- Features to take into account when searching for best professional sound card for studio recording
- QUALITY OF PREAMP
- WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE INTERFACE?
- Other BITS AND PIECES
- Comparison Table:
- MOTU M2
- FOCUSRITE SCARLETT SOLO
- BEHRINGER U-PHORIA UMC202HD
- STEINBERG UR22 MKII
- FOCUSRITE SCARLETT 4I4
You recently purchased your first microphone. You hastily return home, eager to connect it to your keyboard, and begin writing the next “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Nevertheless, you realize when you rip open the box and throw out the tape in a fit of artistic zeal. You need to be more knowledgeable as to what to do next. How can you transfer your excellent vocal performances from the microphone to the computer?
The audio interface is now active. In the following parts, we’ll review many exciting and crucial aspects of audio interfaces and define and clarify any technical terms you might not be familiar with. You can skip forward to the cream of the crop – the best professional sound card for studio recording in 2023 – if you’re an experienced producer or musician familiar with audio interfaces.
Features to take into account when searching for best professional sound card for studio recording
The juicy part comes next. Audio interfaces can be as basic as devices that convert signals to as complex as giant monsters that take up the entire desk, but there are many other factors to consider. I’ll walk you through practical, applicable, and digital interface aspects to assist you in deciding which interface is best for your brand-new global home studio.
Another obvious consideration that will be discussed in more detail later is whether or not it is worthwhile to spend the extra $100 to get the interface that So-and-So from PianoDreamers.com recommended. Even though it’s an obvious question, there isn’t an obvious solution. Your needs for your interface will determine how to proceed. It’s worth the extra $100 for serious recording purposes. To practice lo-fi pop in your bedroom? Most likely not.
Consider carefully what devices you want to pair with the audio interface you already own and, more importantly, what devices you intend to purchase. For instance, specific audio interfaces lack MIDI inputs, necessitating a MIDI to USB controller or connection for your digital piano. As I mentioned before, losing a little functionality is a minor concern. Still, an organization should have all your cords enter and exit from the exact location. To work with your audio interface, some hardware needs to be connected in a certain way.
QUALITY OF PREAMP
The other significant factor for cost and the quality of the audio interface journey you are taking is preamp quality. Although most inexpensive selections will have good preamps, there is a definite difference as you increase in price. Preamps are a crucial interface component, as lower-quality preamps will adversely affect any sounds you capture, as we briefly discussed earlier.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE INTERFACE?
Many of you reading this may already have a DAW, but for those who don’t, it is essential to consider what the interface is connected with. In addition to free versions of DAWs like Reaper, Ableton, and Pro Tools, many audio interfaces also provide VST packs that would otherwise cost you several hundred dollars more. Later, I will discuss which well-known interfaces are included in these bundles.
Other BITS AND PIECES
Think about the connection between the computer and the audio interface. The majority use USB connections, although some also use Thunderbolt and Firewire. Although many interfaces are powered by their USB ports, check to see if it also needs an extra power adapter. Due to the restrictions of USB power voltage, some interfaces may need help to supply phantom power to their preamps adequately. If the USB is 2.0, 3.0, or C determines this.
Last update on 2023-12-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Two combo inputs (Microphone XLR/Line TRS), two line outputs (1/4″ TRS), headphone out, MIDI In/Out, phantom power, power switch, USB-C capabilities, and Bus-powered are available on the MOTU M2: bundled Loops/Sounds, MOTU Performer Lite, and Ableton Live 10 Lite. A significant player in the professional and intermediate audio interface markets, MOTU is in charge of creating some of the hardware that studio engineers hold in the highest regard. Before MOTU’s introduction into the novice audio interface market, such equipment was pricey and only available to professional musicians.
The MOTU is praised for its excellent preamps, superior converters, and stylish design. It also has drivers for Loopback, which enables internal recording, such as importing audio from YouTube videos into your DAW. The M2’s LCD screen is not to be overlooked, which is entirely colored. Although it is no more helpful than the volume indications on any other interface, it does have a wonderfully beautiful appearance. The M2’s main significant drawback is that it isn’t designed for demanding recording tasks; for example, its lack of the ins and outs prevents you from using it to record a 5-mic drum kit. This is insignificant because it applies to all other beginner and intermediate interfaces.
FOCUSRITE SCARLETT SOLO
One XLR microphone input, one 1/4″ TRS instrument input, two 1/4″ TRS line outputs, headphone out, USB-C connectivity, and bus power. Access to Red Plug-in Suite, Focusrite Plug-in Collective, Ableton Live Lite, and Pro Tools First Creative Pack. One of the most well-known brands in beginning audio interfaces today is Focusrite, with Solo as the benchmark entry-level interface.
The Focusrite Solo gives you all the essentials to plug in your piano, guitar, and microphone and begin recording because it has an instrument and microphone input. It can only play one instrument at a time, the piano or the guitar, not both at once. The instrument/line or “hi-z” switch on these line inputs makes them ideal for recording guitars and keyboards. For roughly $50 extra, you may purchase the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 with two combos of XLR/TRS inputs if you require more than one instrument input (for example, if you wish to record your digital piano in stereo). This is yet another choice that novice studios love.
BEHRINGER U-PHORIA UMC202HD
2 Combo (Microphone XLR/Line TRS) inputs, 2 Line outputs (1/4′′ TRS), headphone out, bus-powered, MIDAS preamps, BEHRINGER U-PHORIA UMC202HD. 150 VST plug-ins and the Tracktion DAW. The U-Phoria UMC202HD, another audio interface in the $100 price range, is a reliable small device for all your recording requirements. It offers higher-quality MIDAS preamps and more diverse inputs than the Focusrite Scarlett, which is a charming feature given its price range.
Although not the most well-known DAW, Tracktion can be used in various composing contexts. Another pleasant perk of purchasing this interface is the availability of over 150 free plug-ins. While some contend that the Focusrite Solo has better functionality and preamps than the U-Phoria, several users have mentioned Windows device driver difficulties. However, many people have reported having no problems with Behringer’s firmware or customer support, so your experience may differ.
STEINBERG UR22 MKII
2 Combo (Microphone XLR/Line TRS) inputs, 2 Line outputs (1/4′′ TRS), headphone out, MIDI In/Out, Bus-powered, Steinberg UR22 MKII compatibility with external power. Cubase by Steinberg. Although the Steinberg UR22 MKII costs a little more than comparable products in its price bracket, it has several excellent features that make up for this. In comparison to the Behringer U-Phoria, it has two inputs and outputs. The UR22 MKII, like its competitors, includes a separate “Hi-z” button for its second line input, which prevents the preamps from being “driven” and makes it ideal for guitars and other instruments with magnetic or piezo pickups.
Your home studio will experience a significant improvement in terms of quality, use, and overall ease, thanks to all four of these beginner’s interfaces. Its functionality, pricing range, and preamp quality are all relatively comparable, notwithstanding personal preferences over which hardware is better. I prefer the MOTU gear to the others mentioned because of its recentness, sleek design, and excellent preamps, but my judgment is skewed by what my ears can hear. It depends on whether the user likes the U-Phoria firmware or the Scarlett user interfaces.
FOCUSRITE SCARLETT 4I4
Headphone out, MIDI In/Out, Bus-powered, 2 Combo (Microphone XLR/Line TRS) inputs, 2 Line TRS inputs, 4 Line outputs (1/4′′ TRS), and FOCUSRITE SCARLETT 4I4. Access to Focusrite Plug-in Collective, Red Plug-in Suite, one free XLN Addictive Keys instrument, Ableton Live Lite, Pro Tools First Creative Pack, and The Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 is incredibly popular among home studios and indie producers. It features two third-generation Scarlett preamps, four analog outputs, and two line inputs, giving analog hardware more versatility than any lower-tier interface. Scarlett’s “Air” recording option colors the preamps to produce a brighter, cleaner sound. Although many people might not be concerned with this aspect, there’s no denying that this interface looks beautiful. It has a simple design, is not overly large, and is covered in a slick red coat.
Moreover, the interface incorporates halo indicators—circles around the gain knobs that show the strength of the current input signal. If your budget permits, you might also be interested in the Focusrite Clarett 2Pre. It offers MIDI In/Out capabilities, excellent microphone preamps, higher-quality AD converters, and eight extra digital inputs through ADAT. Moreover, you can use USB-A or USB-C to connect it to your computer (cables included). You may record audio that is close to studio quality with this interface.
Hopefully, we’ve successfully negotiated the tricky terrain of audio interfaces to the point where you feel competent to instruct your grandma’s grandmother on the finer points of this crucial piece of technology. Because there are so many alternatives, choosing any audio gear can be difficult. However, armed with the knowledge from this article, you can be assured that all of your deliberations will be worthwhile once you open that shiny box and begin creating the music of your dreams.