Audio Interfaces ... share your wisdom ... what should someone new know?

Want to talk about music hardware or software that doesn't include Reason?
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Post 25 May 2021

I've noticed that even the sub $50 audio interfaces can get pretty low latency and a decent noise floor for microphone inputs.

But there are things to watch out for.

1. (real) ASIO support

Some audio interfaces just rely on ASIO4All. This means you cannot play audio while using Reason or any DAW on Windows unless you switch to using the high latency DX drivers or AsioLink.

2. Driver and device stability (especially with cheaper cards)

Some of the cheaper cards are just not stable or lose hardware stability quickly. It might be that all of a sudden you cannot use the line input, or it suffers from frequent dropouts or something.

3. Driver support (Windows)

Be careful buying older cards made before 2016. They might not have Windows 10 support. Some cards will still work with drivers for older versions of Windows though, but you'll have to search around.

4. Latency

It's better now, but some cards have slightly higher latency than others, and I've found it is noticeable. Again, cheap cards have gotten much better at this (e.g. M-Track solo and Behringer).

After too many bad experiences, I'm not keen on sub $100 cards. Besides, you can get really good ones for $150-200. There's the SSL and Presonus (which I've just ordered). There's also the Focusrite ones and a few other notable brands.

The Behringer ones are pretty good despite relying on Asio4All.

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Post 25 May 2021

Somebody new maybe doesn't think about what they may need in the future. How many inputs will they need later on? What about midi? Things like that could mean nothing to some but a year or two they will be looking for a new interface that provides these things they didn't consider when purchasing their first interface.

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Post 25 May 2021

Agreed with not buying anything less than $150. But everything else quality wise (save Audient) from $100-$300 is about equal. I found my ID14 to have considerably better fidelity than my 1st gen Focusrite Scarlett. While the new Scarletts are proposed to be super low latency, spec wise it looks like you have to be recording at 96K in order to really experience it. Otherwise the difference from anything else at normal sample rates is only about a millisecond.

Inputs are probably not that important for most. Unless you’re tracking bands or intend to build an analog synth collection you’ll likely never need more that 1-2 inputs. You can get better quality for the same money with less inputs.

Digital inputs on the other hand can be fun though. Using Spdif (toslink/adat) for running audio out of a PS3 to my monitors was pretty cool for the time I was doing it.

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