An audio interface is a hardware unit that connects your instrument to your computer. They come in all sizes and configurations, with different amount of inputs/outputs as you go up in size. A solid singer/songwriter audio interface will have either one or two inputs, a L/R output to connect to your external speakers and a headphone output. Input connections should have either a 1/4" and/or XLR jack to plug in an instrument and vocal mic. There are some serious deals to be had here for not much money to get you on your way to recording! Here is our list of the best audio interfaces in 2021.
Audio interfaces are essential to any audio setup, from home recording to professional-grade practice spaces. Every device needs an audio interface in order to connect and function correctly, and there are plenty of different models to choose from. Before you start shopping, you’ll need to make sure that your chosen interface is compatible with your computer. Then, it“s time to figure out which features are important to you and what price range you can afford. So, read on to learn more about audio interfaces and how to find the right one for you.
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Tips for Choosing the Right Audio Interface
Although many people will agree that a USB microphone is a fine option, there are a few advantages to using an XLR interface as opposed to an analog line out. For one, the signal from a digital microphone will always be more clear and in-tune with the source. Additionally, digital mics are much more compact and easier to transport. However, if you want to add a subtle vocal or acoustic guitar track to your mix, you may prefer the control you get with an output jack.
You can always adjust the level later on, but if it's already in your chain, it may be easier for you to directly plug in the right mic and monitor the sound without needing to change outputs. If you're working with a computer or other recording software, be sure to set the input gain to at least 100%, even if your computer doesn't normally allow you that much control.
While many decent USB mikes have an input jack, they often don't have a headphone output. Unless you've got a mic stand that will accept a regular headphone or a traditional XLR cable, in which case you might as well use a cable that comes with your interface, make sure you have at hand an inexpensive (no-frills, no-longer-cheap) set of wire headphones or earbuds.
As mentioned above, noise cancellation is essential when working in a noisy environment. That's why many high-end USB interfaces have noise-cancelling microphones built in.
Price Ranges of Audio Interfaces
The least expensive BOSS audio interfaces cost $50 to $150. These have few built-in features but are adequate for basic recording and mixing.
You’ll find plenty of BOS audio interface choices in the $250 to approximately $500 range. You can get a compact, mid- to high-end system with built in effects and more.
Expensive (and sometimes hybrid)
You might pay $600 and up for a an audio input interface. The best of the best are designed for professional recording studios and include a slew of extra features.
Important Features of Audio Interfaces
Before you make your final purchase, take a look at the following essential features to ensure that you get the best audio interface for your needs. It might just save you some money in the long run. Make sure that all the listed features are important to you. These features will ensure you can get maximum use out of your audio input device.
The larger the input port, the better. This is because you need an interface with enough space to accommodate all of the connections you want to make.
As well as the size, you should also take into consideration portability. The interface should be able to easily fit in a drawer, or be placed on a table top. A good interface that is easy to transport should have a secure and sturdy base to prevent damage to your hard work.
It is recommended that your interface comes with at least 2 inputs, both of which will be needed for connecting different types of audio sources. One input to connect your headphones while you are listening to music and another input for controlling your sound system. If your preferred source doesn’t have an input, then you will need to buy a dedicated headphone amplifier separately. Then, it is also important that the interface supports all audio formats. Even if you don‘t plan on using your chosen audio source with your device, having an audio connection will surely enhance the user experience.
USB is a form of connection for all your devices, and you definitely need one on your next audio purchase. Connecting your USB device will allow you to transfer your music directly from your source and then play it back. An audio USB port is perfect for this, as it allows you more flexibility as you could connect as many devices as possible to gain the full benefit.
To get the most from an audio interface, it’s important to understand how it works and what it can do. The first thing you need to do is to decide which type of interface you want to buy. There are many different types available, so it may be a little confusing.
First, however, we will take a look at the main types of interfaces and their main uses.
Integrated audio interfaces are perfect if you're after a single device that can integrate with your computer. These interfaces will have the ability to connect directly to your PC and include a variety of different connections. You can use it with a range of audio formats, including DSD, WAV, and FLAC.
Multifunctional audio interfaces are ideal if your audio needs are a bit more diverse. They provide the means to play several audio sources simultaneously, allowing you to listen to music from different sources while working on different applications. Some interfaces also have USB connections, which allow you even more connectivity options.
Wireless audio is great for when you dont want an interface plugged into your machine. Instead, you can listen and interact with the audio source wirelessly. Not all interfaces include this capability, but those that do are generally quite expensive.
Audio Interface FAQ
Q: What is an audio interface?
A: An audio interconnect is a device that allows your computer to connect to a sound system. Some interfaces can be used to play back your music files from CDs or even to replace your speakers if you own a pair of hi-fi speakers. These are relatively simple devices that are great for the home user, because you can connect any computer or device to it and have it sound great.
Q: What kind of audio interfaces are available?
A: Most audio-in-interface devices are little more than a box with a headphone jack on the end of it, and the stereo speakers on it. There are a few different audio standards out there, but for now you’ll probably just have to stick with the ones that come with your audio equipment. The most common audio formats supported are DSD and PCM. DTS:X and Dolby Vision are also supported, though it‘s not recommended that you connect them to your interface if your sound card doesn”t support them.
Q: What are the benefits of an Audio Interface?
A: Audio interfaces provide a number of benefits to the user. It allows you to plug in any device and hear it play, without the need for an extra device. Your computer can now sound exactly how it sounds in your home, which can improve your overall music listening experience. You can also record your voice or use your phone―s microphone to record the audio from your favorite tunes. With an interface, you don t have any additional equipment, so you have full control over everything that happens on your system, from the volume to whether the sound is coming from speakers or from headphones. That—s all without having to buy additional hardware. Many users also find that they get a better-sounding computer with an integrated audio input device like an AV receiver, rather than buying a separate soundcard. While it may seem like a simple device, it can take some getting used too. If you are confused by all the different options out on today“s market, we‛ve compiled a list of key features to look out for. We–ll also walk you through the jargon that might be thrown around when you first start looking at interfaces. When you understand what all these different terms mean, everything will make a whole lot more sense to you.
By Jack Stoneybrook
Jack has been a touring guitarist for almost 20 years, playing in a number of country music and rock bands. Jack loves the road and defines himself as a never-ending student of the guitar and other important instruments or tools that make a musician.