Whether you are a producer or a beginner, if you want to get sounds in and out of your computer, you probably need an audio interface. Audio interfaces, (sometimes still referred to as ‘sound cards’, a relic of the days when most interfaces took the form of internal expansion cards), are the devices that convert analogue audio signals to digital on the way into your computer, then convert the digital signals back into analogue on the way out. That means you can hook up things like synths, drum machines, microphones and effects units on the way in, or just connect your monitors, on the way out.
We have analyzed audio interfaces reviews to help you to find the best audio interface. But first, read about the main features that you should know, before purchasing your new audio interface.
USB, (Universal Serial Bus), Audio Interfaces, are typically seen on less expensive home studio interfaces, and offer the slowest data transfer rate. These audio interfaces are devices that act as the conduit between an audio source, (such as a microphone or DJ mixer), or a destination, (such as a pair of speakers or an external recorder), and your computer, which is connected via a USB port.
Basically, it gets audio into and out of your computer, turning analogue audio signals into digital information (in) and digital information into analogue audio (out). One of the key components to any audio interface are the converters that handle this process, known as AD/DA convertors. The quality of these convertors varies from product to product and often has an influence on price.
USB Audio Interfaces also vary according to what kinds and number of connections they have for getting audio in and out of the unit. Most audio interfaces will have a number of microphone inputs and line inputs. Microphone inputs use balanced 3-Pin XLR sockets and in most cases, these inputs will also provide 48V phantom power for use with studio condenser microphones for vocals and instruments.
Line input sockets are either the ¼” balanced variety, or unbalanced RCA sockets, found on DJ equipment. These sockets will accept signals from synthesizers, drum machines and DJ mixers. It is important to note that these line inputs are always mono, so if you need to record a stereo signal, you’ll need to use two inputs on the soundcard. USB audio interfaces are very popular, offering a widely-used connection type, which is now also very fast.
FireWire audio interface is used on more expensive home studio interfaces, and offers a significantly faster transfer rate (nowadays, these are becoming less common).
FireWire audio interfaces support a higher bandwidth than most USB audio interfaces and in return can send more data at a quicker rate. This, in turn, results in increased performance, consistency and stability. A major advantage for choosing FireWire, is that it streams data, and this is much better for synchronization and performance. A FireWire interface can also send data in both directions at the same time; this may not seem like a big deal but it does improve performance two-fold. Another big plus for FireWire is that it can be daisy-chained, or to put it in simpler terms, it can be linked to another FireWire audio interface to create more inputs and outputs. This is a brilliant option to have when recording a high volume of vocals/instruments at one time.
A FireWire audio interface is great for recording many tracks simultaneously and will generally have input connections for microphones, instrument level signal (such as electric or semi-acoustic guitars) and line level equipment such as keyboards and synths.
When you are ready to buy a FireWire audio interface you should be sure that it includes these important notes: what types of input and output connections are on the interface, they could be mic, line, MIDI, S/PDIF or ADAT, so make sure they match what you specifically need.
Another important point to consider is the quality of the audio, a big clue of the recording and playback quality is the Bitrate and resolution, e.g., 24 bit/ 192 kHz is faster at processing than 24 bit/96 kHz and should result in a higher recording and playback quality.
PCI is an expansion card format. It has long been the standard connection for professional interfaces, because it offers additional processing power and extremely fast data-transfer. The interface consists, either entirely or in part, of an expansion card that mounts into a slot inside your computer. In many cases, a card goes in your computer, then an external “breakout” box connects to the card, providing digital and analog inputs and outputs.
You need to have enough empty slots in your computer to hold however many cards you want to run at the same time. The inside of a computer is a hostile environment noise-wise, though this is really not much of an issue with modern “pro” cards. The big thing is that a lot of people just don’t feel comfortable opening up their computer and fooling around inside to get a card installed. On the plus side, the PCI format tends to be fast, supporting a lot of I/O capability. Also, you can often expand by adding more cards, or by connecting more breakout boxes. It’s also very convenient to have your interfaces right inside the computer. Pick up the machine and move it, and the audio connections go right with it.
With the explosion in recordings, using computers and iOS devices such as smartphones and tablets, many interfaces are now designed to work seamlessly with them, as well as the software and apps that these devices run. Here are the most common connection types:
PCIe (PCI Express): As we have already mentioned, this is an internal card-based computer connection platform that’s primarily found in desktop computers. Since these cards are plugged directly into the computer motherboard, they require an available PCIe slot for installation, which some computers may lack. The PCIe connection provides high data bandwidth and low latency, allowing audio interfaces that use it, the ability to handle many simultaneous inputs and outputs.
What inputs and outputs (I/O) do you need? This is one of the most important considerations when shopping for a good audio interface. There is a wide variety of different options available. At the basic level, you’ll find simple two-channel desktop interfaces that can record just a pair of mono signals or a single stereo signal at once. At the other end of the scale, there are larger interface systems that can handle dozens—even hundreds—of channels and many inputs simultaneously. What you need comes down to what you plan to record now and in the future.
For singer-songwriters who want to capture their voice and acoustic guitar using microphones, a pair of balanced mic inputs may be all that’s needed. If either of the mics is a condenser type, you’ll need an input with phantom power to energize it. However, also consider that you may want to record your acoustic guitar in stereo at some point while simultaneously singing. In this case, two inputs would be insufficient, and a four-input interface would be required.
If you’re going to be playing an electric bass, guitar, or electronic keyboard that you want to connect directly to your recording setup, you’ll need an instrument-level input, often referred to as a “high-Z input.” To connect external gear like drum machines, samplers, and external sound processors such as multi-effects units, you’ll need line level inputs and outputs. Many studio monitors and headphone amps that provide a separate headphone mix to performers also require line level I/O.
It’s a good idea to make a list of all the instruments and gear you plan to connect using your interface. Lastly, you’ll want to be sure the interface you choose will play well with your computer. Though most interfaces work with both Macs and PCs, there are a few that have specific “Mac-capability” or “PC-capability” only. Remember to filter your options using the appropriate computer platform checkbox when shopping on Musician’s Friend.
Bundled software, is a software that’s sold with a computer or other hardware component as part of a package. As competition between computer manufacturers has intensified, bundling software has become a key strategy for attracting consumers. In some cases, the bundled software is even more valuable than the hardware. Bundled software can also be part of a software package. For example, Microsoft Windows comes with many bundled software tools. Software bundles vary greatly from one manufacturer to the next, and even between models made by the same company.
The applications that’re most commonly found in software bundles are:
The value of a software bundle depends on the beholder’s wishes.
The total Reviews Bee rating sums up the overall picture of every product. Reviews Bee works tirelessly to ensure that we are providing the best product recommendations to you and your family. In rating the various audio interfaces available, we strive to give you the best information possible.Our algorithm includes information from both expert and consumer resources. There is no need to spend hours on researches, because Reviews Bee instantly gives all researches and analysis for you and creates a Top list to save your time and money.
Reviews Bee collects consumer review information from popular retail websites including Amazon, eBay, BBB, Yelp, Consumer reports, etc. In addition, Reviews Bee utilizes reputable market niche websites, to include in the product ranking decision. Using the feedback of actual customers in coordination with expert evaluations enables us to provide each product with a score that takes into account all trustworthy information available on that item.
We came up with the popularity score for every audio interface provider while analyzing 22 expert sites that are trustworthy. Based on our detailed evaluation, each audio interface is assigned an expert popularity score based upon how many times each product is positively mentioned by experts in the industry.
By analyzing all the expert review sites our algorithm summed up the average ranking for every audio interface in their rankings and that is how we came up with the final score for each audio interface brand.
We managed to gather more than 6988 reviews from 89 reliable sources and our algorithm calculated the average score for each brand.
In order to understand how satisfied those consumers were, we analyzed the total number of reviews. We collected all the reviews and the number of stars people gave for each product. Based on these findings we came up with the average customer rating. This is how we managed to bring out the audio interface reviews through which you know how the consumer can rate the audio interface.
In order to make our results authentic, we don’t limit ourselves to just the positive rankings factors but we also take complaints from all over the web into consideration and figure out how many customers were complaining about the product.
Through this, we show both sides of the product whether it’s positive or negative in nature. This then makes it a negative factor in our algorithm. This as a result makes the best audio interfaces reviews. That is why audio interfaces reviews not only have positive comments mentioned but also the negatives as well.