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A Brief Guide to Audio Interfaces for Home Studio Recording

An audio interface is one piece of recording equipment that can be found in almost every home studio. If you want to use DAW (digital audio workstation) software to record from microphones and direct-input guitars, you will need to purchase an audio interface. That is because audio interfaces are the devices that will convert the analog signal from a microphone or direct-input into a digital signal.

All audio interfaces have some type of inputs, usually XLR inputs for recording from microphones and inch instrument cable inputs for recording guitars directly or any other signal sent through a inch cable. Some interfaces have a phantom power feature, which is useful if you want to record input from condenser mics. To boost the signal you are recording, the audio interface has internal preamps. The quality of the preamp is one of the main factors influencing price of audio interfaces. Having a higher number of inputs on the interface will also add to the cost. In most home studio situations, you can usually get by just fine with 2 to 4 inputs.

Audio interfaces typically have inch outputs on the back of them. These outputs are used to send the audio signal to your monitor speakers. You will also find a headphone jack of the interface that is useful if you want hear your work through headphones instead of speakers. The headphone jack usually has its own volume control.

FInally, you might find MIDI inputs/outputs on an audio interface. For people who record MIDI via keyboard controllers only, the MIDI ins/outs probably won’t be necessary since the keyboard sends MIDI through its USB connection. But if you have some older hardware synth units, you will probably find the MIDI features on interfaces useful.

Here are a few examples of popular audio interfaces currently on the market

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (approx. $149.99 USD)

24 bit recording

2 mic/instrument inputs with preamps

MIDI input/output

48v phantom power

Lexicon Alpha (approx. $49.99 USD)

1 instrument input & 1 XLR input

16 bit recording

PreSonus AudioBox 2X2 (approx. $99.99 USD)

24 bit recording

2 mic/instrument inputs with preamps

MIDI input/output

48v phantom power

TASCAM US-4x4 (approx. $249.99 USD)

24 bit recording

4 mic/instrument inputs with 8 preamps

MIDI input/output

48v phantom power



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