- What to Think About When Purchasing the Best multi channel soundcard
- Channel count versus the number of inputs
- Mic Level, Instrument Level, and Line Level Inputs
- Power Options
- Analog to Digital Bit Rate and Sample Rate
- Operating Systems, Connectivity, and Drivers
- Comparion Table:
- Solid State Logic SSL 2+
- PreSonus ioSTATION 24c
- Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 3rd Gen
- PreSonus Studio 68c
- RME Babyface Pro FS
Looking to upgrade to a rack mount audio interface or find a desktop 8-channel audio interface? Knowing which one will best serve your needs is crucial. Choosing between an 8-channel and 4-input audio interface can be challenging. There may be some feature overlap and exclusion between various models. This manual is intended to assist you in navigating these features and to focus your search on Best multi channel soundcard that are worthwhile for consideration.
We drew on our individual and collective experiences and carefully analyzed relevant review sources, including forum discussions, to develop our recommendations. We also offer helpful information about each of the products we chose. There is a particular Author’s Pick section in this 2023 Edition. Here, I discuss an audio interface I use in-depth and share my experiences using it. We also recommend the top audio interface for podcasts and live performances with multiple inputs.
What to Think About When Purchasing the Best multi channel soundcard
Channel count versus the number of inputs
It sounds simple, but this is the number of analog inputs that can be passed through to different tracks on your computer. To give a higher channel count, some manufacturers slightly fudge the number. Although SP/DIF or ADAT require another piece of hardware acting as an audio interface (e.g., some mixers and mic preamps also provide A/D conversion), many of them include digital input channels for their devices in the channel count. Consequently, a “16-channel audio interface” might be limited to 8 analog inputs.
The number of analog channels that can be input and sent as separate channels via USB is how we have categorized the interfaces in our guide. These additionalBest multi channel soundcards could be more helpful when looking to expand. Still, they will only help you if you have access to an additional audio interface that is compatible. Remember that an audio interface for rack mounting may only sometimes have 8 XLR inputs.
Mic Level, Instrument Level, and Line Level Inputs
You must be aware of the type of inputs available, whether they are instrument level (high impedance) or line level (low impedance), in addition to the number of inputs. Line-level inputs can connect keyboards, amps, and other electronic instruments, whereas instrument-level ports are for electric guitars and basses without active pickups or preamps. A preamp is typically present with XLR inputs to handle microphones. Preamps are typically built into combo XLR/TRS inputs, making them mic ready. For some ports, some devices offer flexible line level and instrument level switching.
Built-in preamps allow you to connect microphones, and if necessary, they can also supply phantom power to condenser mics. But they’re not just for connectivity because they can also change the sound’s character and are in charge of suppressing noise. Thankfully, manufacturers rarely skimp on the quality of their preamps, often equipping their entire range of audio interfaces with the same preamp found on their flagship model. Considering the real number of preamps available is vital because not all inputs will have one, especially when recording with condenser mics.
The complexity of the electronics and its power requirements rise as the Best multi channel soundcard does. As a result, you can anticipate that most of the devices on this list will need wall power adapters to function. Yet, there are several that can be USB bus-powered from a computer. Remember that an iOS device can power none via USB; in this case, you need a wall adapter that draws power from the mains or a powered USB hub.
Analog to Digital Bit Rate and Sample Rate
These specifications describe the resolution of your converted digital audio, and the general rule is that the higher the sample rate, the more details are captured. The sampling rate determines the highest frequencies that can be recorded, while the Bit Depth determines the maximum dynamic range (difference between loudest and softest).
The current highest standard is 24-bit/192kHz, but sampling rates are a hot topic of discussion; for more information, see The Science of Sample Rates: When More is Better and When Not. The most important thing to know is that all of the frequencies that the majority of people can hear are covered by a sampling rate of 44.1 kHz. Also, remember that the preamp typically has a more significant impact on recording quality.
Operating Systems, Connectivity, and Drivers
Most Best multi channel soundcard have unique, low-latency drivers designed specifically for Windows and Mac that enable you to use the audio channels in your recording software and frequently control built-in hardware features like effects and DSPs. However, we’ve discovered repeatedly that a small percentage of owners who need help getting these drivers to function correctly is the source of the majority of severe user complaints about audio interfaces.
But, there are certain instances when there are real issues with the drivers on some systems. Usually, these may be ascribed to people needing to set things up properly. Also, many consumers complain that the manufacturer offers little assistance when there are driver issues, and some take a while to deliver solutions.
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Solid State Logic SSL 2+
In the world of audio engineering, there has been a lot of hype surrounding the SSL 2+. It is SSL’s first attempt at a small audio interface. The interface aims to enable home and project studios worldwide to access the renowned “SSL console preamp” sound. This is made possible by its reasonable price. It initially resembles other SSL equipment with several aesthetic features, especially the color scheme and the distinctive knobs. The “4k” mode, which causes the preamp to use circuitry reminiscent of the 4000 series console preamps, distinguishes the SSL 2+ the most. This is a crucial selling point for the product and enhances the top end’s smooth presence and subtle harmonic excitement. This makes it excellent for use with sterile, lifeless sound sources.
The SSL2+ can effectively improve electric guitar direct input tracks’ harmonic content. When using VST plugins, the result is a fuller, more robust sound. Even the least expensive microphones’ sonic qualities can be improved using this technique. It highlights their positive traits. This is a massive advantage for those who want to improve their microphone’s sound without spending more money on more expensive external preamps because preamps are frequently the most underrated component of the signal chain.
PreSonus ioSTATION 24c
PreSonus ioSTATION 24c, One of the first developments in the industry was the use of channel strips, which combined various pieces of equipment in a modular way. Except for developing audio interfaces, MIDI controllers, and DAW controllers, most equipment today has stayed the same since it was first introduced. Since then, I’ve been considering a new interface. In my opinion, my Focusrite 18i20’s preamps didn’t seem to be doing my new microphones justice. In the past, I was curious to investigate hardware DAW controllers and developed an interest in devices like the Presonus Faderport.
I’ve wanted a more “hands-on” approach to my mixing because my current workflow uses analog summing emulator plugins like Waves NLS and Brainworx BX Console. At first, I thought about purchasing an analog summing mixer, but I discovered they would be restrictive. The plugin emulations met all of my expectations. So I decided to go interface and DAW controller shopping. In light of this, I was shocked to learn that a product like the PreSonus ioSTATION 24c was available. It combines the company’s Faderport with a two-preamp audio interface. I knew I had to buy it once I did more research on it and discovered how highly users were praising the XMAX preamps. With the addition of two gain knobs, a line button, a phantom power button, a direct monitor mix, headphone volume, main volume, and a mute button for the main out for quick switching to headphone monitoring, the layout is similar to the Faderport.
Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 3rd Gen
The 4i4 sits in a comfy middle ground with two combo input preamps, 2 1/4″ inputs, and 4 outputs. It provides a more significant number of mic inputs to meet the needs of many home studio setups. A separate “Air” setting is available for each preamp, which adds an upper-midrange lift akin to their renowned ISA series preamps. This feature was added to Focusrite’s third generation of interfaces, which includes the 4i4.
Focusrite enhanced the gain range on their preamps for the third generation to drive dynamic mics better. The previous 4i4’s preamps had much to recommend, including impressive clarity, little self-noise, and detailed capture. Despite this, I wish they had given this interface’s headphone amp more gain to drive my higher-impedance headphones a little louder. Focusrite’s mid-range powerhouse Scarlett 4i4 has features previously only found on their Clarett line of higher-end products. This one is a fantastic buy if you require a portable, USB-powered, four-channel audio interface. It has enough inputs, including MIDI, to accommodate several artists.
PreSonus Studio 68c
Four XMAX preamps in the Presonus Studio 68c are built for saturation without clipping. Unlike other interfaces at this level, the XMAX preamps were created to be pushed for more extraordinary richness and depth. More than just marketing, the XMAX preamps’ performance, even with unfinished tracks, is impressive. In some well-known “red” interfaces, I even prefer them to the preamps. You can set your gain to the ideal levels for any instrument or vocal with the help of a bright LED meter. This assists in finding the right balance between sharp cutting and pleasant saturation.
Also, the Studio 68c has a S/PDIF out, so you can connect your vintage MIDI or modern digital rackmount equipment. Higher gain levels produced a richness that reminded me of how analog consoles often drive. Cymbals and other high-frequency instruments don’t have a brittle or harsh sound. Although saturation might be a plus, the preamps tend to color the sound in some circumstances overly. In addition to 4 Preamps and a large amount of I/O, Studio 68c has excellent latency. This makes it a fantastic option for podcasts or live performances online. The Presonus Studio 68c is a fantastic option if you’re looking for a small audio interface that gives your tracks a hint of the vibe and spirit of a big studio.
RME Babyface Pro FS
The Babyface Pro interface from RME was a hit, and the company followed it up with an improved version. This incorporates superior clocking for synchronizing up with more external preamps and sources. Future outboard gear integrations will be simple as a result. This Babyface offers steady sync and reduced jitter across various outboard gear using their “Steadyclock FS” technology from the ADI-2 Pro/DA converter. Also, in a typical RME manner, the low latency performance is outstanding. Even when using many plugins while tracking, it is still functional.
Amplification for headphones was also enhanced. With less noise and distortion, it can drive headphones with a greater impedance. Without an external headphone amplifier, it is easier to drive gain-hungry headphones like the Sennheiser HD600. The Babyface Pro FS has a significant benefit in terms of long-term scalability. It can be used as the hub of a larger 12 in / 12 out I/O ecosystem or as a portable interface with excellent clock sync, S/PDIF, and ADAT I/O. These are all excellent characteristics for a portable audio interface to have.
The mixer app’s potential lack of a user-friendly UI is one restriction. Another drawback is that phantom power can only be managed through the app, making you more dependent on the complicated program. Building on its predecessor, the RME Babyface Pro FS offers a small but expandable interface. The RME Babyface Pro FS stands out in the crowded market for compact interfaces because it can serve as both a mobile and the studio’s focal point. And it keeps a high audio signal quality while doing so.
We looked for the best multi channel soundcard in each category to connect PCs through USB (other connectivity protocols were also permitted). We were readily accessible from well-known US retailers. The majority of them are listed in our Music Gear Database. We then created a short list of 57 audio interfaces for additional examination. Then, we looked at more than 33,000 ratings and reviews from forums, user reviews, and feedback. The Gearank Algorithm was used to process the data, producing rating scores out of 100 that we utilized to choose the highest-rated options for each of the aforementioned input/channel categories. We also used these sources to report on the benefits and drawbacks of each interface that we suggested.