At times, it’s not entirely clear what an audio interface is or how it can aid in music creation. Since some musicians prefer to use an interface and others prefer to create beats by more manual means, many may wonder whether it is necessary for music production.
You do need an audio interface to make beats. An audio interface is a critical piece of equipment for capturing the sounds you’ll be mixing and mastering. Even if you are not recording audio, you need an interface to ensure the highest possible sound quality.
This article will define what an audio interface is and why you should use one while producing music. We will also discuss ways to work around not having an interface at the beginning of your music career.
What Is an Audio Interface?
Audio interfaces decode microphone and instrument signals and translate them to a format that your computer and software can understand. Additionally, the interface sends sound from your computer to your headphones or studio displays.
These devices usually link to your computer via USB, but some also support Firewire, Thunderbolt, and Ethernet.
Prices for interfaces vary from less than $100 to several thousand dollars.
Why Do You Need an Audio Interface?
In terms of recording songs, you may not need to consider an audio interface if you can get by with a USB mic. If, on the other hand, you want to use XLR microphones to record the beats you want to mix, consider investing in a professional audio interface.
Here are just some of the benefits of an audio interface:
- Any XLR microphone will work
- You may use several microphones simultaneously
- The audio interface headphone output sounds superior to other devices
- There are inputs for guitar, bass, and keyboards
- Volume control is available for at least one pair of speakers.
Additionally, there are other reasons why an interface is essential for making beats. I will discuss them in more detail below.
You Need an Audio Interface To Hear Your Beats Properly
You’ll require an audio interface to properly hear your beats and ensure they’re of the necessary quality.
The built-in audio system on most computers includes stereo input and output and a headphone jack. It is of a consumer-level quality and will hinder you from producing the professional-sounding results you desire. Additionally, it will be devoid of the necessary connections.
A high-quality audio interface will have considerably more connectivity options and converters with significantly less jitter and latency. Due to the audio interface being a separate card dedicated to audio recording, it can transmit higher-quality audio to external speakers.
Do You Need an Audio Interface if You Have a USB Mic?
A USB microphone is a recording device that attaches to your computer through USB. It performs all of the digital conversion tasks that an audio interface does but in a more lightweight package.
Moreover, a USB microphone utilizes a single cable, while an interface uses several wires. This advantage significantly increases the appeal of the USB alternative for those who prefer convenience.
In short, you do not need an interface equipped with a USB microphone. However, the versatility of an audio interface makes it the superior option. It connects external displays and includes inputs, outputs, a gain regulator, and volume knobs. Ultimately, it has a more comprehensive approach to beat-making than the USB mic.
Which Audio Interface Is Right for You?
You’ll need to choose an interface based on the kind of beats you make.
If you’re a soloist, an audio interface with a single input can suffice. However, opt for a minimum of two inputs for increased versatility.
Assume you’re producing beats for a band. In that case, you’ll need an expandable interface with a minimum of eight inputs.
It is recommended that DJs use a system with at least four outputs, two of which are stereo. This setup allows you to route your sound system to play on the main speaker while monitoring through headphones on a separate stereo channel.
Features To Look For in an Audio Interface
It would be best to look for an audio interface that features at least two audio inputs and outputs. Moreover, in addition to the outputs for studio monitors, a stereo headphone output is something you should have as criteria.
Besides that, the following features should be considered when purchasing your studio setup’s interface:
Type of Connections
Audio interfaces link to your device using various protocols, including USB, Firewire, and Thunderbolt.
The most popular connector form is USB. The only other common variant is Thunderbolt, which you’ll see most often when shopping for high-quality interfaces.
Many interfaces have bundled Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) equipment, which is worth considering if you do not already own your preferred DAW. The provided program is typically a lite version of the DAW and, therefore, can lack many of the features you require.
DAW Software To Consider
- Focusrite Pro Tools: Focusrite offers a Scarlett USB controller series. The sequence includes the Solo 2nd Gen up to the extremely capable 2i4 2nd Gen with dual input, four outputs, and MIDI.
- Behringer Tracktion 4: This is the most affordable option. The software comes with the U-Phoria set and a simple GUI with two ins and outs and no MIDI. However, there are options with up to four inputs and outputs, as well as MIDI access.
- PreSonus Studio One 3: This allows various configurations, ranging from two inputs and outputs with MIDI connections to sophisticated setups with preamps and recording at up to 192kHz.
Naturally, these are not the only DAW choices. You can choose from a variety of apps, including the following:
Do You Need a Special Computer for an Audio Interface?
You are not required to have a specialized computer. Audio interfaces are supported by most running Windows or macOS.
But to prevent any unpleasant surprises, I strongly advise you to review the system specifications for the product you wish to purchase online before buying. Doing this will ensure that your PC is capable of supporting it.
Other Tools That Work Well With an Audio Interface
- MIDI keyboard: A MIDI keyboard enables you to control your DAW’s interactive instruments. The keyboard generates no tone of its own. It communicates with the machine running on your device through the keys you press to play the appropriate instrument samples or voices.
- Studio Headphones: You’ll need a method for sampling the beats without distortion.
What Can You Use To Make Beats Without an Audio Mixer?
If you don’t have an audio interface, you can use a USB mixer instead. An essential advantage of dealing with hardware mixers is that you have real-time control.
USB mixers allow you to connect a large number of audio sources and perform the following tasks manually:
- Adding effects
Few audio interfaces allow you to control your music directly from the interface, giving mixers an advantage.
The only disadvantage is that when connected to a monitor, the mixer can only record one stereo track at a time.
If you haven’t bought an interface, don’t wait until you do to begin creating music. You should start investing time into music as early as possible, regardless of the equipment. However, focus on securing one soon. It will benefit your songs, knowledge, and projects.
For additional assistance, check out this video from Sanjay C with a buyer’s guide to selecting the best audio interface for any budget:
- Ableton: Home Page
- Apple: Apple Logic Pro
- Apple: GarageBand For Mac
- Audio Mentor: Audio Interface Basics – What Is It & Why You’ll Need It
- Bitwig: Home Page
- Focusrite: Pro Tools® | First Focusrite Creative Pack
- Home Studio Recordings: Do I Need An Audio Interface With A USB Mic?
- How To Geek: What Is An XLR Microphone, And Why Would I Want One?
- Musician’s HQ: How Does A USB Mixer Work?
- Music Radar: The Beginner’s Guide To – Midi Controllers
- Music Repo: What Is An Audio Interface? A Complete Beginner’s Guide (With Video …)
- Presonus: Free PreSonus Studio One 3 Prime Perfect For Beginners And Students | Press Releases
- YouTube: How To Choose An Audio Interface For Any Budget!
- Sound Guys: Studio Headphones – Why You Should Get A Pair
- Tracktion: Behringer Bundles Up With Tracktion 4
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