pair of speakers and some even provide for multiple headphones and speaker outputs.
Now that we know how helpful an audio interface is, let’s check out some of the best audio interfaces easily purchasable in the market. Whether you are a musician who has his own home studio, merely exploring an affordable solution to record your song composition with uncompromised audio quality, whether you work alone or work with multiple musicians and instruments and seek flexibility in terms of covering all the bases, here is a complete guide for buying an audio interface so that you are able to make the right choice at the right price.
The Best Audio Interfaces In 2022
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB (2nd Gen)
One of the USB’s best audio interfaces in its class is Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. The 2nd generation variant delivers great performance and comes with components ranking high in terms of quality. This 2-in, 2-out unit is best suited for songwriters and singers helming home studio or musicians who are always on the go. The brand Focusrite is best known for superior preamps therefore needless to say the two in these inputs are highly transparent with plenty of gains to support any instrument via the combo style XLR/1/4” (TS&TRS) inputs. Thus, for budget-sensitive home studio musicians who only need not more than 2 channels, this is a good option.
PreSonus AudioBox USB
In the instruments fraternity, PreSonus is a reputed brand dominating the market significantly for its reliable gear in every budget range. The PreSonus AudioBox USB is a two-channel audio interface offering two combo style XLR/1/4” (TS&TRS) inputs and a MIDI in and out. It also comes with two Classic-A mic preamps offering plenty of headroom and gain which supports any incoming signal sufficiently. This has received wide appreciation, extended customer satisfaction, and recorded sales, adding it to the league of best USB audio interfaces for its value.
Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB
The Mackie Onyx Blackjack is a high-quality 2-in. 2-out interface with boutique quality preamps enabling a dynamic range of transparency that is found only in the most expensive consoles. In fact, home and mobile musicians especially love it for the high fidelity, transparency, and durability of a lifetime that it offers. Even in the aspect of design, it is perfect for home studio setups, since all the controls are accessible on the front and all the inputs are tucked away at the rear and providing a fluid and clean setup.
Akai EIE Pro USB
Moving forward if you are looking for more inputs and features then you must check Akai EIE Pro. This 4-channel USB audio interface with 4 combo style channel inputs, 4 balanced outputs, MIDI In/Out connectivity, and a powered three-port USB hub with excellent preamps is credited for being highly versatile. Moreover, each channel then has its own gain controls, Line/Guitar switches, and phantom power for the channel. It has a durable build with several features that improve a hobbyist’s home studio or even a professional project studio.
Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 Firewire
Coming up next in the line is Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 Firewire Audio Interface which is perfect for project studios with heavy multitracking of drums and ensembles. In its value range, this audio interface is very impressive since it allows bounty playback customization for mix engineers. The Saffire range of the Focusrite ranges models from 8 to 28 inputs, each coming with the preamps Focusrite is best known for. This makes the Focusrite Saffire series one of the most affordable options present in the current market that can make a home or project studio run like any professional multitrack studio.
Motu UltraLite MK3 FireWire USB 2
The Motu Ultralite MK3 FireWire is known as a musician’s best friend and rightly so. Be it for the studio or for the stage, this fully functional standalone mixer comes with essential effects to use in the studio settings in live performances. It has 10 ins and 14 outs (analog) with MIDI connectivity which makes connecting with any device straightforward. The Firewire 400 extends connectivity that is free of latency and monitoring even in the midst of heavy multitracking. This makes it a great choice when it comes to recording drums and live studio sessions. The rear power connection feature enables one to draw power from the wall instead of taxing the computer CPU, rendering a highly reliable performance.
How to choose the right Audio Interface?
To be able to make a sound decision for your audio interface, you must consider asking the following questions,
- What kind of connection does your computer provide? (USB, Thunderbolt, Ethernet).
- How many mics do you plan to use at one time?
- Do you wish to retain the control volume for headphones and speakers? (or more than one pair of speakers).
- Should you separate headphone feeds and talkback for an artist in another room?
- Do you want onboard DSP for plugins, like those from UAD or Antelope Audio?
- Do you want to record at high sample rates (96kHz or above)?
- Do you wish to expand to more mic/instrument inputs in the near future?
- Do you need other features, like MIDI, digital connections, or reamping outputs?
Prior to buying, asking yourself these above-mentioned questions will help you to clear the clutter of your mind and buy the right audio interface.
Hence, now that you have this list of best audio interfaces available in the market, what are you waiting for? Go buy your piece of ultimate symphony now!