This is part 7 in a series on various studio equipment, what it does, and how to choose!
- How to Choose Studio Headphones (Coming Soon!)
- How to Choose a Headphone Amp
- How to Choose a Microphone
- How to Choose a MIDI Keyboard
- How to Choose a Turntable (Coming Soon)
- What are Studio Monitors?
- What does an Audio Interface Do? (You are here)
- What does an Audio Mixer do?
- What is a Soundcard?
- What is a USB DAC?
Hi friend and Welcome!!
What does an audio interface do? That’s a loaded baked potato, but a great question nonetheless!
Before we dive right in, grab a snack, sit back, and relax because…
You’ve come to the right place!!
Years ago, after I first learned to make music in college, I contacted the same professor who taught the class for advice on how to hook up a MIDI device to my computer.
- Related: What is MIDI?
He suggested an Audio Interface.
“It’s a device meant to convert digital sound into analog, and vice versa.”
“It’s an external soundcard.”
“Say what again! I dare you, I double dare you mother f*cker! Say what one more time!”
Lol, he didn’t actually respond to me like that, but Samuel L. Jackson might have. 😛
- Related: What is a Soundcard?
“See there’s this invention called the computer, and on this invention they process things.” Bleh.
No really, you know the internal soundcard inside your laptop or PC?
The crappy one that enables music to play from your laptop speakers?
Think of an Audio Interface like that, except you can see it, it’s in the form of a neat little box, and the quality is light-years better!
But what does an audio interface do?
Glad you asked.
In simple terms, converts the signal (i.e. your voice in the form of analog) from your microphone into data that your computer can process, and then spit back out at you through your studio monitors, or speakers, for you to hear.
This is what’s known as an ADC (Analog-to-digital converter).
It’s also a DAC which is the opposite (digital-to-analog converter).
In a digital-to-analog conversion, the DAC converts digital information (1s and 0s) that your computer understands, into language (analog) that you understand.
This typically happens when you’re listening to music, a podcast, watching a how-to video, etc.
All of it happens in milliseconds which is pretty mind-numbing!
- Recommended: Beginners Guide: What is a USB DAC?
This is all done through A/D (analog to digital) converters, which capture and quantize this information (your voice) in the form of 1’s and 0’s.
It basically makes copies of the info and then sends back these copies to you so that you can hear them.
What you receive back is an exact (in theory) replication of the original sound.
An Audio interface can also do the following:
- Hook up your Studio monitors.
- Enable you to use a MIDI device such as a MIDI keyboard.
- Power a microphone with the 48v onboard phantom power and mic preamps. Preamp vs. Interface.
- Act as an Amp/DAC for your headphones via a 3.5mm jack.
An audio interface is truly an invaluable piece of equipment when you’re first starting out and acts as a central hub for almost everything you do and record in the studio.
Without it, you’re pretty much SOL.
I previously owned a Scarlett 2i2, and now have a Universal Audio Volt 2.
Both are highly recommended, but the Volt 2 has a bit more gain (55 vs. 48 for the 2i2).
You really can’t go wrong with either, but having that extra bit of gain is definitely valuable for me.
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope I’ve answered your question, “What does an audio interface do?”
If not, please contact me!! I would love to hear from you. Until next time…
You may have been like me and thought to yourself, “What the heck is an audio interface?”
The term sounds really intimidating, at least for me it did.
It was the Spring of 2006, and I wanted to get into recording.
I took an electronic music course while also learning about all kinds of weird terminology.
I had a lot of fun in the studio after hours and got spooked out a couple of times.
There’s something really eerie about recording music in a quiet room with no one around at dusk.
The studio I used on campus had those horizontal windows that were positioned toward the top of the wall.
You know, the ones where you can see that it’s getting dark but you really can’t actually see anything going on outside.
Thinking back on my first experiences in college brings back some really bittersweet memories and a lot of nostalgia.
Times were different back then. I had responsibilities in a sense, but they were nothing like today. I also used MySpace as the platform for my music.
MySpace?! What the heck is that?
Yeah, I feel old.
Life was a little more carefree in a lot of ways, and it just felt different. I can’t quite explain it.
It seems like when we were young, the air was fresher, the smells were smellier, and family gatherings meant more.
I don’t know, maybe I’m just rambling.
Did you ever smell something that took you back to your childhood?
For me, it’s freshly paved black cement.
Every time I get a whiff of that stuff it reminds me of my Grandma and Grandpa’s old house in Smithtown, NY during the summer months.
There’s something about that smell that takes me back, and for a split second, it feels just as good as it did all those years ago.
Another is Gulden’s mustard.
My Grandma used to buy it in a jar and you had to use a knife to spread it out.
A few months back I was at the grocery store and saw some Gulden’s mustard in the squeeze tub (how lame) and knew I was out. I hadn’t had it in a while.
So I thought nothing of it and bought some. Later on that night, I ate some and immediately broke down.
The taste of it literally took me all the way back in time when I used to have it at my Grandparent’s house.
Has that ever happened to you?
If so, leave me a comment down below; I’d love to chat.