Q: OK, So I Need an Audio Interface. What Type of Audio Interface Should I Get?
A decent place to start is a small interface with
at least 2 inputs, microphone and instrument, and 2 audio outputs. A stereo
headphone output is also very handy in addition to the outputs you need
for your studio monitors.
These types of audio interfaces
range from $40 up to closer to $1000+ in some cases. The main
difference will be in the quality of the built-in analog to digital and
digital to analog (AD/DA) converters. These converters affect the audio
signal quality on the way in while you’re recording and on the way out
when you’re playing back your music. These converters are quite crucial
when it comes to your sound as you can probably imagine.
Before recommending some of the best audio interfaces for
beginner producers or beatmakers to have a look at, let’s first mention
the things you need to consider before you purchase an interface for
your home or bedroom studio setup:
1. Type of Connection
Various audio interfaces connect to your computer with different
standards which include USB, Firewire and Thunderbolt connections.
of these the most common connection type you’ll find and will most
likely get is USB especially at the lower-end of the price range.
only other serious contender would be Thunderbolt which you’ll more
often run into when you start to shop for higher-end audio interfaces.
connections have pretty much been replaced by Thunderbolt so you’d be
better off for the foreseeable future with a Thunderbolt or USB
interface rather than Firewire.
2. Analog Audio Inputs and Outputs
You most likely won’t ever need 16 inputs and outputs as a music
producer or beatmaker. Sure, it’s nice to have options but it costs so
much more and is only really needed when you plan to record larger
ensembles at once. In most cases, as mentioned earlier, you’ll need 2
or 4 inputs max and can get away with the same amount of outputs.
3. Other Connections
Digital connections could be ADAT, S/PDIF and AES/EBU. These
connections allow you to expand your interface with more inputs and
outputs and connect to other devices, but as an electronic
music producer or beatmaker this is rarely needed. Again, nice to have
but not essential when you first start out as a producer.
connection type you may find is MIDI in and out. This allows you
connect MIDI devices directly into your interface. Also, not essential
as many controller keyboards and pads connect via USB. This is also
nice to have available but also not essential as music producer or
4. Bundled Software
Many interfaces come with Digital Audio Workstation
software bundled-in, so this may be a consideration to keep in mind if
you don’t already have your chosen DAW. Just remember that the software
included will often be a “light” version of the DAW so it may not have all
the functionality you want or need.
You need an audio interface that will work with your system and music production software. Many, if not most, interfaces will be compatible with Mac OS and Windows
and will work with most DAWs. This isn’t true for all interfaces so
you definitely want to make sure it’s compatible with your system and
software before you hand over your money.