If you are looking to do recordings or starting a home studio, an audio interface can be one of most important equipment in your studio. Here's a selection of audio interfaces that are affordable yet packs quite a punch when it comes to performance and quality. But first...
What is an Audio Interface? Do i need it?
An audio interface is a device that allows you to record analog signal and converts it to digital audio signal so that you can manipulate and process the audio further in your computer/digital audio workstation. The advantage here is you don't need to buy separate AD/DA converters or preamps, because it is all built within one unit!
You would mostly like need to purchase one if you are planning on recording vocals, guitars, and other instruments. But if your goal is to simply use virtual instrument to compose music, then maybe you can skip the audio interface.
1. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 - $150 (PC/MAC)
This little box comes equipped with two vibrant and pristine Focusrite preamps. The second generation units can allow you to record up to 192kHZ in sample rate which means you've can really get some serious sound quality out of it! There are 2 mic/line inputs, for recording vocals or guitars. Headphone output with volume control. 2 balanced 1/4" outputs to accommodate studio monitors. USB bus powered.
My very first audio interface was the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, and what I enjoyed the most was the simplicity of use and its intuitive design. At the time, I didn’t do much recording but simply used it to hook up the monitors. If you’re like me, head down to option #2 :)
2. Native Instruments KOMPLETE AUDIO 6 USB 2.0 Digital Audio Interface - $299 (PC/MAC)
USB 2.0 digital audio interface featuring four analog inputs, four analog outputs, S/PDIF I/O, and MIDI I/O, as well as a comprehensive software package including Komplete Elements, Traktor LE, and Cubase LE. The interface offers 24-bit/96 kHz operation and is compatible with Mac and PC.
This is a great selection for music producers/composers. In addition to 2 mic/line inputs, you get a host of top notch virtual instruments and sounds (as part of Komplete Elements) and Cubase LE. Film composers, you might actually want to consider this option.
3. Apogee One - USB Audio Interface For Mac - $329 (MAC)
For all the MAC users out there, you may want to check out Apogee one. If you’re a vocalist in need of studio quality vocal tracks, then this USB powered, mono input audio interface will be the perfect solution for you. Apogee One offers 24‑bit audio at sample rates of up to 48kHz and a mic preamp with 48V phantom power. What you get for $329 is Apogee’s legendary sound quality delivered right to you wherever you are.
Although I have never used this product, I have had colleagues who had given it a high review. But before you buy any interface, make sure you have tried it and do an A/B test to see which sounds the best to your ears.