When starting your journey into producing and recording music choosing an audio interface is pretty much the first choice you’ll need to make. Audio interfaces convert audio signals from a microphone, guitar, synthesizer (or any sound source) into the digital realm and send it to the computer that it’s connected to. An external audio interface provides a way of recording and producing higher quality audio and can receive audio from professional gear that uses XLR or line cables; microphone cables and guitar/instrument leads. Typically, the internal sound card on your computer is not optimized for professional audio production and usually has a small consumer input and outputs by way of the common headphone jack.
There is a healthy market of entry-level audio interfaces available from a plethora of brands, such as Tascam, Focusrite, Native Instruments, Arturia, Universal Audio, M-audio, to name a few. All have different models to choose from, whose specs are relatively similar, and it all comes down to how many input channels you require and preferred software. Any audio interface worth its value should come with some software to get started. They should come with a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) which is the software required to produce, record, playback and manipulate audio via the interface. DAWs also offer virtual instruments and effects that you can add to your recording!
In this video, we look at the Arturia Minifuse 2. It’s a great choice for someone looking to get into audio production and buy their first audio interface. The Minifuse comes in 1 or 2 input models and bundled software includes Ableton Live Lite (an excellent DAW for producing music) along with some of Arturia’s great synths and effects. It also has an extra USB port on the back to connect MIDI controllers freeing up a USB port on your computer.
We recommend going for an interface with 2 inputs over a 1 input interface. If producing music is your goal, then having that extra input allows for far more recording capabilities. Two inputs make a stereo recording or multi-instrumental recording possible, for example, guitar and vocals recorded at the same time.
There are situations where 1 input is plenty, such as streaming and soloist musicians. Many interfaces also cater to streamers and live content creators with a ‘loopback’ function that allows the incoming audio signals to be routed back into the computer for software such as OBS without the need for additional third-party software.
Finally, what sort of cable does your device accept? USB tends to be the most common option, although there are lots of other variants. Always be sure to check your computer/device ports and specs before buying an interface. Check out our full guide on choosing your first interface here: Audio Interfaces, Where to Start: a Beginners Guide
Some of the key specs that you will need to consider are sample rate and bit depth. Bit depth covers the dynamic range of a project. When recording, we recommend 24 bit as the minimum, 16 bit is adequate, however quiet parts of songs can become noisy when recorded at lower bit depths. Sample rate dictates detail or the resolution of a recorded audio signal. Recording at a higher sample rate and bit depth produces higher audio quality, although it can take up more processing power and hard drive space so you want to find the highest quality that your computer can handle comfortably without losing quality due to lack of processing power. 24 bit/48 kHz is typically the minimum recording quality to work with.
Now you’re ready to go out, get your first audio interface and begin recording and producing the next big hit!