Whether you've been in audio production for a long time, or whether you're just getting started, you should probably know that a quality interface makes all the difference (...and if you didn't know that... well, then keep reading). There are many companies to choose from, and many features to consider, which can make the selection process rather confusing and overwhelming. This article will hopefully help you decide what it is that you need.
First things first... what is an interface?
An interface is simply a boundary (or a hub) where the exchange or crossing of digital and/or analog information occurs. Confused yet? Think of a subway station, or an airport. Specifically, the terminal. The terminal is the place where ALL of the people traveling to ALL of the places HAVE to go. There is no bypassing the terminal. An audio interface is just that. Depending on your recording circumstances, you'll have microphones, instruments, and computers that all need to exchange information. The interface is the tool that allows this to happen. Most people will use what is called a USB audio interface, so this article will pertain to those specifically.
Before you start looking into products, you need to imagine your recording setup. Run down the following checklist of questions:
- What instruments would you like to use?
- What microphones would you like to use?
- Will you need phantom power? (If you're using condenser microphones, the answer is YES!)
- How many of each would you like to use at the same time?
- How do these instruments/mic's connect, and what kind of inputs will you need? (i.e. XLR, 1/4", RCA, etc.)
- Do you need traditional MIDI?
- How would you like to listen to the recording? Studio monitors or other speakers? And how do they connect? What kind of outputs would you like the interface to have?
- Would you or the other musicians want to have a monitor or use headphones during the recording process?
These questions are designed to get you to think about how many inputs and outputs you'll need. Don't forget to ask yourself this last question:
After answering all of these questions, start looking into products. You'll find that they can go for as little as $100, or up to $3-4,000, depending on what you want. Among the most reasonable, here are some that we like:
Recording audio can be tricky, but it can get a lot easier (and more fun) if you have the right equipment.