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How to Choose the Right Audio Interface for Your Computer

Millennial Magazine - audio interface

The audio interface is a crucial component of the computer-based recording system. It converts digital audio signals from your computer into analog sound waves that can be heard through speakers or headphones, and vice versa. It also controls all levels of volume in the signal chain between your microphone and your speakers.

Audio interfaces come with many different features, so it’s important to know what you need before buying one.

This article will give you an overview of how to choose an interface for yourself by looking at six key characteristics.

Number of Options

One of the most important things to consider when choosing an audio interface is the number of options it offers. The more options you have, the more flexibility you’ll have in your recordings.

For instance, if you plan on recording a full band, you’ll need an interface with at least four inputs. This will allow you to connect your guitar, bass, keyboard, and microphone to the interface simultaneously.

If you only plan on recording vocals or a solo instrument, you may not need as many inputs. In that case, an interface with two or three inputs should suffice. Deciding on which is better for you can be tricky, but it’s important to think about the type of music you want to make and the number of instruments you plan on using. Also, consider how many outputs you’ll need.

If you plan on using studio monitors, you’ll need an interface with at least two outputs. If you only plan on using headphones, an interface with one output should be fine.

Input Types

Different audio interfaces offer different input types. The most common are XLR and ¼” inputs. XLR inputs are typically found on interfaces designed for professional use, while ¼” inputs are more common on entry-level interfaces. If you plan on using a microphone to record vocals or an acoustic instrument, you’ll need an interface with an XLR input. If you plan on plugging in an electric guitar or bass, you can use either an XLR or ¼” input.

Some interfaces also offer ¼” TRS inputs, which can be used for balanced line-level signals. These are typically found on more expensive interfaces and aren’t necessary for most home studios.

Output Types

Similar to input types, different audio interfaces offer different output types. The most common are ¼” and 3.5mm outputs. ¼” outputs are typically found on high-end interfaces, while 3.5mm outputs are more common on affordable interfaces. That way, you can connect your interface to studio monitors, an amplifier, or a set of headphones.

Some interfaces also offer balanced ¼” TRS outputs for connecting to professional studio equipment. Again, these are typically only found on more expensive interfaces and aren’t necessary for most home studios.

Sample Rate and Bit Depth

The sample rate is the number of times per second that an audio interface captures audio. The bit depth is the number of bits used to represent each sample. A higher sample rate and bit depth mean that your recordings will sound better.

Most interfaces these days offer a sample rate of 44.1kHz or 48kHz and a bit depth of 16-bits. This is more than enough for most home studios. If you need a higher sample rate and bit depth, you’ll need to look for an interface that offers those specs.

Driver Support

One of the most important things to consider when choosing an audio interface is the quality of its drivers. The drivers are the software that allows your computer to communicate with the audio interface. If the drivers are low quality, your recordings will be too.

Fortunately, most audio interfaces come with high-quality drivers. But, if you’re not sure, it’s always a good idea to check the manufacturer’s website to see how well they’ve been tested.

Price

Audio interfaces can range in price from $50 to $2,000. So, it’s important to decide on a budget before you start shopping. That way, you can focus on interfaces that are within your price range. Remember that price isn’t always an indication of quality. There are a lot of great audio interfaces available for under $200.

On the other hand, if you have a bit of extra money to spend, it might be worth investing in a high-end interface. These interfaces offer features and sound quality that you won’t find on budget interfaces.

When choosing an audio interface, there are several key features you should keep in mind: the number of inputs, the type of inputs, the number of outputs, the sample rate and bit depth, the quality of the drivers, and the price.

With so many options on the market, it can be tough to know which interface is right for you. But if you keep these features in mind, you’ll be able to narrow down your choices and find the perfect interface for your home studio.

What do you think?

Written by JR Dominguez

JR Dominguez is the technology, finance and music editor for MiLLENNiAL. When he's not writing, you can find him day-trading stocks, playing video games, or composing commercial scores.

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