[noob question] Do I need an audio interface? What should I be looking at?

Discussion in 'GEAR Talk Forum' started by whiskers, Dec 6, 2018.

  1. whiskers

    whiskers Domo arigato, power legato.

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    I'm pretty sure the answer to the first question is yes. Let me attempt to explain my current setup concisely. I'm hoping you all might be able to point me in the right direction, seems there's so many options out there.
    Ideal budget - 250$ or under

    * Sennheisher HD598
    * 2x JBL LSR305 Monitors
    * MIDI over USB from keyboard to host PC
    * Mic attached to headphones going to mic in jack on PC (not used for music)

    I absolutely love the sound of both my speakers and headphones, but notice (I think due to some EM noise in my motherboard and the amps in the LSRs?) a light hiss/static from the LSRs when 'at rest' and not playing anything. Occasionally they'll be quite noisy if i'm playing a video or a game, but fortunately not when in Cubase.

    The only instrument I'm really using is the MIDI controller, so it's not like I have to jack in a mic or guitar. In that way I don't feel like it's a strict need right now, but was wondering about it. Seems like even composers of orchestral/instrumental music have them, so I'm sure there's some kind of benefit.

    Would the MIDI controller be still routed to the PC, or would it go through the interface? I'd like to find an interface that allows you to switch between both the monitors and the headphones, or even more idea, allows you to separately control the volume of each.

    If you're feeling rather gracious, I'd love an explanation of 'why' to chose 'what' in an interface, but i know that's a bit of a vague question. Seems like some Behringers, Focusrite, or Steinbergs may fit the bill?

    Thanks in advance for any information :)
     
  2. MarcelM

    MarcelM Senior Member

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    i have the same speakers, and they sound fantastic with the audient id22, focusrite forte or my new old apogee duet firewire. id suggest you get the audient id22 (used). you absolutely need an interface alone for the balanced output. a used focusrite forte will also do very very nice, and all of the interfaces are better than the behringer or steinberg ones.

    you will hear quite alot more detail and more depth.

    my midi controller is connected through usb.
     
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  3. OP
    OP
    whiskers

    whiskers Domo arigato, power legato.

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    Thanks for your input!

    curious as to why you think that?

    Directly to your PC with your DAW, I assume?
     
  4. MarcelM

    MarcelM Senior Member

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    yes. i had steinberg, behringer, audient, focusrite, apogee and some more interfaces.

    up to 1k$ there is nothing what beats the audient id 22 when it comes to dac/adc, and the focusrite forte really gets close. tascam uh 7000 also very good and so is the focusrite clarett (forte has same converters afaik)
     
  5. dzilizzi

    dzilizzi I know nothing

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    Yes, you should probably have an interface. PC soundcards are not usually very good. With a Mac you might get away with it because the core audio is actually good. I'd recommend an RME Babyface if you could afford it. Just need it for your mic and speakers out. Very low latency.

    That said, I am fairly happy with my Focusrite 6i6, though I get BSD sometimes when I update stuff. And I have a Digi MBox2 mini that actually works well for its age.
     
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  6. OP
    OP
    whiskers

    whiskers Domo arigato, power legato.

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    could I afford it? Yeah, technically. Just seems a lot for my untrained ears, when I don't yet even know what I need :)

    Why did you opt for the 6i6 vs some of the lower models? Do you plug in instruments and play in tracks? Or was there some other reasoning (like better components)?

    Cheers :3
     
  7. MarcelM

    MarcelM Senior Member

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    if you are on mac you can really consider the old apogee firewire duet if your budget is somewhat limited. i picked one up for 50 eur and its really really good. better than steinberg ur22 etc.

    the babyface has best latency, thats true but the audient sounds quite alot better. i didnt have the babyface pro though, but that one is like 700 or 800 bucks.
     
  8. dzilizzi

    dzilizzi I know nothing

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    I wanted to plug in 2 mics. And I wanted the ability to expand if needed.
     
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  9. OP
    OP
    whiskers

    whiskers Domo arigato, power legato.

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    I'm on PC, but thanks :). Looking for USB only.
     
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  10. dzilizzi

    dzilizzi I know nothing

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    This is a good thread to go through if you are looking at buying an audio interface:

    https://www.gearslutz.com/board/mus...erface-low-latency-performance-data-base.html

    I think there are a couple inexpensive ones that aren't bad - i.e. good to start with. I don't know if I would recommend the Focusrite Solo. Although it would probably be enough, the only output jacks are RCA ones. And a headphone jack. It is my travel one, so I didn't need speakers with it.

    The latency can be bothersome when you are looking a wave forms to try to find a sound and the scrolling thing is not matching to what you are hearing. Otherwise, when you record, use the direct monitor and you won't notice anything.
     
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  11. jbuhler

    jbuhler Senior Member

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    I like to think of the audio interfaces as part of the mystical arts of this business. My theory on these mystical arts is you address them when things don't seem right. If you are happy with the sound you are getting and if your mixes seem to transfer well to other systems, then why worry about it? That said, a basic interface would likely sound better than your current set-up, and it would take both headphones and monitors and allow you to have different volume controls for each, but look carefully at the options because some make these controls more straightforward than others. (I started with a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 that someone recommended to me when I was a noob at this, and it has nice separate controls for both headphones and monitors, with easy access to the headphone jack.) In any case, once you get a basic audio interface and find what you like and don't like about your set up—you start to record a lot of live music, or you find you need lower latency, or decide it would be nice to send reverbs or do other processing on a different machine to take some of the load off the computer, or you add surround channels, or you need more complex routing, etc.—you can look at higher priced interfaces to handle what you need.
     
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  12. ka00

    ka00 Senior Member

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    That’s what I bought as well about a year ago. Still does the trick for me.
     
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  13. bill5

    bill5 Senior Member

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    ? For what? He's totally in the MIDI world.

    Not really.

    Not really. :)

    To each their own, but I'd rather buy new vs getting something you really can't be sure of in terms of how good of shape it's in, it's age etc. And having used all, IMO there is no real diff in quality of the Behringers (of today) and Steinburgs to Focusrite or Audient.
     
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  14. MarcelM

    MarcelM Senior Member

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    there is a huge difference, or someone has bad ears. i have had them all and an audient id22 beats any steinberg or behringer by far.
     
  15. silverlight7

    silverlight7 Active Member

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    Just curious, is an audio interface (even a Focusrite 2i2) significantly better than a stock IDT High Definition Audio card in a laptop? Will I notice a big difference on my Focal Alpha 80's?

    The Audient id22 is a little expensive for me at the moment -- will the Focusrite 2i2 suffice?
     
  16. MarcelM

    MarcelM Senior Member

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    it will. i dont know how much since i didnt have the 2i2, but ofcourse usually audio interfaces have better DAC than onboard soundchips. you may consider the audient id14 maybe.
     
  17. dzilizzi

    dzilizzi I know nothing

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    I think the biggest problem for a PC is ASIO is not a normal driver for sound cards. ASIO4ALL works okay but you can get some errors and crashes using it. So an external sound card with and ASIO driver is needed. Most DAWs prefer ASIO on a PC. Windows sound drivers are not usually able to handle the work of most DAWs as well as an ASIO driver. This may have changed but I doubt it.

    If you buy a MAC, you don't really need the external audio device because the core audio driver is the Mac's version of ASIO.
     
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  18. storyteller

    storyteller Senior Member

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    “Huge” is relative to how well you train your ears. To me, an outboard DAC is the first thing I take care of. If you know what to listen for, you will realize how different it sounds than a stock motherboard DAC. If you want to explore *how* it sounds differently, listen for “squishiness” compared to “openness and clarity.” Typically it is most prominently noticeable in the sibilant areas.
     
  19. OP
    OP
    whiskers

    whiskers Domo arigato, power legato.

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    Thanks for the thoughts so far, folks. Will continue to consider which one to get
     
  20. MartinH.

    MartinH. Senior Member

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    Haven't read all replies. Just wanted to say imho the main reason to get a dedicated audio interface over a regular consumer soundcard (be it internal, onboard chip or external) is that the professional ones all should come with asio drivers that offer lower latency, which is important for recording midi or guitars with live effects on them. I'm quite happy with my small Focusrite (don't know which one exactly I have, it's on the lower end for sure), and I'd recommend to stay away from the NI Komplete Audio one, had a lot of trouble with that and sold it on ebay. There were threads about the issue on forums, but no fix. Never had the same issues with my Focusrite interface.
     

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