An audio interface can be a very useful addition to your music production setup. If you want to take your music production to the next level, you’ll definitely want to consider getting one.
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Table of Contents
What Is An Audio Interface?
An audio interface is a very useful device with many different features, but essentially what it does is it connects your computer with all your other input and output devices.
Recording With An XLR Microphone – The main purpose of an audio interface is for connecting an XLR microphone to your computer, your computer doesn’t have an XLR connector, so if you want to record with an XLR microphone, you’ll need an audio interface so you can connect the microphone to the interface, and then the interface to your computer.
Additionally, when you record audio with an XLR microphone, the signal it outputs is analog. Your computer can’t understand an analog signal, so the audio interface will convert it into a digital signal before sending it to the computer.
Connecting Instruments – An audio interface will also allow you to easily connect different instruments such as a keyboard or electric guitar to your computer to be recorded in your DAW.
Low Latency Playback – Another advantage of using an audio interface is that you can connect headphones or a set of studio monitors to it for low latency playback. This is very useful for when you’re singing or playing an instrument and want to be able to hear how it sounds in real-time.
How To Choose An Audio Interface
So now that you know what an audio interface is, let’s take a look at some of the things you should consider when choosing which one is right for you.
How Will It Connect To Your Computer?
If you’re going to buy an audio interface, you’ll obviously need to choose one that will be able to connect with your computer. The two most common types of connections used in audio interfaces today are USB A and Thunderbolt.
The quality and user experience is really going to be the same no matter which one you pick, so it really just comes down to which port your computer has.
How Many Simultaneous Inputs Does It Have?
The number of simultaneous inputs is another very important thing to keep in mind. If all you plan on recording simultaneously is just you and perhaps a guitar, then two inputs will be fine.
But if want to record several vocal artists at once, or maybe have multiple mics all recording a drum kit, you are going to need to pick one with quite a few simultaneous inputs.
Obviously, you can still record multiple tracks at different times and layer them together later on, but you’ll want to make sure your Audio interface has enough inputs for everything you want to record simultaneously.
How Many Headphone Outputs Does It Have?
If you want multiple people to be able to connect headphones and listen to the audio in real-time, you’ll need to make sure it has more than one headphone output.
Does It Have Phantom Power?
Phantom power is where the audio interface can provide extra power to the microphone, condenser microphones need this so if you plan on using a condenser XLR microphone with your audio interface, you’ll want to make sure you get one with phantom power.
Does It Fit Your Budget?
Last but definitely not least, it will obviously need to fit your budget. Fortunately these days, you can get some very good audio interfaces at a reasonable price. But budget is still something you might want to keep in mind.
Best Audio Interface
So now that you know what to look for when choosing an audio interface, let’s take a look at some of the best ones available.
You can compare all of them in this handy table, or scroll further down the page for a more in-depth overview of each of them.
|Image||Name||Number Of Inputs XLR||Number Of Headphone Outputs||Connection Type||Read Our Review|
Tascam USB Audio Interface
1 to 8
1 to 2
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 Audio Interface
Focusrite Scarlett (3rd Gen)
1 to 2
Native Instruments Komplete Audio Interface
1 to 2
1 to 2
Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII
At the lowest end of the scale, there’s the US-1×2 which gives you 1 XLR input and 1 headphone output. This specific model also has the ability to work with mobile devices in addition to computers.
The next step up from this one is the US-2×2 which gives you two XLR inputs and one headphone output. This model also has MIDI in and out for connecting MIDI devices.
Then there’s the US-4×4 which gives you 4 XLR inputs, 2 headphone outputs, and MIDI in and out. This is the one for you if you want two people to be able to listen at once.
Then there’s the US-16×08 which gives you 8 XLR inputs, one headphone output, and MIDI in and out.
All the way at the highest end of the scale, there’s the US-20×20 which gives you 8 XLR inputs, 2 headphone outputs, and MIDI in and out. This one is very much intended for pros.
It’s quite difficult to describe all the different features that the different variations have, so if the Tascam USB Audio Interface piques your interest, I suggest you head over to the Amazon listing where everything you might want to know about all the different variations is laid out in more detail.
Want to Buy The Tascam USB Audio Interface?
It has two XLR inputs which is pretty good for the price, one headphone output, and MIDI in and out which you don’t normally see in an audio interface of this price and size.
If the blue color is not your thing, they recently added a black variation which looks more modern in my opinion.
It has all the knobs you would expect to see nicely laid out on the front of the interface so there’s no reaching behind it and would generally be a good option for anyone looking for a good two input audio interface.
Want to Buy The PreSonus AudioBox USB 96?
The smallest one has only one XLR input, but it does have a separate Line In plug so you can actually use two simultaneous inputs as long as one of them is not a microphone. And it has 1 headphone output.
The medium size one comes with two XLR inputs and one headphone output.
The biggest one has two XLR inputs and one headphone output just like the medium size. But unlike the medium size, it also has an extra two line inputs and MIDI in and out.
It’s difficult to cover all the differences of the different variations in this overview, so if the Focusrite Scarlett piques your interest, I suggest you take a look at the Amazon listing here.
Want to Buy The Focusrite Scarlett (3rd Gen)?
Like the Focusrite Scarlett, this one also has three different variations to choose from.
The smallest one gives you only one XLR input but again has a separate Line in port so you can record two simultaneous tracks as long as one of them does not use XLR. It also has 1 headphone output.
The medium size gives you two XLR inputs and 1 microphone output.
And the largest one has two XLR inputs, an extra two Line In inputs, two headphone outputs, and MIDI in and out. This option is certainly very impressive.
It’s hard to go over all the details of the different variations in this quick overview, so if the Native Instruments Komplete Audio Interface piques your interest, I suggest you take a look at the Amazon listing to get all the details.
Want to Buy The Native Instruments Komplete Audio Interface?
For starters, all the controls and indicators are on the top of the interface instead of on the front.
It’s really down to personal preference to decide which way is better. But in my opinion, as long as you didn’t want to put anything on top of it, having the controls on top makes them easier to reach.
Unlike all the other interfaces on this list, this one doesn’t have phantom power. This only matters if you want to use it with a condenser microphone, but if you do have a condenser microphone, it won’t work with this interface.
The Apollo Twin has three different variations, but unlike the others on this list, all the variations have the same inputs and outputs.
The Apollo Twin MKII is quite pricey for what you get, but it is high quality, very reliable and lots of Amazon reviewers love it despite the price tag.
So if you’re looking for a reliable audio interface and don’t mind the high price or some of its quirks, it could certainly be the one for you.
Want to Buy The Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII?
So there you have it, 5 different audio interfaces with different features and price points. Hopefully, you found one to suit you.
It’s important not to spend too much time pondering which audio interface to get, just try to pick one that seems like it will meet your needs so that you can get back to doing what really matters, making music.