Audio interfaces and other music equipment have been making rounds in music stores and the homes of many home producers.
With an array of choices available in the market, one may ask if you need to go for the expensive, higher-quality ones.
What to look for in an audio interface?
Just as there is budget-friendly music equipment, there are just as many high-end options.
For every expensive industry standard condenser microphone, there are affordable headphone-amp DACs. The point here isn’t to discuss whether they are worth the price, but more so if such high prices are necessary to start producing music.
Before deciding on the kind, let’s discuss what you should look for in an audio interface.
I/Os just means inputs and outputs. These are what connect your instrument or microphone to your interface, which then connects to your computer.
This is what allows you to connect your instrument (be it guitar or bass) to your computer.
I/Os are made in such a way that you can connect quarter-inch jack cables (instruments) or XLR cables (microphones). Different audio interfaces come with different numbers of I/Os.
Smaller audio interfaces come with one or two I/Os, while bigger ones can go up to eight.
The number depends on how you produce music. You will only need 2 I/Os if you are a singer-songwriter. There’s one for your guitar and another for your microphone.
If you plan on making a studio that houses many instruments and a microphone, then you can shoot for audio interfaces with more I/Os.
Interfaces with fewer I/Os will be relatively cheaper, but that does not mean they will lose quality. Starting out with fewer I/Os might be more beneficial for someone starting out who doesn’t need that much I/Os.
The next thing to take into account is the build quality.
This is pretty straightforward. If it doesn’t look cheaply made or the interface itself feels durable, then the quality is good.
A durable interface will last you for a long time. Not to mention, it will indicate that it works well and will not affect the quality of your recordings.
Audio interfaces are made with metal casings, making them stand up better on any surface. Recordings on the go are more possible as you can bring them with you without worrying if they will break during the trip.
Another part of build quality is the controls. The knobs and buttons in the interface will be used frequently during a recording session. They should be easy to use and not show signs of faltering.
Reputable brands that make recording equipment have their interfaces built with metal casings.
What follows after the build quality is the sound quality.
This involves the set-up and recording process itself. A good quality interface does not interrupt the process, whether it could be feedback, latency, or any other audio issue.
The best way to ensure that you are going to get good sound quality will be by looking at reputable brands. Brands that have somewhat of a reputation for being reliable and offering good quality will surely have good sound quality.
Reviews are also a good way to see if they are a good deal.
That said, do you have to go for the expensive ones just to guarantee quality?
No need. Reputable brands may offer expensive gear, but they also have budget-friendly ones that are as durable and offer great quality as well. Spending on a more affordable one is also a better idea as you can spend the first few uses testing its quality.
If it lives up to the hype, then you got yourself a great deal. If not, then you rest easy knowing that you didn’t blow so much money on it.
There aren’t many features that you will need to look out for. The only few essentials are the preamps, the volume knobs, and phantom power.
Preamps are put inside the interface for your microphone and instrument. Having a preamp around will handle the audio recording and take some load off your computer’s CPU.
Volume knobs are there for the instruments, the main monitor, and the headphone volume. Having these controls will help your music production become more convenient.
There will be times when you will need to control the volumes with the monitor and your headphones to help with the mixing process.
Phantom power is what powers your condenser microphones. Condenser microphones are a great choice for recording clear and accurate vocal takes, but they require an external power source. Having phantom power come with the interface will solve this problem clearly.
These features come in many interfaces and are the bare minimum. This means you don’t have to worry if less expensive interfaces will come short.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a good price range for audio interfaces?
Is there a specific price range when it comes to buying good-quality audio interfaces?
Most store-bought affordable interfaces go for $100 and below. That should be a good price range. It’s not cheap enough for you to worry about quality nor is it absurdly expensive, making it more attainable.
Is there a cost-effective way to upgrade audio interfaces?
If all you need are extra pairs of I/Os, there is a way to add extra I/Os without having to completely replace your current interface.
ADAT is a great solution for adding more inputs to your interface. However, you will need to check if your current interface supports ADAT.
Quality and output shouldn’t be price gated. While it is also important for you not to cheap out on gear, you shouldn’t have to shoot for the moon either.
An audio interface is an important piece of recording equipment for those who want to take their music to the next level. What you should think about first is getting one that will get you there.
Luckily, there are those that don’t have a hefty price tag and will garner high-quality recordings.
While there is nothing wrong with getting higher-priced interfaces, you shouldn’t feel compelled to think that that’s the standard.