An audio interface refers to hardware that seeks to improve and expand the sonic functions of a computer system.
They even allow you to output a whole range of signals.
If you are working on a PC or even on a Mac, an audio interface is a necessary part of your home studio.
Whether you are simply in your bedroom recording a solo project, or whether you are in a studio, recording with your band, you need to have the right audio interface to produce good quality music.
In fact, in the absence of an audio interface, it is not even possible to there is no other way to produce the good quality music you hear on CDs or on the radio.
You can perhaps try to make a record without an audio interface, using for example, a pair of studio cans, but there are many limitations to doing so.
The very basis of an audio interface is that it functions as the fulcrum of your studio.
The audio interface makes sure that all of your monitors, computers, and instruments are connected to a single place.
If you’re only now entering the complex world of audio interfaces, finding the right one for you is no easy feat.
The process can, in fact, be pretty overwhelming as a whole.
This is particularly true because different audio interfaces have different features and specifications. If you are an amateur, you may not know which features to look out for.
Generally speaking, the best audio interfaces for your home studio are those which help you record and ultimately produce superior quality audio. The best audio interfaces also make sure that all of your necessary studio gear is well connected with one another.
This simple buying guide can help you discover all of the best audio interfaces for your home studio that are available in the market right now, so that you find whatever you seek without much hassle.
Even if you think you can make do without an audio interface, think again.
An audio interface can help you plug in all of your instruments, including your guitar, your microphone, and all other equipment (including MIDI equipment) to each other and in one place.
In fact, an audio interface can even allow you to connect your pair of headphones and studio monitors.
An audio interface is a necessary piece of hardware for anyone who owns a home studio or anyone who wishes to produce and record their own music.
You can even gift an audio interface to a friend of yours who is in the music business.
There are so many different types of audio interfaces available in the market, each of which has its own features and specifications, and if you don’t know much about them it can be hard to find the right one.
This buying guide can help you discover the best audio interfaces for your home studio so that you are sure about making the right purchase.
Best Audio Interface for Your Home Studio
WINNER – Focusrite Scarlett Solo Audio Interface
- A natural-sounding Scarlett mic preamp
- Allows for a whole lot of even gain
- Has a one instrument input
- Has a headphones output with gain control
- Doesn’t require a power supply
- Conversion and sample rates up to 192kHz / 24 bit
- super-low latency for using your plug-ins in real time
- Doesn’t require the use of a DSP
- Compatible with Windows 7 and higher, and Mac OS
- Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz ± 0.25dB.
- Supported sample rates: 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.4 kHz, 192 kHz;
- Headphone Dynamic Range:104dB (A-weighted)
- Two year limited warranty on manufacturing defects
There are many reasons why you should purchase this particular audio interface. For starters, this audio interface comes with a natural-sounding Scarlett mic preamp. This particular preamp allows for a whole lot of gain.
This audio interface has a one instrument input designed to be able to deal with hot pickups. This audio interface does not even require a power supply. You can easily just use it with a USB cable.
If you are in search of a decent audio interface, this one might be the one for you. The best thing about this user interface is that it comes with a two year warranty, so in case something goes wrong, you can always get it fixed or replaced.
This audio interface is compact and convenient. It is perfect for any singer or songwriter or even guitar player looking for a convenient way to record good quality music into their PC or Mac.
Because of its compact size, you can carry this with you wherever you go, connect it to a USB, plug a mic and guitar right in, and instantly begin to record in the highest quality.
runner up – PreSonus Studio 1810c 18×8 Audio Interface
- 24-Bit/192 kHz, USB-C 18×8 audio interface (8×6 at 192 kHz)
- Compatible with both Mac and Windows
- Two mic/instrument/line inputs and 2 mic/line inputs with XMAX Class A mic preamps and +48V phantom power
- Eight channels of ADAT Optical input (4 channels at 96 kHz)
- 6 ¼” TRS balanced, dc-coupled line outputs
- Two headphone outputs with a/B switching on headphone output 1
- Studio One Artist DAW and studio Magic plug-in Suite included
This particular audio interface is perfectly integrated with the PreSonus Studio One Artist music production software.
This audio interface works well with both Mac and Windows recording software. This Studio One audio interface allows you to record, compose, and even produce music without getting distracted by any other tools.
This audio interface features USB-C computer connectivity and has the ability to record up to 18 simultaneous inputs. This includes four separate microphone inputs, XMAX mic preamplifiers, four dedicated line inputs, eight channels of ADAT Optical input, and even S/PDIF inputs.
In addition to the main L/R outputs, you even get four DC-coupled line-level outputs that can send control voltages.
Furthermore, you can benefit from two headphone outputs with A/B switching option for monitoring various differing mix streams.
Additionally, a built-in MIDI interface enables a connection to a sound module, a keyboard, or even a control surface.
This audio interface operates at up to 192 kHz, allowing for ultra-high-definition mixing as well as recording.
Superior quality converters on every input and output, and the preamps result in an overall rich sound.
Alternative – Zoom LiveTrak L-12
- 12 discrete channels (8 mono plus 2 stereo) with XLR or 1/4-inch connectivity
- 14 -in/4-out USB audio interface connectivity
- Scene saving function
- Roughly nine scenes saved at a time
- 5 powered headphone outputs, each of which has a customizable and savable mix
- Frequency characteristics 44. 1 kHz: -1. 0 dB: 20 Hz – 20 kHz, 96 kHz: -3. 0 dB: 20 Hz – 40 kHz. 14 -track Simultaneous recording
- 12-track playback
- Box includes: AC adapter, guide, USB 2.0 cable
This audio interface is the only digital mixer that lets you do a whole number of things, such as mixing live performances and recording about 12 discrete channels.
Additionally, it provides individual custom headphone mixes. Moreover, this interface has the most silent and most advanced preamps of any audio interface.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a professional musician, a producer, or even just a member of a band, this audio interface is for everyone.
BEST FOR MONEY – BEHRINGER Audio Interface
- 2×2 USB audio interface for recording microphones and instruments
- Audiophile 48 kHz resolution for professional audio quality.
- Maximum Sampling Rate: 48 kHz
- Compatible with popular recording software including Avid Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Steinberg Cubase, etc.
- Streams 2 inputs / 2 outputs with ultra-low latency to your computer, supporting Mac OS X* and Windows XP* or higher
- 48 Volt -powered XENYX Mic Preamp
This incredible audio interface can help you record masterpieces within a span of minutes with its connectivity.
The MIDAS-designed mic preamplifiers, which include an over 48 Volt phantom power for condenser microphones, and studio-grade 24-Bit/192 kHz converters, all lead to the highest quality sound.
RUNNER UP – M-Audio AIR 192|4 Audio Interface
- Capture every detail
- Incredible studio level capture
- Low latency
- Connectivity – XLR+¼” TRS combo input, (1) ¼” instrument input, stereo ¼” Outs and ¼” headphone out with independent level control
- Packed with features: rugged metal chassis, USB/direct knob for zero latency monitoring, large central volume control, and VU LED meters
This audio interface is perfect for anyone who wants good quality recordings. You will be able to create high quality 24-bit/192kHz recordings.
You will also be able to record up to two channels at one time with the XLR+¼” balanced combo input.
Audio Interface FAQs
Do you need an audio interface to record?
The answer is yes. Although most computer systems, tablets and even smart phones tend to come with a built-in user interface, this user interface isn’t generally of good quality and fails to do a decent job.
Typically, limited connectivity and customer-level sound restrict its music mixing and recording capabilities.
Generally, computer soundcards tend to have a consumer-grade stereo line level of input for connecting either audio players or other similar equipment.
For outputs, the soundcard tends to have a speaker output or a stereo headphone output.
Even if you are recording at home and your recording plans are not too elaborate, like if your plan is simply to record your electric guitar along with your voice, the soundcard still does not possess the right connections.
If you do really want to record decent quality sound, you will most certainly require an XLR input for your microphone along with a high-Z phone plug input for your electric guitar.
In addition to these, you will also require superior quality outputs. These outputs will help you monitor your own recording and sound editing using either your headphones or your speakers.
The output needs to be such that it allows you to play back your own recordings without any of the noise, jitter, or latency which is pretty common with these standard computer sound cards.
The good thing is that there are hundreds of audio interfaces available in the market that you can choose from.
In fact, you can find all sorts of models with differing connectivity options, functions and types of audio quality, according to your very different needs and your budget.
It doesn’t matter how you plan on using your user interface.
Regardless of whether you plan on using it with your desktop, laptop, or even tablet, you will find many compatible user interfaces to your liking.
While it is now clear that you do require a user interface to record music into your computer system, you can choose from standard interfaces that have fewer options to more complex interfaces that record high quality music.
The best user interfaces for your home studio range from really expensive ones to inexpensive ones, depending on your needs.
Their specifications and features may vary with their price. While the inexpensive systems let you record at about 48kHz at 16 bits, higher end systems let you record at even 192 kHz at 24 bit.
Though the variety of user interfaces available in the market is huge, you may have to consider the price, features and specifications of each user interface before deciding which one is the best user interface for your home studio.
What is an audio interface used for?
An audio interface is type of hardware that seeks to improve or expand upon the sonic capabilities of any computer system.
Generally speaking, an audio interface is used when you require a more professional level of audio performance from a computer system.
It is also used when one or more professional microphones, instruments or any other kind of signal needs to be routed into or out of your computer.
Audio interfaces have various uses. The main one is that an audio interface is used to record music, especially when working from home.
Although most computer systems, laptops and even tablets come with built-in sound cards, they don’t record professional music, without noise or disturbance.
For a more professional sound, you will require an audio interface, whether you are working from home or even from a studio.
There are many different types and varieties of audio interfaces available in the market. These have many uses.
Some of them give you the ability to connect to professional instruments, microphones and even other kinds of signals to a computer. They are even capable of outputting many different signals as well.
Not only can a user interface expand your inputs and outputs, they can even improve the quality of sound you record and produce significantly
In fact, each time you record a new audio, or even listen through headphones or speakers, your audio interface will help reproduce a far better and more true-to-life depiction of those sounds.
For these reasons, an audio interface is perhaps the single most essential component of any computer-based audio production.
Audio interfaces are used to record podcasts and music and even for producing videos for voice-overs and sound design.
Some people think that since most devices come with an in-built sound card, they don’t really require an audio interface. This isn’t true however.
An audio interface is significantly different from a computer, smartphone or tablet’s in-built sound card.
A decent audio interface doesn’t just enable you to connect a number of different digital and analog signals, it additionally provides a more accurate digital clock.
It also provides superior analog circuitry and this helps improves the overall sound quality of whatever it is you are producing.
In fact, using the best user interface for your home studio, you can successfully achieve a whole new level of audio, far superior to one that you would only achieve using a sound card.
What is a DAW Audio Interface?
A digital audio workstation (DAW) is an electronic application software or device. It is a type of user interface. In fact, it is one of the most popular user interfaces out there.
There are many uses of a DAW audio interface. This very useful piece of software is used for recording, editing and even producing audio files.
Regardless of whether you are recording and producing music from your home or even professionally in a studio, this is the one type of user interface you absolutely cannot do without.
Even though different DAW audio interfaces have differences in terms of configuration, they all generally have a central interface.
This central interface allows any user to alter and mix up many different recordings and tracks into one final piece.
DAWs are very useful and have multiple uses. They can be used for recording and producing music, songs, podcasts, television, sound effects and even speech.
In fact, no matter how complex the audio tat you need to record, the DAW audio interface always gets the job done.
Do I need a preamp if I have an Audio Interface?
The microphone itself isn’t enough.
The audio signal from a microphone generally tends to be weak which is why you most definitely do need a preamplifier or preamp to translate this sound into a much stronger sound.
Generally speaking, even the most affordable of audio interfaces today have built-in preamps.
This doesn’t of course mean that you cannot invest in external preamps if you wish. It really depends on you and what you want.
If you are not satisfied with the sound quality produced by the built-in preamps, you can always buy external ones.
Typically, an external preamplifier will always help with your sound quality. Most built-in preamps sport transformer less designs and can end up doing a pretty decent job.
If you are considering buying an external preamp, you must understand that you will probably have to pay just as much as how much you paid for the user interface itself.
External preamps can be pretty expensive so you need to ask yourself if you are willing to pay that much extra for a small improvement in sound.
It is possible however that you get a whole lot of benefits by using an external preamp.
You get greater gain by using an external preamp and you can use this greater gain to back a singer off the mic, while still capturing a decent signal.
The gain from an external preamp also depends on other things as well, such as the sort of room you are in.
Generally, the better your room, the greater the ‘air’ around your recording and the lower the timbre change and the proximity effect when the lead vocalist moves their head.
An external preamp also means more even sound and more natural compression.
The bottom line is that an external preamp can give you greater gain and this greater gain can give you far more placement and flexibility.
There is a reason that most professionals end up spending their money on an external preamplifier in spite of the built-in ones in their audio interface.
Even though the gain in perceived sound quality from an external preamplifier may not be too significant (somewhere between 1 and 5 %), it is still enough to justify spending that extra money.
Even a little bit gain can end up making a tremendous improvement in sound quality.
Furthermore, if you are new to the whole recording and p[producing music thing, an external preamp will give you the confidence to keep recording, without having to worry about compromising on sound quality.
This way, even if you do mess up, you know that the preamp has your back!
These are some of the best audio interfaces for your home studio that you can invest in right now.
If you feel we have missed out on any, feel free to comment below.