What Is An Audio Interface For?

What Is An Audio Interface For?

If you are setting up a home recording studio, you must have already thought about it. After all, what’s the point of an audio interface, and is it necessary to get one? Maybe you don’t need an audio interface to start studying music production, download your first DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) and make your first experiments in sound capture and editing.

But certainly getting an audio interface will be one of the first investments you should make to improve the quality of your productions and facilitate your work in the studio.

What is an audio interface for?

The audio interface, also known as a sound card, is a hardware device whose main function is to make AD and DA conversions, that is, it converts the analog signal (“A”) from a microphone/instrument into a digital signal “D”, therefore Analog to digital” or “AD”) and the digital signal coming out of the computer into an analog signal (“DA”).

The reasons for having an Audio Interface:

  • To optimize the work of the CPU.
  • To provide phantom power for the microphones that need it.
  • Pre-amplify the audio signal.
  • Provide connectors for microphone and instrument (line) inputs.
  • Provide outputs for studio monitor and headphones.

Why is the audio interface important?

The computer motherboard manages a number of information simultaneously. When the audio interface converts AD or DA, it relieves the motherboard of this work, optimizing its operation.

In addition, the audio interface enables better recordings. They support better sampling rates of analog sound.

ASIO Driver

It is important to know that the absolute majority of DAWs use the ASIO (Audio Stream Input/Output) driver. A driver is a computer program that controls a certain hardware device. In the case of ASIO, it controls the audio recording devices.

What happens is that ASIO only runs on audio interfaces. In the case of the computer, the native audio drivers, such as MME and Direct X, were not developed for music production. Thus, even if your DAW recognizes the audio driver, there will be a lot of latency. That is: delay in sound playback in recording and editing jobs.

In 2003, ASIO4All was released for computers. This driver was created to reduce latency and simulate the ASIO of audio interfaces in order to be recognized by DAWs.

For MAC, the audio driver, Core Audio, has lower latency than Windows drivers. Its quality and latency theoretically already allow better recordings to be made, although you are left without all the resources that the interface would have to offer.

Thus, there is nothing better than running a DAW with the driver it was intended for. Whatever your operating system, ASIO guarantees better audio processing and low recording latency.

If I’m going to record vocals or instruments, what is an audio interface for?

Whether with a computer or Mac, it is not recommended that you use your computer’s microphone input to record music. It even has a type of preamp, but it does not have a proper impedance ratio and does not have the ability to supply phantom power.

On most computers, the line input is a P2 connection. This connection works best for home-use microphones, although it leaves something to be desired in the music production process. Also, as a rule, the conversion quality will be worse than almost any interface, even if it is cheap.

Ideally, you should connect your microphone to a suitable input for this. That is the XLR input that you will find on your audio interfaces. Also, when recording with your computer’s microphone input, you won’t be able to use a condenser microphone, which is more sensitive to sound details. This is because the microphone input on your computer does not provide power for these microphones to operate.

You can use a condenser microphone with a USB connection. These microphones have the AD converter built in and working with the USB connection can be a practical, but temporary solution. Some USB microphone models are even reasonable, but they are not ideal for music production. You may end up stuck with an amateur setup.

If I only produce electronic music, what’s the point of an audio interface?

Even if you don’t record vocals or instruments and your work is 100% in-tray, the audio interface will enhance your creative flow. If you are going to produce electronic music, you are going to work with Plugins: programs that run inside your DAW. You will use effects plugins, such as delay and reverb. You will also work with plugins for virtual instruments, such as synthesizers.

Normally, you will work with several plugins at the same time. This puts a strain on your computer’s processing. It’s unpleasant when the DAW crashes at the time you have an idea, isn’t it? In addition to reducing latency, using the audio interface causes programs to crash less, which ensures your workflow.