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Whether you’re starting a new home studio, or improving an existing one…There’s no single purchase more confusing than the audio interface.Because among the dozens of options…Each one is designed to meet the demands of a specific “type” of studio.For example…At one extreme, a small $100 interface might be perfect in a simple bedroom studio…If all you need is a single pair of outputs for your studio monitors
.At the opposite extreme, a pro studio that requires dozens of INs/OUTs might need several interfaces, each costing $4000 or more.Needless to say, matching the right interface with the right studio is tricky even for the experienced. And for beginners, its 10x worse.Which is why for today’s post, I’ve created an in-depth guide to help you find the perfect option for your studio.So let’s get started. First off…The 5 Key Features to Look ForBecause of the fact that audio interfaces have so many features, it’s difficult to know which ones matter, and which ones don’t.So let’s talk about that now. In particular, these are the 5 key specs to focus on:
- DAW Compatibility
- Interface Connectors
- Input/Output (I/O) Count
- Input Channel Types
- Form Factor
And here’s why:1. DAW Compatibility
In general, most DAW’s work with most interfaces…but not always.If you don’t yet have a particular DAW that you are loyal to, then you need not worry here.Because 90% of the top DAW’s
will be compatible with any interface you choose.However if you already have a DAW you want to continue using, be sure to verify compatibility on the company’s website. And just to warn you, this info is often hard to find.You would think they would just post DAW compatibility in the interface’s product description, right? But it rarely happens. Usually it’s buried somewhere within an FAQ page.While it’s not clear why this is done, my best guess is that these companies prefer not to advertise their current DAW compatibility, because they have no guarantees of future compatibility.A particular interface might be compatible with your DAW today, but it may not be in a future release. And while that’s not likely to happen, it’s always possible.Which is why personally, I prefer to use a DAW/interface combo made by the same company. Later in this post I will give you some good examples of these.However, since there are only a few companies that make both, the downside to this solution is that it severely limits your options.Up next…2. Interface Connectors
When connecting an audio interface to a computer…There are 4 cable options commonly used:
- USB – which is typically seen on cheaper home studio interfaces, and offers the slowest data transfer rate.
- Firewire – which is used on more expensive home studio interfaces, and offers a significantly faster transfer rate (nowadays these are becoming less common).
- Thunderbolt – which has recently become popular with newer semi-pro interfaces, and is way faster than either USB or Firewire.
- PCIE – which has long been the standard connection for professional interfaces, because it offers additional processing power and extremely fast data-transfer.
While USB is by far the slowest of all 4 options, it is still more than fast enough to get the job done for the vast majority of home studios.So if you’re on a budget, USB is what I recommend.
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