The 6 Best Audio Interfaces For Your Recording Needs

You can’t really record music nowadays without an audio interface. It’s where you plug in your instruments and microphones -- it’s the conduit between the musician’s performance and the computer and its digital audio workstation. Look at any professional recording studio and you’ll see multiple interfaces. Interfaces make recording life possible.

6 Best Audio Interfaces For Your Recording Needs:

This audio interface is all about mobility and recording on-the-go. Compared to other audio interfaces that boast those features, the FireStudio Mobile is a top performer. Despite it’s small size, it’s very durable and reliable. And thanks to two preamps, phantom power, and easy-to-use software, it still delivers the goods.

The name Focusrite is a trusted name in the world of audio interfaces, so the Saffire Pro 40 makes a good first impression. And it continues to impress with its high-quality and affordability. Inside its sleek body, you’ll find killer preamps that support eight XLR/line inputs. There’s a reason “pro” is part of the name.

The simply designed MOTU 24Ao is for the pros and really experienced DIY musicians. By allowing you to use 72 channels at the same time, it sets itself apart from the crowd. It delivers more options and more convenience (like the option to expand using other audio interfaces), all while delivering a clean, crisp sound.

If you’re looking for and audio interface to be the central hub of your recording space, look no further than the Zoom TAC-8. It offers 8 XLR/quarter-inch inputs, all on the face of the device. Once you download the included MixEfx software, you’ll be ready and feeling like a pro.

The RME Fireface UC is a reliable audio interface. It has a total of 10 inputs, two of those are a combination XLR or quarter-inch compatibility. Offering two microphone preamps, the TotalMix software, and sample rates up to 192kHz, this interface can hold its own in the crowded world of audio interfaces.

This interface’s forte is recording on-the-go and mobile, so if you’re not near your engineering chair (say, in another room of your studio), it’s no problem. With the iPad recording system available, this interface allows you to easily edit and even record from pretty much anywhere. And you’ll be pleased with the high-quality sound it delivers.

Audio interface categories

Thunderbolt (click here)

When it comes to audio interfaces, Thunderbolt connectivity is the fastest way on the market to transmits signals, which lessens the possibility of latency issues. These interfaces are typically a bit pricier than the others, but you get what you pay for.

USB (click here)

When USB audio interfaces came along, it drastically improved things for people who record at home or on a tight budget. USB interfaces are very affordable, so you can grab a high-quality USB interface for cheap but still get professional-quality audio.

Firewire (click here)

Firewire may sound intimidating just because it’s not as common as the others. But not to worry, it will become your friend if you let it. These interfaces offer super fast bandwidth, meaning it sends data at a quicker rate, delivering better performance, consistency, and stability in your audio.

Professional (click here)

These audio interfaces are for novices or beginners. The professional interfaces in this category have been hand-picked for people who don’t mess around when it comes to the quality and features of their recording equipment. If you know your stuff, you’ll want to check out these devices.

What Makes A Good Audio Interface

Audio interfaces allow you to record external sounds, like your voice or guitar, into your computer and then output those sounds so you can hear the music. And the quality of an interface can greatly affect -- negatively or positively -- the quality of the recorded audio. So how do you know if an interface is good or not?

Here are the features that can make an interface great or terrible:

DAW -- Is the digital audio workstation that is compatible with the interface any good? Does it have many bugs?
Interface Connectors -- Each type of connection (Thunderbolt, USB, Firewire) have different pros and cons. Thunderbolt is the fastest transmitter of data, then Firewire, then USB.[Text Wrapping Break]Inputs and outputs -- Take note of how many inputs and outputs are available and what types are offered (this depends on what you’re recording). It’s a good idea to have a couple of each type.

Basically, a good interface is one that’s fast, reliable, delivers pro-level audio quality, and works with the equipment and software you own.

How To Choose An Audio Interface

So that takes us to the question, “How can you choose the right interface?”

The audio interface market is flooded with different option, features, prices, shapes and sizes. It can be overwhelming to try to pick the one you need. Should you print out a list of all of the devices, randomly put your finger on one, and then buy it?

No, don’t do that. Let us help.

Whether you’re new to recording or a seasoned pro, the options can be bewildering. How do you choose the best one? The short answer is “It depends.”

For the longer answer, let’s start with what you actually need in your studio and what you’ll be recording. This is the most important thing when it comes to choosing an interface.

If you’re using mostly pre-recorded samples, loops, virtual instruments, and synths, then you can go with the most basic interface with quarter-inch inputs. This is actually more than what you need, but it’s standard nowadays for most interfaces to include those. And these devices are typically on the more affordable end.

If you’re recording with analog instruments (acoustic guitar, vocals, bass, etc.), then you’ll definitely need an interface with more than one mic input as well as preamps. Most interfaces have inputs that accept both XLR and quarter-inch, so that option is probably better. You’ll end up paying a few hundred dollars for a good device like this, but it’ll be worth it.

Lastly, if you’re recording with other musicians, you’ll need an interface with more options. Specifically, you’ll need an interface with at least two headphone jacks so you can both hear the recording and playback. You may also want to consider having more than just two inputs, like one with four or eight inputs, especially if you’ll be working with a drummer on a full drum kit.

Ultimately, it comes down to your specific needs, wants, and budget.

How To Use An Audio Interface

I know some people are anti reading directions, thinking they’re smart enough to figure everything out on their own. I’m not doubting those people’s intelligence, it’s just that every interface is different and has its own specific features, setup protocol, and compatibility. The point is, is always a smart idea to read the manual that comes with the interface, regardless of your expertise. This way, you can learn all of the things the interface can provide that you may not have picked up on right away on your own.

Depending on what you want to record, you’ll need to be familiar with your interface’s limitation and where it shines. When you use it in the right setting, your audio interface can make a world of a difference.

Conclusion

It doesn’t matter what your level of experience is -- you could be a veteran engineer or a DIY artist who’s just starting out -- you need an audio interface (or multiple). They’re a necessary tool in today’s recording industry and needed if you want to keep up with the standards.

Now that you’ve read this article, you’ll be able to choose the best interface possible for what you’re recording, how you’re recording it, and what price range you want to stay within. Additionally, you can check out the buying guide for audio interfaces for even more help on choosing the right device for you.

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