Choosing hardware for Computer Music beginners - Audio Interfaces
Hardware to record vocals and instruments
Audio interfaces are used to
record audio such as instruments and vocals, as well as
send sound to your speakers and headphones.
Those who don’t plan on recording audio (vocals/instruments)
can utilize the sounds found in their DAW,
and may not need to purchase an audio interface.
Keep in mind : your computer setup
When purchasing an audio interface, please ensure that it
is compatible with your current OS.
- Computer : Check Mac or Windows compatibility
- OS : Check OS versions such as Mac 10.11 / Windows 8
- 32bit/64bit : Most recent computers run OS on 64bit, but please double check
By searching “product name + OS”
you will be able to check its OS information.
Keep in mind : Compatibility with iOS
There are interfaces available that allow you to connect with iOS devices such as iPads or iPhones.
There are models that work with both computers and iOS,
but there are also models that only run with iOS.
Please keep this in mind if you are planning to use the interface with both your computer and your iOS products.
Keep in mind : Type of connection cable
We will take a look at the kind of connections between audio interfaces and computers.
The most common of these is a USB connection.
We recommend plugging an audio interface in directly to you computer, rather than via a USB hub.
For this reason, please check to see if your computer has an available USB port.
There are different types of USB connections such as USB1.1, USB2, and USB3, and
the higher the number, the faster the data transfer.
Of course, we recommend using USB3, but the price is also higher for this option.
If given the choice between USB1.1 and USB2, choose a USB2 connection.
For higher end models, “Thunderbolt” and “FireWire” connections are available.
They provide a much faster transfer of data than a USB1.1 or USB2 connection.
Because of this fact, there is less delay from audio playback when recording, making it a better choice when monitoring recordings.
Keep in mind : Number of output/inputs
- Number of inputs : This determines the number of tracks you can record at once.
More inputs are useful when recording drum tracks,
or if you want to record vocals and guitar at the same time.
- Number of outputs : This determines the number of devices you can send sound to.
This is useful when you have more than 1 pair of monitors to reference sound on,
or when using your laptop for live performances.
- Dynamic microphones
- Condenser microphones
- Sample rate : This determines the number of samples per second in audio.
The higher the number, the better the sound, but also increases the strain on your computer.
- Bit depth : This determines the resolution of audio.
The higher the number, the better the resolution.
To avoid the problem of not having enough in/outputs after purchase,
keep in mind the style/path you wish to pursue before making a decision.
A 2out output provides 1 stereo output of sound.
If looking to send to more than 1 device, choose a minimum of 4out (2 stereo outputs).
Keep in mind : Recording audio
Microphones are generally split into 2 main categories.
When using a condenser mic, you need a “48V phantom power” switch.
Please make sure your interface has the 48V option.
When recording most guitar/basses (passive pickups), you will need to check if
Hi-Z hi-impedence is provided in the audio interface.
Keep in mind : Sound quality
The terms “sample rate” and “bit depth” are used to determine the quality of audio.
In general, the standard for CD’s are 44.1kHz/16bit.
There has been a recent increase of hi-resolution CD’s as well.
With this in mind, it is best to have an interface that can record with a standard of 48kHz/24bit and above.
Keep in mind : Streaming/exporting audio
When uploading and streaming to popular services like Niconico, or UStream,
the “loopback” function make this process very convenient.
Without having to do any complicated maneuvers, you can output the sound on your computer and input at the same time.
Though this can be done on regular interfaces using additional software or via complicated setup,
we recommend this feature to make this process easier and reliable.
Recommended audio interface : UR series
With many of the features mentioned above, the UR series provide a cost efficient and reliable choice.
If you’re struggling to decide on an audio interface, check it out!