The audio interface, or sound card, is frequently referred to as the brains of your home recording system. The audio interface is essentially an audio device that allows you to connect all of your recording equipment, including microphones, headphones, effect processors, preamps, studio monitors, MIDI controllers, and musical instruments. In a more technical explanation, the audio interface converts and transports your analogue signal to a digital signal or vice versa.
Want to know little bit more about physics of the signal encoding method? We will be cover some basic on our later chapter.
There are few factors to consider when picking your audio interface such as the Type of Power Connection,Numbers of Input/Output,Audio Driver Support, & Form Factor. Cost of acquiring an audio interface maybe vary depending on these common factors.
4.1. Powered via USB/Thunderbolt/Firewire/PCIe?
The differences between these connections are the speed of data transfer and also PC connectivity options. Faster connection allows you to record multi-tracks more smoothly at once.
PC User – USB 2.0 to 3.0, Firewire (with Firewire Card installed), Thunderbolt, PCIe
Mac User – USB 2.0 to 3.0, Firewire, Thunderbolt
How fast the connection?
USB 2.0 : 480 Mbps ★★
USB 3.0 : 5Gbps ★★★★
Firewire : 400 or 800 Mbps ★★★
Thunderbolt : 40Gbps ★★★★★★★★
PCIe 3.0 : 8 GTs ★★★★★★★★
For most home studio, the USB connection of audio interface is still the first choice to go due to its compatibility with most of the devices.
4.2. Numbers of Audio Input/Output?
Input – Microphone, Instruments, MIDI or Line (Synthesizer, Mixer, Effect Processors, Preamplifier)Output – Headphone, Monitors, Subwoofers
First of all, ask yourself, are you recording in solo or with a group of people ?
For solo musicians or home recording enthusiast, 2 – 4 inputs are the best to go. If you are recording a group of people or instrument which require to record many different tracks at once, you may need more than 4 or up to 20. 4.3. Audio Driver Support The most common audio drivers which we used to see in Windows recording are WDM/Wave, ASIO or WaveRT. For Mac recording, you will be using CoreAudio USB Driver. In this chapter, we ain’t going to dive into Wave, Wave RT, or any other audio driver, we will talk about ASIO, one of the widely used audio driver in the industry. Most of the audio interface nowadays integrated or provide the in-house ASIO driver (which usually comes with installation CD). For some audio interface that doesn’t come with ASIO driver, you may also go to http://www.asio4all.com/ to download.
4 facts you need to know about ASIO:
ASIO is a trademark of Steinberg Media Technologies Gmbh
Act as a driver that allowing your DAW to communicate with your audio interface
Introduce extremely low latency and high fidelity which is great when you are doing your recording and also real time monitoring simultaneously
Best to use when using a lot audio input and output.
4.4. Form Factor
What is form factor? Form factor is usually refer to the dimension, shape and also specs of the interface.
Remember, an interface can be as small as portable for you to be a travelling musicians which can bring them along in your journey. It can also be as large or long that need to rack-mounted.
Suggestion for most of the newbie in home recording, if you really have tight budget, start with a desktop interface which is usually close to your budget, easy-to-use and also require no special mounting. We will suggest a series of best audio interfaces for newbie on our later chapter.
Tips: Always remember, you don’t need to always compare your gears with others. The final is all about the quality of your music. How much effort and passion you are willing to put will decide how far your quality to be.