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The 10 Best Audio Interfaces  May 2022

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Best Audio Interfaces - Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen 2x2 USB Audio Review Focusrite
9 . 7
Best Audio Interfaces - Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface Review Focusrite
9 . 4
Best Audio Interfaces - Behringer U-PHORIA UMC404HD Audiophile 4X4 24-Bit/192 KHz USB Review Behringer
9 . 1
Best Audio Interfaces - MOTU M2 2x2 USB-C Audio Interface Review MOTU
9 . 0
Best Audio Interfaces - Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface Review
8 . 7
Best Audio Interfaces - PreSonus AudioBox 96 Studio USB 2.0 Recording Bundle Review PreSonus
8 . 3
Best Audio Interfaces - Focusrite Scarlett Solo USB Audio Interface (3rd Gen) Review Focusrite
8 . 2
Best Audio Interfaces - Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Generation USB Audio Interface Review Focusrite
7 . 7
Best Audio Interfaces - Focusrite Scarlett Solo Studio 3rd Gen USB Audio Review Focusrite
7 . 5
Best Audio Interfaces - Native Instruments Komplete Audio 2 USB Audio Interface Review Native instruments
7 . 3

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Your Guide To Buying an Audio Interface

By #<Author:0x00005641981448c8>

    If you are serious about music and acoustics, an audio interface greatly enhances the sound of your computer. If you want to take the sound from a few microphones and musical instruments and process it with computer software, an audio interface is essential. Audio interfaces are a big upgrade from the computer's sound card—even sound cards that are specialized for music production--which takes in a microphone and/or line level signal, and has a speaker output. Here is a guide to some of the best audio interfaces on the market.  

    You can distinguish between interfaces by the type of connection that they allow. And the type of connection that you can use is pretty much determined by what your computer's hardware is like. The different connections also will determine the speed of the data transfer:

    • USB Audio Interface: This is the most affordable and convenient type of interface—because every computer nowadays has USB ports. Many types of peripherals connect by means of a USB port. USB 1.0 has a maximum transfer rate of 12 Mbit/s; USB 2.0 has a transfer rate of 480 Mbit/s. Nowadays, they have USB 3.0, which has the transfer rate of 5 Gbit/s.

      These are less common types of interfaces—your computer may not support them without adding hardware:

    • Thunderbolt Interface/Firewire Audio Interface: These are more expensive than USB devices, but allow for a faster and more efficient transfer of data, especially if you have input from several channels. Data transfer over a USB connection may “freeze” or drop out—Firewire and Thunderbolt are found to be more consistent. The port resembles a USB port, but is triangular at one end. Some laptop computers cannot be upgraded to allow for these interfaces. Desktop computers will require inserting a card in the PCI or PCI Express slots. These will still require special Firewire and Thunderbolt cables.

    • Ethernet Audio Interface: These hook up to a router by means of an Ethernet cable. They allow for faster data transfer than USB connections.

    • iOS Audio Interface: These are special audio interfaces that hook up to iPhones, iPads, or Mac computers.

    • PCI/PCI Express: These are cards that you install in the (white) PCI slot or (yellow) PCI Express slot in your computer's motherboard. They have the fastest data transfer rates. You will have to see that your operating system can also handle these cards (the specs will say with which versions of Windows it is compatible).

    Based on all the consumers' reviews we've scanned, these are the top things they mentioned about their new stuff:

    • Takes pressure off the computer: Some users notice that an audio interface takes pressure off of the computer's CPU in audio applications. So the price of an audio interface offsets the price of upgrading a computer.

    • Accessories that come with the audio interface: Some units come with studio-quality microphones and headphones, as well as music production software—all included in the price.

    • Different microphones for different purposes: A small diaphragm condenser microphone is best for capturing higher pitched sounds, whereas a ribbon microphone is better at capturing the middle frequencies. So professional music recording requires several microphones. 

    • What do you want to do with the sound?: If you just want to play back music from within the computer, with something just a little better than a sound card, then even a cheap interface will suffice. If you want to record music, then you'll have to consider how many inputs you will need.

    • Number of tracks that you want to record: This is a big factor in what audio interface device you buy. For example, a PCI Audio interface card will have 4 channels in, and 4 channels out. USB interfaces will typically have 2 channels in and 2 channels out. This allows you to record, edit and mix music and sound, and then play it back to speakers and to headphones.

    • Different purposes, different cables: You may have to stock up on different types of cables, depending on the ways to hook up a keyboard or a computer to the interface. This will depend on what your purposes are with the audio interface:

    • Recording music: If you intend to record music with several microphones, it's good to have a few XLR cables. (The 3-pronged, XLR input is usually found on microphones.)

    • Voice-over narration: If you intend only to put narration voice on top of video, then 1 XLR input will suffice.

    • Music playback: If you are playing back music, then you'll find that you'll want more outputs. Some suggest 2 line outputs for mixing, and 2 line outputs for cueing—skipping to parts of songs whose effects you want to borrow.

    Focusrite is an audio engineering company, based in High Wycombe, United Kingdom, supplying both hardware and software products for professional and amateur musicians since 1996. They have a wide range of audio interfaces, as well as other studio audio equipment.

    M-Audio-- is a maker of music computer interface and studio integration solutions, keyboard and controller products, and music hardware. They were founded in 1988 as makers of computer hardware and software for electronically-based music. They have since expanded into keyboards and keyboard controllers, headphones, microphones, recording monitors and more.

    PreSonus-- was founded in 1995 by Jim Odom and Brian Smith in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They are designers and manufacturers of audio-recording and live-sound software and hardware for the music-technology and audio industry.

    Universal Audio-- was founded in 1958 by Bill Putnam, Sr. They are makers of innovative recording products. Their headquarters is located in Scotts Valley, California. They produce both analog audio gear and digital solutions for authentic audio emulation. 

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