An Audio Interface allows you to record sounds (including vocals and instruments) and convert the analog sound to a digital format. These interfaces are built with I/O ports to suit a range of microphones and instruments, and combo XLR/TRS inputs alongside separate inputs with an analog-to-digital conversion that ensures high-quality recordings. Audio interfaces for home studios are generally 2 or 4 input devices. At the same time, professional artists can avail the functionality of a higher number of inputs and better internal hardware for a small premium
A worthwhile consideration to make when purchasing audio interfaces is the brand. The more expensive options tend to have higher quality components which directly affect the final output quality of the audio sample. Brands like Universal Audio and Apogee Electronics are known to offer premium devices with a markup in the price to compensate for quality internal components (and external build quality). A Focusrite Solo or M-Audio is highly praised on various forums on the web, and makes for a fantastic beginner interface. However, lesser-known high-end interfaces like the SSL and premium interfaces like the Steinberg are worth the extra bucks simply because the output quality will be unmatched. When making a decision, the four main considerations are: total number of inputs required, brand preferences, DAW compatibility, and the price options.
Why do I need an audio interface/sound card?
An audio interface or a sound card is a device that will improve the sonic capabilities of a computer. Depending on the interface, you will gain the ability to connect professional microphones, instruments, MIDI and other devices to your computer.
How many inputs/outputs can I have on my audio interface/sound card? How many do I need?
Audio interfaces come with many different configurations of input & output channels. For home studios, we recommend two inputs, while 4 or 5 inputs are recommended for groups and bands. The number of inputs you would need depends on what kind of instruments or microphones you want to record and how many would be recorded simultaneously. The outputs would depend on what output devices you would like to use.
Do I need monitors to work with my audio interface?
The audio interface can be used with headphones, studio monitors or simply the computer speakers. However, for professional applications like live recording, mixing, and mastering audio, studio monitors and studio headphones are highly recommended.