An audio interface is a small device that connects your microphone or instrument to your computer. It allows for multiple devices to be used at the same time. Sound needs to be converted from analog to digital so it can be captured onto your computer – and that’s the job for an audio interface.
Choosing the right audio interface for your needs depends on the amount and type of inputs and outputs your require. Input devices include microphones and musical instruments. Output devices include monitor speakers, mixing desks and headphones.
Audio Interface Parts
Analogue Input / output connections
- Input Jacks are mainly used for guitars, bass, keyboards, synths, non XLR microphones and other external gear including phones and mp3 players.
- Output Jacks are used for connection to monitor speakers, headphones and analogue effect connections.
- XLR – these are balanced microphone inputs and the industry preferred choice for micrphones. XLR mic inputs are combined with a microphone preamp that boosts the signal to the right level. Each preamp comes with an adjustable gain control knob.
- 3.5mm Jack – to connect headphones and simple monitor speakers.
You will have your own needs depending on what your are recording. An audio interface will become your most used piece of kit, so it makes sense to choose the best one to fit your needs.
Singing, Podcasting & DJ’ing
If you are a poscaster who works alone, you will most likely record your voice through a microphone directly into the computer. A good quality XLR microphone connected to an audio interface will allow you to capture high quality sound. It may also help reduce background noise and allow you to adjust volume levels quickly and near to hand.
Headphones can be connected to the audio interface to use as monitors – again, having the volume controls closer to hand can be very useful.
If you are a podcaster who conducts interviews with a second or third microphone, an audio interface will be essential for you. If you are a mobile podcaster, have a look a the stunning Zoom H4n Pro 4-Track Portable Recorder – a great portable stereo recorder.
Similar to podcasters, DJ’s tend to use a single mic to talk between songs. An audio interface will allow them to capture voice cleanly using a balanced XLR microphone. with as little latency as possible.
We recommend checking out the extremely popular Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface. A great price of kit that is used worldwide by thousands of podcasters and DJ’s.
Musical Instrument Capture
This is an area where an audio interface is really essential. Even a simple set up of a solo singer with a guitar can require at least two inputs. Start adding bass, drums and other instruments and you will soon overwhelm the ports on your PC or Mac. Enter the audio interface!
For solo singer/guitarists we would again recommend checking out the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface as it has two inputs jacks – so can easily be set up to capture both microphone and guitar.
Larger modern audio interface / mixing desks can capture analogue signals from multiple sources, convert them to digital signals and send them to your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation / PC / Mac) with very little latency (a small delay that can be troublesome).
For this you will need more inputs – we spent some time with the Roland Studio-Capture 16 and it worked a treat. If you have the budget, this amazin high speed USB audio caputre device will probably be the only one you will ever need. It is really that good.