How to pick a good audio interface

If you’ve gotten tired of your current audio interface and need to replace it with a more flexible one, you have to consider other features apart from the number of inputs and outputs. These five things help you to choose the best sound interface for your needs, we put together which five things to look into in choosing a good audio interface, apart from reading nice audio interface reviews.

1: Eight inputs is not enough

How many sound inputs will you need? Quickly adding up the number of sound sources you have is a bit too simple: many musicians find an interface with eight entrances sufficient. But that is actually the strict minimum number of sound channels you need, when recording a live show: four microphones for the drum kit + guitar + bass + mono keyboard and a vocal.

if you are going to to record as cleanly as possible, and want maximum control, a drum set will easily use eight inputs. It is therefore better to have extra inputs available, if you have the fund for it. This allows you to expand and, if necessary, record more microphones (and that time often comes faster than expected).

Also remember that some sound interfaces are advertised with many inputs, but in reality only have two preamplifiers. If you are going to record with microphones, you need as much pre-amps as the number of micros – which ultimately leads to extra costs, cables and connection problems, also look at how it is with phantom power. A lot of interfaces have a generic button for phantom power, which covers all channels simultaneously or on grouped inputs. The most ideal is to have an individual phantom switch per channel, which makes you more adaptable and allows you to use different types of microphone at the same time, and not accidentally destroy a copy that does not need phantom power.

2: Multiple outputs: do you want to send the sound from different channels to different locations in the room?

The ability to hear your mix clearly on different speakers (or monitors) is the biggest reason for having multiple sound outputs. However, there are a number of other useful applications when you record a tape, you often have to send a metronome sound or click track to the musicians’ headphones, while the music sounds through the speakers, most interfaces with two outputs usually also have a headphone jack, but the headset in question will receive the same sound as the speakers. If you only want to send a track to a headset, you will need an interface that can send channels to the headset separately in live situations you might desire to send the music to various PA speakers. Some speakers will be directed towards the audience, other speakers function as stage monitors, so that the musicians hear themselves in a nutshell: if you make of two or more loudspeakers, you will need an interface with multiple sound outputs.

3: Portable sound interfaces are much more practical

When you record a tape or mix live, you need a sound interface that can be transport easily. Many interfaces with multiple inputs are designed to be built into a 19 “rack: not exactly easy to carry along to a performance and drop on a table when you arrive. Compact audio interfaces are much easier and faster to transport and set up. You also want to choose an interface with built-in level meters which will allow you to keep an eye on the levels of the incoming audio channels to avoid distortion and clipping.

4: Flexible monitoring gives the band groups their own studio and stage mix

Separate speaker mixes are essential both in the studio and on stage. In addition, each musician can receive his own personal cue mix – louder sound for the bass guitarist or louder stage speakers or in-ear monitors.

Some sound interfaces can even house the sound of your DAW, PC sequencer or instruments in four independent mixes and then send them to an audio output of your choice. So you have, as it were, four separate mixing tables in one audio interface: very handy!

5: Building quality is important – the cheapest solution is ultimately the most expensive

So look for a solidly built model; cheap plastic bursts easily when it falls to the ground. The same applies to buds of dubious quality: they also do not survive while on the road. It certainly pays to invest in interface that is built to last.

Lastly, keep in mind that a sound interface is constantly connected to all kinds of different sound sources. The housing where the cables of the different inputs and outputs are clicked into, must also be robust. It is also important to be able to record high-quality sound with as little noise as possible under all circumstances. Because, sound of the best quality: that’s what it’s all about.