Trying to figure out which the best audio interface for your needs to get can be one of the most confusing and overwhelming pieces of equipment to purchase for your recording rig depending on your background with computers. We will do our best to help you in making your decision as to what audio interface is best for your needs.
What Is An Audio Interface
An audio interface is hardware that allows you to connect microphones to it and converts signals to something that your computer can read. This is an essential part of your recording rig, and I like to think of the audio interface as the brain of your recording rig. everything plugs into it, and it registers what is happening. Even studio monitors, headphones, and a DI box (If you choose), plug into this piece of equipment.
Tips For Getting The Best Audio Interface For You
When looking through the audio interfaces below, think of what you are wanting to record. How many mic inputs will you need at a time? If you are recording a drum set, you will need several. If you are recording a podcast, you may only need one or 2, depending if you will be speaking with someone else. Other things to consider, is what your computer can do. All of these audio interfaces will require a specific operating system that they will work with, and I do suggest to use a computer with at least 8 GB of RAM. With that being said, let's take a look at some of the best audio interface options! (the following products contain affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I get paid if you click through and make a purchase)
The Best Audio Interface Suggestions
The Focusrite Scarlett series features a USB connection to your computer and has sample rates of up to 24-bit/192kHz. This interface series is compatible with Mac OS X 10.10 or later and PC Windows 7 or later. Focusrite products are most easily recognized by their red shell that they use on their products. The Scarlett series made our list due to their great sound at a very affordable price that are budget friendly.
What Customers Are Saying About The Focusrite Scarlett Series
The Focusrite Clarett series has a USB connection to your computer and has sample rates to 24-bit/192kHz. These include several Focusrite plug-ins for your recording software. It is compatible with Mac OS X 10.11 or later and PC Windows 7 SP1 or later. While the Clarett series is a little more expensive than the Scarlett series, it comes with additional features like the plugins that are a great value.
What Customers Are Saying About The Focusrite Clarett Series
Universal Audio Apollo Twin
The Universal Audio Apollo Twin series has a thunderbolt connection to the computer and has sample rates up to 24-bit/192kHz. It includes some of Universal Audio's state of the art plug-ins. The Apollo Twin series is compatible with Mac OS X 10.10 or later and PC Windows 10 64 bit(will need a thunderbolt adapter if using on PC). Universal Audio is known for top-of-the-line quality, and these fit right into their reputation. They are one of the more expensive audio interfaces from our list, but the quality is fantastic. However, the only downfall of the Apollo Twin series, is that you are limited to two preamps.
What Customers Are Saying About The Universal Audio Twin Series
Universal Audio Apollo 8 Quad
The Apollo 8 Quad has a Thunderbolt connection to the computer and has sample rates up to 24-bit/192kHz. It includes some of Universal Audio's state of the art plug-ins. The Apollo 8 is compatible with Mac OS X 10.10 or later and PC Windows 10 64 bit or later (Must have thunderbolt adapter for PC). With some great plugins in the package, this is a great audio interface. It is more expensive but has great quality. The only downfall, similar to the Apollo Twin, you are limited to 4 mic preamps.
- 4 mic preamps
- 2 instrument preamps
- 4 XLR inputs
- 8 1/4" inputs
- 2 1/4" Hi-Z
The Presonus Studio series has a USB connection to the computer and has sample rates up to 24-bit/192kHz. The Studio Magic plug-in bundle is included. The Studio series is compatible with Mac OS X 10.8.5 and up and Windows 7 Sp1 and up (Intel 2GHz multi-core processor or better). The Studio series has a great quality, and it comes at a budget friendly price too. If you are needing to save a few dollars, this should be one you consider.
What Customers Are Saying About The PreSonus Studio Series
The Audient iD audio interface series has a USB 2.0 connection to the computer and has sample rates up to 24-bit/96kHz. This interface sits nicely on any recording desk and gives an ease to make adjustments to the levels. The only downfall is the amount of preamps available. With only 4 mic preamps, you could run into issues if you are wanting to record a drumset with multiple microphones.
What Customers Are Saying About The Audient iD Series
The Apogee Element series has a thunderbolt connection to the computer and has sample rates up to 24-bit/192kHz. It is compatible with Mac OS X 10.10 or later and iOS, NOT compatible with PC. While there isn't much to look at with the Element series, don't mistake it for low quality. These interfaces have fantastic sound. However, high quality also comes with a not-so-pretty price tag.
What Customers Are Saying About The Apogee Element Series
Antelope Audio Discrete
The Antelope Audio Discrete series uses a thunderbolt or a USB connection to the computer and has sample rates up to 24-bit/192kHz. These include the Basic FX pack from Antelope Audio. The Discrete series is compatible with Mac OS X 10.11 and up and Windows 10 and up (8 GB of RAM minimum). These, just like with the Element series, are very high quality producing a great sound. However, the Discrete series also comes with a higher price tag. That said, these do come with some great plugins to add to your collection.
What Customers Are Saying About The Antelope Audio Discrete Series
Sample Rate Explained
Understanding Bit Rate
It is best to think of bit rate like a stair case along the waves from the sound source. the higher the bit rate, the more "stairs" there are. Therefore, we can think of a bell curve of a sound wave when considering this rate. The higher the bit rate the more captures a sound will have. I had a professor that had us compare to the evolution of video games. If you listen to how "blocky" the Mario song is, this is a great example of a low bit rate.
RAM Recommendations For The Best Audio Interface
After discussing sample rate and bit rate, you will notice that the amount of RAM your recording computer has is incredibly important. To get the best audio interface for you, we will need to focus on what your capabilities are. I will suggest that your computer should have no less than 8 GB of RAM. This day and age, that will be easier and cheaper to achieve, but if you are operating on an older computer, you will want to be aware that you may need to make some upgrades, or you will need to lower your sample rate and bit rate.
What Buttons You Will Find On The Best Audio Interface
- Power: Obviously, this one is used to turn the hardware on/off
- XLR Jacks: You may find this on the front or the back of the device. These are used to connect a microphone or DI box using a XLR cable.
- Gain: You will see this next to each of the XLR jacks. This is how you will adjust the gain of the individual microphones.
- 48V/Pad: This is how you send power through the cable to a microphone. You will want this turned on if you are using a condenser microphone.
- Headphone Jack: You can connect your studio headphones here to listen to your mix
- Headphone Volume Knob: This is where you can control how loud/soft the volume is through the headphones.
- Monitor Volume Knob: Here you can adjust how loud or soft the mix is through your studio monitors.
- Line Out: There should be a left and right option. This is where you will connect your studio monitors.
- USB/Firewire/Thunderbolt: Here you will connect the interface to your computer.
The Best Audio Interface Different Types Of Connections
Additional Considerations For The Best Audio Interface
The Wide Range Of Prices
You may have noticed as you were looking through the audio interfaces on this list that there is a very wide range of prices associated with them. The brand has some to do with this such as guitars do if you are familiar with that aspect.
All of these on this list are great quality, but those like Universal Audio, Apogee, and Antelope are more expensive. These are the types that you might see in a more experienced home studio. If you are just starting out in your recording adventure or on a very tight budget, I highly suggest using either a Focusrite or Presonus interface.
While both of these are more budget friendly, they have a great sound too. I personally record on the Focusrite Scarlett series, and I can vouch that I do not have any buzz and it has a crisp sound. This is one of the few expenses for your recording studio that I do not recommend taking a shortcut with the cost.
Having the best audio interface or a very high quality one, will save you from having many frustrations when trying to mix. For example, with a cheap, bottom line interface, you might have a slight hum that will be a nightmare trying to fix in post production. Save yourself the hassle by going ahead and getting an interface that is going to last and produce a clear sound.
How To Care For The Best Audio Interface
Final Thoughts On The Best Audio Interface
If you have any questions about which is the best audio interface for you, or need any help with selecting recording equipment for your studio, please feel free to contact us through our contact us page found here. Don't forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for the latest Blackskye Media updates!