How To Choose A Recording Interface For You (Or As A Gift)? 7 Questions To Ask Before Getting The Right One In 2022

Choosing which audio (or recording) interface to purchase might be a challenging decision. In terms of options for the home recordist, there are practically hundreds to choose from. But don’t be concerned! We’ve put up a very basic guide to assist you in determining which interface is the best fit for your needs. For the time being, let us clarify something regarding interfaces-

Why Do You Need A Recording Interface Anyway?

It’s critical to recognise that a recording interface is not the same as a “mixer,” which might be confusing. Essentially, a recording interface is responsible for the crucial task of translating sound from analogue sound sources into digital information that your computer and recording software can comprehend and modify effectively. Another advantage of using an audio recorder is that it may output many separate tracks to your computer, each of which can then be altered independently inside your programme at a later time. It is possible that your mixer may be unable to convert analogue signals to digital, and that it will be unable to transmit more than a conventional stereo mix out, depending on the kind of mixer you have. There are mixers that can do both functions, but you must determine if yours is one of them.

Microphone XLR to USB converters, PCI cards, and entire digital recording consoles are all examples of recording interfaces, which may range from basic to complicated in design. Apart from providing hardware connection points, studio monitor and headphone outputs, interfaces also perform a variety of other vital roles inside your home studio system, including the inclusion of built-in effects such as reverb, EQ, compression, and other features. Prices range from less than $49 to several thousand dollars.

What Is The Best Recording Interface For You?

Excellent question…and a difficult one to answer! Interfaces are available in a variety of forms, sizes, and combinations. In terms of options for the home recordist, there are practically hundreds to choose from. It is possible to spend hours, if not days, attempting to discover the ideal interface for your recording studio setup. It may be quite daunting and irritating at first, especially for newcomers.

But don’t be concerned! We’ve put up a very basic guide to assist you in determining which interface is the best fit for your needs. It’s referred to as-

7 Questions You Need To Answer Before Buying A Recording Interface

  • How many Microphone Inputs Do I Need?

The type and number of mic inputs is usually the most critical decision for most home recordists. The key point here is to determine how many microphones you will be using at the same time during your recording sessions. Your answer will determine how many XLR type microphone inputs the interface will need. And for the record, if you’re serious about recording, you’ll eventually buy a condenser mic or two. So make sure your interface has 48v phantom power available to run them.

Next, determine if you need line-level instrument inputs (for guitar or bass). The good news is that almost all interfaces have one or two combination XLR/instrument inputs.  These allow you to connect either a mic or an instrument through the same interface. Additional balanced inputs are usually as well allowing for additional gear connections.

Finally, decide if you need MIDI in/out to connect a MIDI keyboard or controller. This may not be a concern for you since most modern MIDI keyboards and controllers can connect directly to your computer via USB. This leads us to question #2.

  • What Hardware Connections Does My Computer Have?

USB and firewire are the most common types of computer connections between the interface and the computer. Both options provide excellent results. Generally, firewire is faster and can handle more digital info than USB, but USB is becoming the standard for most home studios. The number of inputs and features built into the interface generally determines the connection type offered.

  • Am I Building A Home Studio, A Mobile Studio, Or Both?

Will the interface be used in a studio or on location? If it will be used in your home studio only, consider a rack-mounted interface especially if it has more than 4 XLR type microphone inputs. If it will be used for mobile recording, besides the rack mount decision, consider whether you want XLR connections on the front of the interface or the back. Front connections may be more convenient.

  • Do I Need Recording Software Also?

Many interfaces come bundled with recording software. The included software is usually a “lite” version of the full-blown software package offered by recording software manufacturers. Buying an interface that includes software is a good way to get a “taste” of their software and a convenient way to get up and running quickly if you don’t already have it.

  • How Soon Will I Need More Inputs?

Are you going to need more mic inputs or specialized hardware in the near future? If so, consider an interface with ADAT or S/PDIF capability. This allows you to connect additional interfaces or pre-amps for more inputs.

  • Is My Computer Compatible?

Almost all interfaces are compatible with MAC or PC, and almost any recording software. There are a few exceptions however so check the specs before you buy. All of our interfaces are compatible with either computer platform. But remember that Pro Tools 8 and earlier users require an interface to be Pro Tools compatible.

  • How Much Do I Need To Spend?

More than anything else, the number of inputs and features of the interface determines the amount you will need to invest. Don’t sweat the supposed sonic differences too much between different brands in the under $500 price range. Most interfaces that retail for $500 or less will sound just great for the home studio. As you gain recording experience and a larger budget spend your money on higher quality mics first. Later you can move up to a higher quality interface and/or add some specialized pre-amps.

So There You Have it!

Our (very simple) guide to choosing a recording interface. I hope this helps answer some of the more common questions you have about this important part of the home studio signal chain. And as always don’t be afraid to ask questions. We love to hear from you!

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