Audio interface: What is it? And how to use it?

Audio interface

The audio interface allows you to connect things like a microphone and guitar cable to a computer and usually record via USB. It also usually has an output and allows studio monitor speakers, computer speakers or headphones to record or play real-time incoming audio through a computer.

However, the purpose of this article is to help beginner and intermediate recording and DJ enthusiasts learn about the audio interface.  And choose the perfect interface for their needs.

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What does an Interface Do?

Audio interface

The audio interface basically allows the user to record and playback audio from the computer. This will make you feel very simple. But it can happen only after you learn a little about how to choose the right audio interface for it.

Speaking of the right interface, built-in computer audio is sometimes very good. But, a professional audio interface will sound better. It will also allow you more options for recording and playback. Moreover, the 2 Channel USB audio type interface is used by many DJs and individual home studios for professional recording at home.

Furthermore, the main function of the audio interface is to receive the audio signal. And translate it into your computer called A / D Converter. This converts the sound you hear using a microphone and cable into interface 1 and 0 which represents… sound !. That digitalized sound can then be stored, edited and mixed into our computer. Finally, the last function of the interface is to playback on your monitor speakers outside the computer by reversing the process through something called D / A conversion.

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USB Mic or Interface?

If you only use one microphone, then the USB mic works for you. And, you don’t need an audio interface. But, if you want to monitor the speakers or use an XLR microphone. It may be time to explore to purchase a dedicated audio interface.

How to use an audio interface

Audio interface

The basics of setting up and using a basic audio interface begin with:

  1. Connect your interface to your laptop or desktop computer via USB or the recommended connection
  2. Install the required or recommended drivers, sometimes these are automated with newer systems but you may need to download the driver
  3. Connect your powered speakers to the output of the audio interface
  4. Install / launch your audio recording or playback software
  5. Specify the output of your audio software to root on your newly installed audio interface
  6. Test by playing some pre-recorded audio from inside your software
  7. Connect your inputs such as microphone and 2 inch guitar cable to the interface
  8. Test your input signal by routing the input channel to the input in your software and recording a short clip.
  9. Play it again through your speakers for a victory lap, wow it’s working!

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Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself when deciding which interface is right for you:

  1. What kind of connection does my computer provide (USB, Thunderbolt, Ethernet)?
  2. How many mics do I want to use at a time?
  3. Do I need to control the volume for headphones and speakers (or more than one pair of speakers)?

After you answer these basic questions. Here are some more advanced questions to consider:

  1. Should I need a separate headphone feed and talkback for the artist in another room?
  2. Should I need onboard DSP for plugins like UAD or Antelope Audio?
  3. Do I want to record at high sampling rates (96kHz or more)?
  4. Do I want to expand to more mic / instrument inputs in the near future?
  5. I need other features, such as MIDI, digital connections, or rebuild output?

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Following are the Entry-level interfaces you want to consider before buying.

This interface provides basic features with excellent sonic qualities. These low-cost models typically provide only one or two inputs and support only a pair of monitors and headphones. Companies including Focusrite, Audient, PreSonus, SSL, Behringer and others make excellent, reasonably priced units.

Xtreme Acoustics XAMXB4 Professional Audio Mixer ($48) – It come with a Free Learning Course – 4 Channels, USB input, Bluetooth, 3.5mm Headphone input, Phone Live out, 48V Phantom. Ideal for Studio Recording Live streaming, Music Production, Karaoke, Podcasting.

Behringer U-PHORIA UM2 ($83) – It come with a the amazing UM2, an ultra-compact 2 x 2, 48 kHz USB interface with a studio-grade XENYX Mic Preamp. Provides combination XLR/TRS input for your vocal and direct instrument input (no DI required) and an additional ¼ ” Instrument Input. The rich feature-set, which also boasts a powerful Phones Output for the Direct Monitoring of your session, plus 2 Outputs and USB-supplied power – makes the UM2 the best, and most-portable recording interface in its class!

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 ($170) – Provides 2 inputs for mic, line, or instruments, great-sounding mic preamps, headphone output, and speaker level control for one pair of speakers.

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Beyond Entry Level but affordable

The interface in this price range adds useful features like multiple inputs, Q mix, onboard DSP and high quality electronics. These devices can be USB, Thunderbolt or both. Companies like UAD, PreSonus, MOTU and others make interfaces in this price range.

Focusrite Scarlett Solo (3rd Gen)($213) – It come with a 2 mixer channel, USB hardware interface, 240 volts and 499 gram weight.

UAD Apollo Twin MKII ($799) – Provides 2 mic/line inputs and 1 guitar/bass DI input. Comes with onboard DSP and includes plugins of classic compressors, equalizers, reverb & amp simulators. Provides cue mix and talkback for artists and can be expanded for more inputs and outputs by cascading multiple UAD interfaces together as you grow your studio.

M-Audio AIR 192|14 ($425) – Provides 8-In 4-Out USB Audio/MIDI Interface with Recording Software from Pro-Tools & Ableton Live, Plus Studio-Grade FX & Instruments

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