What is an Audio Interface; A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

If you’re a podcaster, own a recording studio, video content creator, grab a chair. It’s high time we talked about one of the crucial gadgets relevant to your audio recording and streaming career. This gadget is called the audio interface. Frankly, if you do not want your creation to sound like some of the terrible-sounding podcasts or videos you’ve seen and heard on the net, here’s one way to ensure you stand out.

The first trick to capturing your audience is to have a clean and beautiful audio quality accompany your podcast or videos. It would draw them in and boost their ability to be focused on what you’re saying. One of the ways to achieve perfectly sounding audio is to thread the route of an audio interface. Eager to know what an audio interface entails? Keep reading!

WHAT IS AN AUDIO INTERFACE? 

An audio interface is a hardware device that is an important part of the audio recording chain. It is that device that allows you to produce music, podcast episodes, or videos with high-quality sound. So, you see those YouTube episodes, podcasts, and music with an amazing sound output? Chances are, they deployed an excellent audio interface while recording their song, video, or YouTube episode. Now, you might wonder, do you really need an audio interface? Can’t you use the built-in audio that comes with your computer? I mean, the sound output seems solid and great.

But you see, the problem is, the sound output won’t be solid when you record your next podcast episode or music with your laptop’s built-in audio system. The simple reason is, the built-in sound system of your computer was only created to be functional. That is, it was created to work with your windows and other minimal functions on the system. It was never created with the intent of recording a show or music, or YouTube video.

Hence, the sound quality you would get when you record with your system’s audio quality would be poor with too much background noise interference. The difference in the audio quality output would be noticed when you do any audio or video recording with an audio interface. You’ll get a clearer, much cleaner, and better audio quality.

Recording with a USB audio interface is a lot better because it also gives you quite a few recording options that would enhance the result. For instance, if you want to record a song, you can directly connect your microphone and your guitar to your computer via the audio interface.

The best part? You can listen to the recorded audio through your headphone, studio monitor speakers, or computer speaker with the help of the audio interface. It also gives you two listening options. You can either listen after the entire audio has been recorded. Or listen in real-time while recording your audio. To connect your audio interface to your computer, you can do it with the help of a USB, Thunderbolt, or Firewire. It is convenient.

Related: Types of Audio Connectors

THE PURPOSE OF AN AUDIO INTERFACE?

The Purpose of an audio interface is simple. As earlier explained, it is that audio device that simplifies your recording process. For instance, if you want to record a vocal part to add to your digital audio workstation (DAW) or a guitar verse to a song, an audio interface makes it easy for you.

Manually connect your guitar or microphone to the input spot on the audio interface, and record the verse or audio you want to record. Then, connect your speaker or headphone to the output port to listen to the result of your recording.

An audio interface also ensures enough ports to connect as many instruments or microphones as possible to your computer. Some of the devices you can connect to your computer via the audio interface include; Studio Monitors, Microphones, Keyboards, Guitars, etc.

While you can record your audio using your computer’s soundcard and a microphone, the audio quality you’ll get won’t be as great as when you record with an audio interface. On the other hand, the audio quality you get from recording with an audio interface is great. It makes a huge difference.

A DJ, Music producer, podcaster, etc., can easily deliver high-quality audio in their creation with an audio interface. Moreover, you can set up a mini studio in your house with an audio interface, especially if you invest your money in the right one.

In conclusion, the purpose of an audio interface is to simplify the audio recording process so that content creators, music producers, etc., would still be able to get the best audio quality. You’ll also be able to monitor your audio creation for adjustments via headphones or speaker.

WHAT DOES AN AUDIO INTERFACE DO?

Technically, the sound you create with your voice or guitar is classified as an analog soundwave. To record an analog soundwave and add it to your computer, you’d need to convert it to a digital soundwave. The reason is simple; your computer wouldn’t understand an analog soundwave. Hence, you’d need to speak in the language that it understands to get your desired result.

It is like an English-speaking man trying to communicate a message to a French-speaking man. To relate with the French-speaking man, the English-speaking man has to either have a translator or speak in French to pass his message to the French-speaking man successfully. It is quite similar to the job of the audio interface.

Your computer only understands digital soundwaves. Think of your audio interface as the translator between you and your computer. It converts your analog soundwave to digital soundwaves that are acceptable and recognized by your computer.

Once recognized by your computer, you can make your edits and modify the sound wave as you please. This process is referred to as the A/D conversion. The audio interface also performs D/A conversion. The D/A conversion allows you to listen to your audio files on your system via your headphone or speaker.

Aside from recording and converting audio, an audio interface also makes it possible for you to record different instruments or with different microphones simultaneously. You can also use external audio to process your recordings with an audio interface.

Owning an audio interface is a blessing. It expands your computer’s ability to record and listen to the audio you create.

WHEN DO YOU NEED AN AUDIO INTERFACE?

If you are a music producer or podcaster, you’ll need to get an audio interface effective immediately, especially when you already started producing shows or your beats. As earlier stated, an audio interface takes the audio quality of your beat, music, podcast, audio file from zero to a hundred.

It ensures that even when the built-in soundcard in your computer might betray you, the audio interfaces got you covered. You could connect multiple microphones to the audio interface for your podcast episode and record your voice and co-host or guest. The same goes for DJs and producers.

Basically, if you have to record any voices (talking or singing), instruments, etc., you’ll need the professional soundcard (audio interface). Are you actively involved in producing audio of any kind? Then, it’ best to get your audio interface at the point of setting up your studio. see the home recording studio equipment list you need.

Also, most people who buy audio interfaces do so because they want to get rid of latency in the audio recorded with their computer’s built-in soundcard. This latency shows up while working on your digital audio workstation (DAW). In essence, you might experience delays between the recorded audio and the digital audio signal on your DAW.

This delay tends to occur when you record your audio with the built-in sound card of your computer. Recording with an audio interface eliminates latency. Hence, if the latency you hear while working on your audio file in your DAW irritates you, then you should get a good audio interface.

If you wouldn’t need to record instruments or voices, but your built-in computer soundcard doesn’t support ASIO drivers, an audio interface would definitely come in handy for you.

Another instance that would call for the need for an audio interface is if, for some reason, your computer cannot handle it when you directly connect studio monitors to it. For example, you can tell your computer can’t handle studio monitors if it gives off a buzzing sound while you’re trying to connect the monitor to the computer. If that’s the case, then you should invest in a good audio interface.

TYPES OF AUDIO INTERFACES

There are different types of audio interfaces in the market with different capabilities. You need to ensure that the audio interface you purchase is right for you and your system. For starters, audio interfaces come with different connection formats.

While some interfaces use USB, some use thunderbolt or firewall, and other audio interfaces use different connection formats as determined by their computers. So it’s more about which connection format is compatible with your laptop/ computer than it is about buying a random audio interface that might not work with your computer.

Furthermore, some audio interfaces have a different number of inputs and output connections. So if you need to record a lot of instruments or audio at once, you’ll need to look out for audio interfaces with multiple input channels or connectors.

However, invest in a single input audio interface if you only ever need to record voices for your podcast. Of course, you can invest in a multiple-input audio interface if you can afford it, just in case. Who knows? One day, you might want to record multiple instruments and voices.

When it comes to the output, the most basic type of audio interface in the market has an output connector for studio monitors, speakers, and at least one headphone. Bear in mind that the headphone output comes in handy if you are a producer or conduct an interview.

Related: Mixer vs Audio Interface

HOW TO USE AN AUDIO INTERFACE?

As a beginner, using an audio interface might seem difficult. It’s quite normal. But it doesn’t have to be a tough job to do. Once you have enough information and guidance on using it, you’ll operate it like a pro. To help simplify your audio interface operation process, we’ve created this section for you. Now, you never have to walk alone. Here’s how to wield your audio interface like a pro.

  • Step One: Power up the audio interface. Connect the power cable to power the audio interface on. While some audio interfaces automatically come on once connected to the computer, other audio interfaces are designed with on/off switch buttons. Hence, after connecting your audio interface and it doesn’t come on almost immediately, check to see if it has an on/off button. If it does, you’d need to flip the switch to fire up the audio interface.
    Now, some audio interface manufacturers recommend that before you power on your audio interface, your computer and external monitors (if applicable) have to be shut down. With your computer shut down, proceed to connect your audio interface to the computer and external monitor.
  • Step Two: Connect your input equipment to the interface. Make the adjustments you need to make on your microphone or instruments, etc. Most interfaces specify the name of the ports on the interface to help you tell which is the input and output port.
  • Step Three: Once you plug in your input equipment into the input ports, proceed to connect the output equipment (studio monitor, etc.) to the output port. Don’t also forget to plug in your headphones. You should see the headphone icon right next to or on top of the port for headphones.

Viola! You have successfully connected your audio interface to your computer. There are certain controls on the audio interface. For starters, you’ll come across the pre-amp control.

The pre-amp control determines the volume of your microphone. Depending on the design of your audio interface, you’ll come across an input meter which you should always monitor your input signal or level. Other controls you should know of include the filter, pad, phase reverse switch, etc.

AUDIO INTERFACE COMPUTER CONNECTIVITY; OPTIONS

Thanks to technological advancement, audio interfaces can function with both computers and iOS devices. They are also compatible with the software that you run on both your mobile phone and computer. Here’s a list of audio interface computer connection options.

  • Thunderbolt:
    Gives you low latency and great data transfer rates. If your computer is a MAC or has the thunderbolt option cards, then this connection is perfect.
  • USB: 
    USB 2.0 and 3.0 connection works on Mac and PCs. You can also connect your iOS device to the audio interface using a USB.
  • PCle (PCI Express): 
    This connection technique is not commonly found in every computer. It connects via an internal-card-based computer connection platform. You’ll need to install this via a PCle slot that only a few computers have.

  • Firewire: 
    This connection is perfect for Mac Computers. It is perfect for recording multiple inputs. You can still use the firewall connection if you do not use a Mac or Apple gadget. All you need to do is install the expansion card. Its benefits are amazing.

Last Words

As a content creator or music producer, you can’t underestimate the usefulness of a good audio interface. You’ll take the audio quality of your shows and video contents from zero to 100%. And guess what? It would sound a lot more appealing to your audience, drawing them in.

An audio interface is a key to doing and being better either as a music producer or content creator. There are tons of audio interfaces in the market. You need to decide what the bulk of your work is like. Next, it would help you determine the type of interface you should get; a 2- channel interface or multiple-channel interface.

Either way, whatever audio recording you need to do, you need a great audio interface to help you create high-quality sound.

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