Audio Interface, Choose the Right One for your Music

Audio Interface – The progress of recording technology is almost relentless every year. This causes the search for the best audio interface to feel like aiming at a moving target. All interfaces or interfaces have the main task of converting audio from analog to digital format. But don’t forget that there are important differences, namely variations in form, processing, input, and output.

For example, some popular brands in Indonesia, such as Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, allow songwriters and DJs to create their own work in their bedrooms at a very low cost. It also includes portable interfaces like the Universal Audio Apollo Solo, which are handy as they can be tucked in a bag on the way to a studio session, podcast recording, or live gig. The bottom line is that with this desktop-style audio interface, users get benefits that were previously only available in professional recording studios.

Then, what models and types are suitable for use? This article will help Superfriends decide which model to partner with in making a piece of music, which may go viral once it’s released.

Why Do We Need Audio Interfaces?

Simply put, this gear will help Superfriends to record analog sound which will then be converted into a digital signal. The model of this interface is very diverse, according to needs with different price ranges from the cheapest to the most expensive. Some of them are great for demos with a single instrument, others are powerful enough to record an entire band at once—vocals, electric guitar, MIDI keyboard, drums, or just about anything you want to record.

Audio Interface - preamp microphone

A DJ needs this interface to record digital and analog equipment side by side while keeping the levels nice and even. Podcaster uses an audio interface to record dialogue and monitor sound through studio headphones.

Important Audio Interface Components

There are lots of audio interface models on the market to choose from. Even so, there are important components to consider when choosing and buying the right model for Superfriends.

Microphone Preamp

Recognize the need. If you plan to record only one voice, then Superfriends requires at least one microphone input. There are many interface options for this need, but the most popular desktops will have two, such as the UA Apollo Twin X DUO. The microphone input uses the standard XLR cable used for analog microphones. Most of these inputs will be combo jacks, meaning they also accommodate 1/4″ connections. Each of these inputs will have a preamplifier, also known as a preamp.

A preamp is needed because the signal from the microphone is weak, so it needs to be boosted before it is strong enough to record effectively. The preamp will have a suitable gain control, which can be used to adjust how much the signal is amplified. So when we talk about how many preamps an audio interface has, we’re talking about a mic input.

Another component of a mic preamp is phantom power. Its function is to transmit the electrical voltage needed to use the condenser microphone. Power required up to 48V to function properly. When using phantom power with a condenser microphone, be sure not to turn it on until connecting the microphone to the preamp.

Audio interface

Understanding Mic Preamps: Transparent versus Color

There is a big difference from one preamp design to another. The amount of gain, how much noise it is, the noise, the quality of the connector, and so on are the factors that differentiate it.

The transparent preamp is designed to increase the signal level of the microphone by changing the sound as little as possible. Think of it as a photo with no added filters. Common examples of transparent preamps are those in the Focusrite Scarlett and Apogee portable units.

Transparent preamps are all about simplicity, transparency only applies to the analog signal coming out of the preamp. Once recorded into the DAW, you can apply digital plug-ins and whatever you want.

Other preamps that add color can be likened to photos that have changed exposure, saturation, and other aspects. While it’s still possible to purchase a standalone mic preamp such as the Universal Audio SOLO/610 for coloring recordings, many audio interfaces offer features to emulate classic preamps. However, keep in mind that this is a hardware effect. After the audio is recorded, it will be difficult to remove the sound quality later.

Examples of color preamps that Superfriends can try can come from these four most popular manufacturers: Steinberg, Solid State Logic, and Universal Audio.

The Steinberg UR-RT2 interface is another option if you want multiple colors. This time with a transformer from Rupert Neve Designs. The UR-RT2 has two preamps, with a switch to activate the transformer for each. Steinberg describes a sound that is altered to be richer, with enhanced harmonics.

The Steinberg UR-RT2 interface

Solid State Logic offers color preamps in SSL 2 and SSL 2+ desktop interfaces at the push of a Legacy 4K button. The name refers to the legendary console 4000 SSL series, which is used in some of the largest recording studios in the world. Legacy 4K is designed to emulate the console’s famous analog sound. This very affordable interface is an attractive way to get classic sounds from even the simplest recording equipment.

If you want to explore the world of “color” preamps further, the Universal Audio interface uses a platform called Unison. Instead of just a button, Unison offers a variety of plug-ins that emulate classic microphone preamps from UA, Neve, API, and more. The thing to remember is that sound quality or “color” can be very subjective. Many professionals are impressed by how authentic the plug-ins are, while others rely solely on external hardware. Listen to samples, read customer reviews on the official site, and don’t forget Superfriends have to trust their own ears too.

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The modern interface connects to a computer via a USB port. Smaller units are powered by ports, while larger ones only use them to transfer data. The USB standard has been updated over the years, with performance improvements all the time such as USB 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1. USB connectors are also available in a variety of shapes, usually the classic rectangular USB-A or USB-C. These builds can technically run at USB 2.0, 3.0, or 3.1 speeds, so be sure to check the builds and speed ratings.

For the most advanced interfaces, there is another level of connector called Thunderbolt. The latest version is Thunderbolt 3, which is four times faster than the max USB 3.1. Thunderbolt connector for interfaces that rely on DSP, such as Universal Audio Apollo. Because it runs all native plug-ins it requires serious communication between the computer and the onboard processor core. Thunderbolt also allowed Universal Audio to develop their own DAW called LUNA, which would work natively with the in-unit processor and Unison preamp during the editing process.

Two other old must-know connectors are FireWire and PCIe. They are no longer relevant for the new interface, but you might find them. FireWire is a connector found mainly in Mac computers. It improved on the average speed of the time but was slower than modern USB and Thunderbolt, so that’s only mentioned with respect to older products. PCIe has also seen a speed increase, but this connector must be plugged directly into the computer’s motherboard with the PCIe slot open. Unless you have certain legacy reasons for wanting one of these connectors, avoid it and go with something with USB or Thunderbolt 3.

How to Find the Best Audio Interface for Me?

The above information is sufficient to give an overview of the audio interface. Start by making a list of your goals for recording and how many instruments you want to record at one time. Start with all audio sources, including vocals, instruments, ambient sounds, and whatever else you want to capture. Then consider how many microphones and inputs each source requires.

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