Top 5 Best Audio Interfaces in 2020 Reviews

audio interface buying guideWhen you, as a musician. start writing songs, you will quickly reach the point where you want to record them. You want to capture your music so that others can listen to it again and again. However, some things need to be done before you can start recording. Here the audio interface comes into the picture.

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An audio interface acts as an intermediary between your instrument and your recording software. There are many different audio interfaces on the market and it can be difficult to distinguish between quality and quantity. Here, on this page, I will introduce you to the audio interface and give you a good understanding of them. Continue reading and get ready to buy your audio interface today!

Top 5 Best Audio Interfaces

If you want to be sure that you’re getting a really good audio interface then you can choose from the ones I show below. I have found some of the best audio interfaces on the market for you. Common to them all is that the price is low and the quality is great.

Overall Winner: Best USB audio interface right now

Best audio interface for mac

Best audio interface for PC

Best budget audio interface

Best audio interface under 200

What is an audio interface?

You will often find an audio interface in a computer. The audio interface’s task is to produce sounds for your computer, so you have the opportunity to hear music and other audio on your computer. The audio interface also has the task of recording the sound from a microphone or instrument; the audio interface is therefore used in connection with music recording. Here it is important that you have a good audio interface so that you have the opportunity to produce music of a higher quality.

Audio interface history

Until mid-1988, audio interfaces in computers were unusual. It all began, when the personal computer came out back in the 1970s. In these computers there was no built-in audio interface as we know them today. Instead, the computer had only an internal PC speaker. These speakers were usually shaped like squares, which meant that they got the name “a beeper”. This very characteristic name got these components, since the only sound they could produce was “beeps and boops”. During the computer’s first years, several companies worked to optimize the computer, especially the audio part. The best known for this was the company, Access Software. This company was successful in developing techniques that could get the sound through the computer’s speaker to work better. However, there was a constant problem. The sound was distorted and it was was not very loud. It was almost always necessary to have all other programs closed when playing sounds. This meant that the computers had major problems when it came to multimedia applications; applications that involved music recording, graphic work, animation and games.

It was, of course, a problem that needed to be solved. That’s why IBM started working with audio interfaces. This was not so much due to games, but due to the multimedia applications that were increasingly in demand. As the years went by, more and more companies were coming to the field which were not directly computer-based companies. These companies focused  exclusively in making audio interfaces for the computers.

Over time, audio interfaces have become cheaper and cheaper, and you can easily get a good home audio interface for a couple of hundred dollars. However, it is clear that the more professional audio interfaces which are used, for example, for recording the sound for live concerts, are much more expensive.

Audio interface construction and features

First of all, we should look at the difference between analog audio and digital audio. For one of the most important differences in the audio interface features, the difference is between the analog audio and the digital sound.

Let’s start with the analog signal. By definition it is: “A nominal continuous electrical signal that varies in amplitude or frequency in response to changes in sound, light, heat, position, or pressure”. An analog signal can be either mechanical or electric. The important thing to notice with an analog signal is the word “continuous”. An analog signal path therefore involves a continuous signal as opposed to the digital signal path which breaks down everything to numbers. This is the primary difference between analog and digital audio.

It was not until the mid-1980s that people really started using both signals. Until then, almost everything that had to do with sound had been analogous. That was the case, not just in recording, but in all kind of sound. An example of this is the “battle” between the LP and the CD. This was due to the fact that all audio interfaces acted either on mechanical or electrical signals when a sustained signal was to be captured. Saying that digital tools were not available at this time, however, is not entirely correct; they certainly existed but were incredibly expensive in price. This meant that it was usually only the top studios that could afford these tools, due to the high price. With few consumers there was not much further development on the digital audio interfaces during this period.

In the mid 80’s this changed. Digital audio interfaces became cheaper and cheaper, and people began to use them to a greater extent. It also meant that it was finally the digital audio interfaces that was the cheapest. This meant that we went into the “digital world” and forgot about the analogue signal. Ever since, most music has been made digitally. This is also the reason why so many of us musicians today uses digital tools to record with.

Let’s take a closer look at the audio interface and its technique.

DAC and ADC: To switch between the two signal methods, use different converters (converters). The two converters are called “a digital two analog converter” (abbreviated DAC) and “an analog to digital converter” (abbreviated ADC), respectively. The two converters are often something we do not think about and which we take for granted (if we at all know that they exist!). DAC converters are used in all digital audio. Here the converter is, so to speak, the heart. Examples of where it is used are in a TV box, CD player and a computer. The DAC converter is used when sound is being passed on to us, and we must have an audio experience. However, if we are to record and send audio to, for example, the computer, then we must use the ADC converter. Here, the ADC converts the whole chain’s soul. It converts your guitar’s sound, the drum kit’s sound, or whatever you need to record into binary data that is forwarded to the computer. This binary data is read by the computer and, more importantly the computer’s program for recording, thereby recording music. DAC converters are almost exclusively made for integrated circuits (microchips). There are a few companies that specialize in producing them, and therefore you often see that these are the same microchips that are in different products.

Bit resolution or bit depth: When looking at a graph of the signal, you can see that the curve of the analog signal waves evenly up and down. The digital signal, on the other hand, runs very hard up and down the graph. The graph illustrates the bit depth. It describes how many bits of information (sound, in this case) are recorded on each instrument track. Therefore, when   reads about 16 or 24 bits, then that is what is meant by it. The more bits, the more smoothly  becomes the signal on the graph. For this reason you also have a better sound quality, the more bits a track is recorded in. A modern standard CD is 16 bits, but audio files like WAV are higher.

The sound becomes much more accurate, the more bits you have, and you must therefore always record with the largest bit rate that you can. Some systems may also run a higher number of bits. For example, 64 bits. However, be aware that it requires much more from your processor in the computer. So it’s not just a question of how much your audio interface and the program for recording can draw, but also how powerful your computer is. It is often a better idea to spend the money on a computer that can actually draw this desired number of bits and, in short, you should always record in as high a number of bits as your audio interface and computer allow.

Sample rate: as with the bit depth, the sample rate also tells something about the sound quality and accuracy of the sound. Sample rate is exactly the amount of sound pieces sent per second. The sample rate is defined as the number of sound pieces per unit of time (usually seconds) taken from a continuous signal to convert to a range determined signal.

Like sound waves, sample rate is measured in Hz or kHz. You can, for example, write 20,000 units in two ways. 20,000 Hz or 20 kHz. To be able to reconstruct a signal perfectly, the signal must be at least twice as high as the desired signal. Here you talk about the Nyquist frequency. In practice, this means that a recorded 40 kHz track should allow a perfectly reconstructed 20 kHz signal. 20 kHz is the limit of human hearing. Thus 40 kHz for many years, became the standard for recording until new studies pointed in other directions. It was found out of the fact that human hearing did not go to 20 kHz as initially assumed, but actually to a little more. This resulted in changing the production of audio interfaces and updated recording programs so that they now record as standard in 48 kHz. Basically, recording programs are already set to the sample rate but you should check the program’s settings, for safety. Hereby you are sure  that the values ​​match each other.

So it is sample rate and bit depth which, together, determine the quality of the sound. Whether it’s for recording in a program or on a CD. Remember that 16 bit and a sample rate of 41.1 kHz are the standard for CDs, but you will get a much better product if you have the ability to record in 24 bit and a sample rate of 48 kHz or higher (however, this is the more the expensive end of audio interfaces).

Audio interface buying guide

As with any musical instrument or equipment, it is important to first consider what you require. Will it be used for serious recording in a home studio? Or maybe you’ll just use it to record ideas from the rehearsal room? Maybe something else?

As for audio interfaces, price and quality are very close together. However, you must also be aware that the number of channels affects the price. That is, if you just want to record a guitar, you just need a audio interface with an instrument input. This makes the audio interface much cheaper than buying a audio interface with, for example, four inputs. The most normal audio interfaces between one and four channels cost between $75 and $150 for new ones. I do not recommend that you buy your audio interface used. Frequently, programs and drivers are included with the audio interface when you buy it new, and won’t come with it if it’s already been used. Without driver and program you can’t use it. In addition, you must also be sure that all plugs work if you buy used. If not, you must invest in them yourself. Power plugs are always best new, and often there are deals on cables if you buy the audio interface as new. Also, remember that by buying new ones, you can get professional guidance from the store if you still have any doubts.

You should also be aware that your computer may not work with the audio interface properly. especially if your computer is of a slightly older date. The same goes for your recording program. Make sure that the audio interface you purchase still updates drivers for your computer’s operating system and your recording program’s version.

In addition, there is actually not so much that can go wrong. Most modern audio interfaces are great for home use. In fact, I personally think that it’s hard to hear the difference between a audio interface for 1000 kroner and one for 10,000 kroner. As a rule, if you need something high-end, you also have no doubt about what you are looking for. Therefore, the audio interface universe is actually relatively safe to move in. There are many good ones out there. Some brands that are really good and not too expensive are Line 6 and Focusrite. They all have high-end models, but also have several cheap ones used by youtubers and musicians worldwide.

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