The modern day computer-based digital audio workstation software allow to have increased recording and music production power than a studio full of hardware from the older era. However, in spite of all the great functions of such amazing software, the sound is highly reliant on an external piece of hardware called the audio interface. So here’s a technical guide to audio interface.
In simple terms, when inquiring what an interface of audio is, you are actually asking how to record your voice, guitar, ukulele, piano or any other instrument that is making sound. We are here to cover the basics of an audio interface, explaining all that you need to know to make top quality home studio recordings. In short, it is an external sound card with inputs for microphone or other instruments.
You need an interface of audio to let sound in and out of your computer. All the premium quality recordings of your voice or instrument will need good audio interfaces. You must be wondering why there is a need for an audio interface when any modern computer or tablet has a built-in sound card and you are can simply record using a good microphone. The question is valid. However, a professional recording will need the audio interface to take the recording to the next level.
Sometimes we confuse the interface with a microphone. You may think that an audio interface can only be a big box with inputs for microphone or your instruments and outputs for headphones and speakers. Nevertheless, it cannot just be a box. There are several other devices like the USB microphone which can also function as an audio interface.
Yes, you read it right! A USB mic includes an audio interface. You only have to plug the mic’s USB to the port and it will start doing what you want it to do without the aid of any other equipment. It can also be merely a recording mic or it can come with a headphone output.
What is the Purpose of an Audio Interface?
As mentioned above, it is an external sound card. Hence, the interface can serve as a tool to make the recordings easy and of top notch status. What makes audio interfaces better than on-board sound cards is that, given the bigger physical size and higher accessibility, quite a good range of input types can be built into such a unit.
Not to forget, these interfaces feature premium quality audio than those by standard sound cards.
Some Technical Terms You May Want to Know
When doing your research to pick the best audio interface for your system, you may come across some technical terms. We are here to inform you what the most relevant or common ones mean.
Latency: This is a mentionable delay between your speaker or headphone’s playback and the actual sound. Usually, the modern computers do not have bad latency like the ones in the older days. However, the built-in sound cards in computers are not the best to remove latency. This means, if you recorded a voice note, you will hear the playback delayed by some fraction of seconds in your earphones. An audio interface can easily fix this.
Direct Monitoring: Usually, audio interfaces come with a switch to let you to listen directly from the source of the sound. This means, in case your voice notes are being recorded, you are able to instantly hear yourself, without any sort of unwanted delay.
Drivers: These software enable communicating with a computer through audio interface computer besides reducing the latency to almost getting fully removed.
Pre-Amps: These are often referred to as ‘mic pre’, or the microphone pre-amplifier that amplifies the usual signal to a noticeable or required level for the microphone’s recording. This is indeed very essential for a top quality recording that is necessary to carefully supervise.
Phantom 48V Power: Why is this necessary? Well, some microphones do not work without power. Whether in order to boost active circuitry or to polarize a condenser microphone’s plates, this power is essential.
Thus, if you are looking for connecting a microphone which will need such phantom power, you must buy an interface of audio with a switch of phantom power.
Sample Rate: The sample rate is the digital signal based on the times in one second a sound is sampled. The higher this rate, the higher sound frequency range can be processed and recorded. For standard rates, this is usually 44.1 kHz, and it can record up to around 22 kHz. Often, this is pretty sufficient. This also contributes to the improvement of the sound quality, and is something to look at in an audio interface setup.
Balanced/ Unbalanced: Such unbalanced inputs and outputs are constructed with cables of plus screen of single-core, while, on the other hand, balanced outputs come from plus screen of two-core. This will differ between budget audio interfaces and expensive ones. In case you want to have balanced outputs, any interference will be chosen by balanced cables equally via the two cores and dropped out at last.
How to connect an audio interface to the computer?
It is not as hard as it sounds. Audio interfaces are mostly simple USB soundcards that you can simply connect if you have a USB port or USB adapter in the case of a tablet. There are also thunderbolt audio interfaces gaining the recent popularity. You must have thunderbolt available to buy those.
You are now well aware of what an audio interface is, what you need to know when trying to look for the right component for your next recording venture and how to incorporate it with your existing system. You must keep the aforementioned terms in your mind before finding the perfect home recording set-up for your required space. Hope this article was helpful to you!
You may also like to read: How to Record Music: A Guide for Beginners.