When it comes to what equipment is needed to get started building out your home studio nothing will cause more arguments then which audio interface to buy

There are just so many options available that the whole genre of equipment just blurs together into one big spaghetti bowl

Each of the choices has a number of different options available that may or may not be critical to you

Almost everyone has a preference and that’s what most people will use as a way to advise you on your choice

The reality is a $100 Interface with two inputs into outputs may be just what you need if all you’re doing is recording some basic live instrument tracks

If you’re looking to record multiple instruments in a live setting then you’re going to need a unit with a decent amount of inputs and outputs

So let’s dig in and look at your options

5 Major Features of the Audio Interface

Because audio interfaces have so many different options it’s hard to know which of these matters and what do not

So let’s focus on the main features to consider In an Audio Interface

1. DAW Compatibility
2. Interface Connectors
3. Input/Output (I/O) Count
4. Input Channel Types
5. Size, Shape and Configuration

This is the reason

1) Daw/ Interface Compatability

Manufacturers of these products have gotten smarter in recent years

They have abandoned proprietary root many electronics manufacturers have mistakenly applied in the past

Most DAW interfaces are compatible with most DAW’s

There are exceptions, and song interfaces have plug-and-play features that are only accessible when matched with specific DAW’s

Steinberg/Cubase and Digidesign/Protools comes to mind

However, this is a digression from the main topic

Just make sure that before you choose which interface to buy you do a little homework and make sure that it’s compatible with your DAW of choice

I personally prefer Systems that were created by the maker of you’re DAW.

For many years I have used Steinbergs MR 816 Interfaces. These are not manufactured anymore but the pair that I have are still working perfectly.

A testament to the build quality of these units.

It’s not absolutely necessary to match these components but there are some added benefits if you choose to do so.

The combination unit has some features that allow for very quick connectivity and workflow options which save a lot of time and frustration

2) Interface Connectors

So you want to connect your interface to Your computer…

That would be a big help LOL

Here are some the typical cable options available today

A) USB – this used to be the norm for cheaper systems but many of the newer systems that her USB compatible are pretty darn solid

B) Firewire – this has now gone by the wayside you may still find Systems that can utilize FireWire with an adapter

C) Thunderbolt – this has replaced FireWire his recent years but it is adaptable to Firewire

D) PCIE – mainly utilized by professional-level interfaces and offers very fast data transfer and optimal processing power

The main consideration here comes down to what type of computer you are using

For most people starting out USB is probably going to get them where they need to go

In fact, on a personal level, Steinberg no longer produces a Thunderbolt option.

If I were to upgrade I would have to switch from FireWire to USB

3) Input/Output Count on Your Interface

The range of possibilities for output account on most interfaces can range from 1 to 2 inputs all the way up to 64+

The only consideration here comes down to how many instruments you want to record at a time

For example, if you are recording drums live you will likely need I’m Minimum of eight and the likely more like 16 inputs to do this properly

For a full band recording live, 16 inputs would be preferred

Even on electronic drums, that could be output in stereo, might better be utilized buy outputting all of the various drums individually to their own separate tracks

This will give you far more flexibility at the next stage

4) Input Channel Types

If you’re new to all this….. pay attention

Here is something that’s very easy to overlook

Just because a spec sheet says something that has 16 outputs…

Not all outputs are created equally

There are three different types

A) Mic Input – this allows you to connect a microphone to the interface
B) Line input – a line input requires a preamp if you want to use a microphone on this type of input
C) Optical Input – this is a digital input which requires not only an outboard mic preamp but also the digital analog converter to be used as a mic channel. These are commonly used to “chain” systems together as well

What this really all boils down to is that just because pay spec sheet says you have 16 inputs or outputs you may in fact have far less due to the restrictions of areas types of inputs listed above

It might paid to ask some questions in a audio recording form how About some of these concepts and limitations before you make your ultimate choice

5. Size, Shape and Configuration

If you’re just buying hey two input To output interface you are likely yes going to set it on a desk

If you currently own a gear rack you may want to get a rack mount style interface.

This will be a far more tidy option leaving your desk less cluttered

If you’re just starting out and recording a few basic instruments  a 2-channel interface will do just fine

There’s really no difference in the quality of the recorded signal between a two-channel or 16 channel interface of the same make.

Best Desktop Interfaces

If you’re like most people reading this, you will only need an inexpensive interface to start recording at home

A 2-8 channel Desktop interface, ranging in price from $100 at the bottom end of the range to as high as $1500 at the top end Will be the most likely choice initially

The top Brands currently include Presonus, Steinberg, Avid and AU Audio

Presonus Audiobox ( USB Style)

Focusrite Scarlett (USB connection)
Focusrite Clarett (Thunderbolt connection)
Apogee (USB connection)

Avid (USB connection)
Universal Audio (Thunderbolt connection)

More Options?
Best Rackmounted Interfaces

Universal Audio

Antelope Audio
“Professional” Interfaces