Audio Interfaces


What is an audio interface?

An audio interface is a piece of hardware that expands and improves the sonic capabilities of a computer. Some audio interfaces give you the ability to connect professional microphones, instruments and other kinds of signals to a computer, and output a variety of signals as well. In addition to expanding your inputs and outputs, audio interfaces can also greatly improve the sound quality of your computer. Every time you record new audio or listen through speakers and headphones, the audio interface will reproduce a more accurate representation of the sounds. They’re an absolutely essential component in computer-based audio production. They’re used for recording music and podcasts, and in video post production for recording voice-overs and sound design.

Why would I use an audio interface?

Audio interfaces are used when more a professional level of audio performance is required from a computer, and when one or more professional microphones, instruments and other kinds of signals need to be routed into or out of a computer.

How is an audio interface different from a sound card?

When an audio interface is used with a computer, it acts as the computer’s sound card. In this sense, an audio interface is very similar to a consumer sound card. However, the similarities end there. A good audio interface not only enables you to connect an assortment of different analog and digital signals, it also provides a more accurate digital clock and superior analog circuitry that improves the overall sound quality. You can achieve an entirely different level of audio than you would by just using the stock sound card that comes with a computer.

How does an audio interface connect to my computer?

Some audio interfaces connect to computers through common USB ports, while others use more esoteric connections like PCMCIA slots. When you’re choosing an audio interface, it’s very important to determine the specific kind of port that’s available on your computer. This will help you find an audio interface that will be compatible with your computer, and narrow down the number of possible models from which you can choose.

There are lots of audio interfaces available that connect through the USB 1.0 and USB 2.0 ports. There are also many audio interfaces that connect through FireWire ports. If you’re using a notebook computer, there are interfaces available that connect through various kinds of ExpressCard slots, and if you’re using a desktop computer, there are models that connect through a variety of PCI card slots. If you know what kind of port you’re going to use on your computer, you can start shopping for the ideal audio interface to suit your needs.

Which one is the best port to use to connect an audio interface to a computer?

This depends on your specific needs. If you plan on tracking and overdubbing with multiple microphones or instruments simultaneously, you’re better off using a high-speed port such as FireWire. If you don’t plan on recording with more than two microphones at a time, you’ll likely be fine just using a USB 1.0 interface. The more demanding your needs, the higher the bandwidth of an interface you’re going to need. The hierarchy of interface bandwidth speeds from lowest to highest goes from: USB 1.0, USB 2.0, FireWire, PCMCIA/ExpressCard, PCI.

How many inputs and outputs am I going to need on my audio interface?

That depends entirely on the kind of work you want to do with your audio interface. If you plan on recording with multiple professional microphones, you need to look for an audio interface with multiple XLR microphone inputs. If you’re going to be recording voice-overs for video production, you may need an audio interface with only a single XLR input. If you’re going to DJ with a computer, it’s a good idea to choose an audio interface with four line-level outputs (two outputs are used to send your stereo mix to the house sound system, the other two outputs are used to privately cue songs).

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What features does an audio interface need in order to connect professional mics?

If your primary need is the ability to connect microphones to a computer, you should look for an audio interface with XLR microphone inputs. Professional microphones connect with three-pin XLR jacks. XLR connectors are desirable because they lock into place and provide a more secure audio connection. An audio interface outfitted with microphone inputs will typically come with anywhere from one to eight XLR inputs.

Many audio interfaces come with jacks called “combo” inputs. This kind of jack combines a three pin XLR input with a 1/4” TRS input in one socket. Combo inputs tend to confuse people, because they look different than XLR and 1/4” TRS inputs, yet they accept both kinds of plugs. It’s important to familiarize yourself with combo inputs, so you know what they are when you’re deciding which interface to purchase.

What is “Phantom Power” and why would I need it?

Some microphones require a little flow of electricity in order to operate, while other kinds of microphones are capable of picking up sound without any power at all. Certain kinds of microphones run on batteries, while other kinds of microphones are fed power from the device that they’re plugged into. It’s called “phantom power” when the device that the microphone is plugged into supplies it with electricity. Most audio interfaces that feature mic inputs will also supply phantom power. Because only certain kinds of microphones require phantom power, audio interfaces have a switch to turn it on and off. Phantom power tends to intimidate beginners because it just sounds spooky. Fear not. Using phantom power is about as complicated as flipping a light switch to turn on a table lamp. Besides being called phantom power, it is also referred to as “+48V.”

What are line-level TRS inputs and outputs, and why would I need them?

Line-level inputs and outputs can be very useful; however, to use them properly you must first understand the distinction between mic-level and line-level. Microphones output a very weak signal. The signal is so weak that it needs to be boosted up by a preamp when connected to a mic input. Line-level audio signals are much stronger than mic-level signals, and require no additional amplification. Therefore, line-level signals need a different kind of input than microphones do.

Line-level inputs and outputs on audio interfaces usually show up as 1/4” TRS jacks or 1/4" TS jacks. 1/4” is the diameter of the plug and TRS stands for Tip, Ring and Sleeve; TS for Tip, Sleeve. TRS connections are desirable because they provide a balanced (grounded) connection, which is better at rejecting noise that long cable runs can pick up, or reducing "ground" hum. An example of when you would use line-level inputs is when you’re recording the audio from a keyboard. Most professional keyboards have stereo line-level outputs. You can connect these directly to the line-level inputs on an audio interface. When you’re connecting studio monitors (powered speakers) to an audio interface, you plug them into the line-level outputs. You can also use line-level inputs and outputs to connect external effects, compressors, limiters and all kinds of stuff. Other connectors include 3/8" mini and RCA (phono) connectors. 

What are MIDI ports, and are they important to me?

MIDI ins and outs are found on many audio interfaces. They allow you to send MIDI information into and out of a computer. If you’re not familiar with MIDI, just think of it as a simple language that enables pieces of music-oriented hardware to communicate with each other. For example, if you connect the MIDI Out of your audio interface to the MIDI In on a digital piano, you can send a command from your audio software on your computer that tells the digital piano to play a C flat.

People use MIDI ports for all kinds of things. Like in the example mentioned previously, they’re often used to connect external MIDI instruments. You could create a MIDI sequence on a synthesizer, and then bring this sequence into your audio software with the MIDI interface on your audio interface. The beauty is that the MIDI sequence is just a series of commands, so when you record it into your DAW you can completely change it and turn it into something new. MIDI ports are also used to connect hardware control surfaces, keyboard controllers and a wide range of other equipment and devices.

What are S/PDIF connectors, and why would I need them?

S/PDIF is simply a digital audio format. Just think of it as a digital version of an analog audio connection. S/PDIF stands for Sony/Phillips Digital Interconnect Format. One of the reasons S/PDIF tends to confuse people is that it’s used on different kinds of jacks. The most common kind of S/PDIF connector is a coaxial jack. Unfortunately, this just adds another layer of confusion, because a digital coaxial jack looks exactly like a common analog RCA phono jack. It gets more confusing because a single analog RCA jack can only pass a mono audio signal, while a single coaxial S/PDIF jack can pass a stereo signal. If you weren’t confused enough, the S/PDIF format can also be sent through optical TOSLINK connectors, which look nothing at all like coaxial RCA jacks.

The good news is that you don’t have to worry about any of this stuff. S/PDIF connectors are found on many audio interfaces, and they can be really useful. S/PDIF jacks usually come in pairs, with one for input and the other for output. In order to put them to use, you just need other equipment with S/PDIF input and outputs to connect to them. For example, using S/PDIF inputs and outputs is a common way to connect external effects modules.

What are ADAT connectors, and how do they help my recording?

Like S/PDIF, ADAT is just another kind of digital audio format. While S/PDIF is limited to passing stereo digital audio signals, ADAT is capable of passing eight independent channels of digital audio. This is what makes ADAT inputs and outputs such a useful thing to have on an audio interface. If an interface has an ADAT input, you can buy a separate piece of equipment that will give you eight additional XLR microphone inputs into your computer. The components to which you connect ADAT ports are sometimes referred to as “Lightpipe expanders.”

ADAT inputs and outputs tend to confuse people, too. The term ADAT used to refer to a specific kind of digital-audio media. In the 1990s, ADAT machines were a very popular kind of multi-track recorder. They recorded digital audio onto Super VHS cassettes. ADAT tapes and machines have completely disappeared from the pro audio world, but thankfully the digital format that they utilized lives on in today’s audio interfaces.

An ADAT jack is an optical connection, and fiber optic cables are used to connect ADAT Lightpipe expanders. It should be noted that the terms ADAT, Lightpipe and TOSLINK are sometimes used interchangeably. Some interfaces allow you to switch a TOSLINK connector between ADAT and S/PDIF.

What are Word Clock inputs and outputs, and why would I need them?

All digital audio equipment runs on an internal clock. The confusion about this technology kicks in right away because the clock isn’t a physical device; it’s just a series of digital pulses. Even though clocks are just digital pulses, they are not all created equal and like regular clocks, run at slightly different rates from each other. When connecting two digital devices, both need to see only one clock to avoid problems that manifest as clicks and pops in the analog audio. Higher-quality audio equipment will often come equipped with a more accurate clock. An accurate clock makes a piece of equipment sound better. Higher-quality audio interfaces will sometimes feature Word Clock inputs and outputs, so you can sync them with other equipment. Word Clock sync is not the same thing as SMPTE time code sync. The reason you sync Word Clock from device to device is to maintain the collective sonic performance of the gear. It has nothing to do with syncing sound to picture.

If you have a piece of gear that has a superior clock and a Word Clock output, you can attach it to your audio interface’s Word Clock input and assign the external clock as its master. Several pieces of gear can be synced to a single master clock. This will make every digital operation in the separate devices fire in perfect unison, and make your recordings sound better. Here’s an analogy. Picture a large farm with a massive sprinkler system running to irrigate its crops. If the sprinklers are not synced to a master clock, they will all be rotating and spraying water randomly. If the irrigation system is synced to a master clock, every sprinkler will rotate and shoot out water in prefect sync. If you had a really fine-tuned clock as the master, every droplet of water would hit the plants at the same exact moment. It’s not uncommon for an audio devotee to spend over $1,000 just on a dedicated clock for their studio.

What is “Direct Monitoring,” and is it something I should have?

Any time you record sound into a computer with an audio interface, you are going to experience some degree of “latency.” If you’re not familiar with latency, think of it as the delay in time from the moment you make a command until the moment your command is carried out. If you strike a bell with a mallet, you will hear the sound of the bell ringing instantly. However, when you need to pipe commands through a computer, things don’t happen as immediately.

When you plug a microphone into an audio interface and say “Check 1-2-3,” that sound has to travel on a long journey before you can hear it in your headphones:

  1. The sound is picked up by the capsule in the mic;
  2. Then it is sent through the mic cable into the audio interface;
  3. It’s converted into digital audio and sent to the computer;
  4. The computer routes the digital audio to the DAW audio software;
  5. The audio software receives, processes and sends it back out;
  6. The digital audio travels back to the audio interface;
  7. The audio interface converts the digital audio back into analog and sends it out to the headphones.

That’s a pretty long trip just so you can hear “Check 1-2-3” in the headphones, right? The resulting latency can sometimes distract musicians and make it difficult for them to perform. This is where the direct monitor knob comes in. When you use direct monitoring, you hear the analog audio that is being plugged directly into the interface, as opposed to hearing it after it’s been sent out to the computer and back. This nearly eliminates the latency, and makes the musician happier. Direct monitoring is usually only found on USB 1.0 audio interfaces, because their slower speed makes them more latency prone. Unfortunately, this functionality isn’t referred to as “direct monitoring” by every manufacturer. Some interfaces have direct monitoring controls, but call it by another name. If you see a USB 1.0 interface with a knob that has “mix” on one side and “computer” on the other, then it has a direct monitoring feature.  

What accessories should I get for my audio interface?

Audio interfaces often serve as the heart of a recording studio. Most of the essential tools used in a studio will be connected to the interface directly and indirectly. Of them all, powered studio monitors tend to be the most common tools used with audio interfaces. The cables will vary in length, depending on your setup, with terminations that are appropriate for each item. These might be ¼” TS to ¼’ TS, ¼” TRS to ¼” TRS, ¼” TRS to XLR, XLR to XLR, etc.

With powered monitors in place, you’ll be able to properly hear what you’re working on. When you need to monitor your work privately, a good pair of studio headphones is an essential tool.

The need to plug professional-quality microphones into a computer is the most common reason people purchase audio interfaces. Naturally, having a few good studio microphones to use with your audio interface is a good idea. Mix it up and buy a variety of mics. Having a solid dynamic microphone is a great place to start. Adding a large diaphragm condenser microphone will really expand your sonic palette and let you make good use of your phantom-power switches. Small diaphragm condenser microphones are really great for capturing cymbals and various instruments. And a ribbon mic will round out your mic collection with its ability to capture smooth mid frequencies.

The cable that you use to connect the microphone to the interface can make a difference. Spending a little more on a nicely made XLR cable usually proves to be a wise long-term investment (providing that you don’t abuse it too much).     


The Takeaway

  • Audio interfaces expand and improve the sonic capabilities of a computer.
  • They add inputs and outputs and can improve the sound quality of your computer.
  • Audio interfaces are an absolutely essential component in computer-based audio production.
  • Audio interfaces let you plug pro mics, instruments and other signals into a computer.
  • When an audio interface is used with a computer, it can act as the computer’s sound card.
  • When choosing an audio interface, it’s important to determine the specific port that’s available on your computer for its use.
  • Audio interfaces connect through USB 1.0, USB 2.0, FireWire, PCMCIA/ExpressCard and PCI.
  • Professional microphones connect with three-pin XLR jacks.
  • “Combo” inputs combine a three-pin XLR input with a 1/4” TRS input in one socket.
  • Phantom power is a little flow of electricity that powers condenser microphones.
  • 1/4" TRS connections provide a balanced connection, which can provide cleaner-sounding audio.
  • MIDI enables music-oriented hardware components to communicate with one another.
  • Just think of S/PDIF jacks as a digital version of an analog audio connection.
  • ADAT ports are capable of passing eight independent channels of digital audio.
  • Word Clock sync is not the same thing as SMPTE time code sync.
  • Latency can distract musicians and make it difficult for them to perform.


I recently got myself an Apollo Twin X Audio interface recommended to me by some friends.  I told them I wanted to do streaming and voice acting, and they said this would be perfect for anything.  In my research, game streaming is done best with a capture card.  How would one go about connecting a capture card to this, or any, interface? I hope I didn't waste my money on an impulse buy.

Hi Lorenzo - 

This is an excellent audio interface and an excellent choice, but it cannot process video. PC or console came streaming must be done with a video capture/game capture card or device. You should be abe to integrate the input audio from this interface with your video feed depending u[pon your eventual set-up.  If you have additional questions, please e-mail us:  [email protected]

This is a brilliant article—as a new kid to home recording, you've completely demystified this subject for me. Thanks.

Thanks a lot for the valuable information..Enoch goldsworth

Very helpful article for a beginner.  Please consider updating it at least annually...

Very nice article. Nicely explained and organized to be understood. I would suggest adding in the "Items discussed in article" audio interfaces themselves. 

Superb article for beginners! Great Job!

Extremely informative article and cleared up a number of terms that I misunderstood.  Thank you for sharing your knowledge, this is an essential read for anyone new to the world of audio interfaces and keen to produce music or podcasts on home computers.

Simple but informative.  B&H does a great job!  If ever in NYC visit there store; it's a candy land of electronics and equipment.

I bookmarked your excellent article!
It was very informative, even for an old salt, audio recording engineer like me.
Consider expanding this article with a couple of signal flow charts for mics, monitors,
recording systems, etc. for newbies and oldies to create a budget for a small studio.
I was still recording on dual 24-track machines running at 30-ips with pro-grade DBX
& Dolby noise reduction when Analog Video Discs and CD's came on the market.
It's certainly a different world now -- editing digitally is way cooler than splicing
a 2" master tape while the Artist & Producer are watching over your shoulder
from 15-feet away -- holding their breath, because even a first gen copy was not
an acceptable subsitute for the original by most engineers and artists.
We all wanted the CD to be as close as possible to our studio masters.
Today, the buyer is lucky if they buy something that resembles the original and
hasn't been VBR'd to death. Again thank you for your primer on digital.

thanks for the information


Could you please suggest me which type of audio interface I need yo buy  to connect my Yamaha PSR E333 portable Piano with my notebook(Dell inspiron 11 3000).  My Piano have TRS output I believe. Your suggestion must be appreciated since it will guide me to establish my own song production unit.



Hi Sudheer -

The TRS headphone output may be connected to this interface:

The Scarlett 2i2 from Focusrite is a 2 input, 2 output portable USB recording interface featuring two Focusrite preamps, housed in an anodized aluminum unibody chassis that is solid enough to take on the road. The preamps offer transparent, low-noise and low-distortion performance with sufficient available headroom for using moving coil, condenser or ribbon microphones. Phantom power is switchable.

The front-panel Neutrik combo connectors can used to connect both line and instrument level signals as well as microphones. This makes it perfect for recording the output of a synthesizer or stage piano, while a flick of a switch caters for the output of an electric or acoustic guitar. Halo signal indicators help with maintaining correct levels. Red indicates a clipping signal, and with reduced gain the lights will momentarily turn amber before returning to green.

A large monitor dial provides control over the output level being sent to monitor speakers, while a high-quality amplifier provides a clean yet loud signal to headphones. A direct monitor switch routes audio directly from the inputs to both the headphone and speaker outputs, allowing for zero-latency monitoring. The included Scarlett Plug-In suite provides EQ, compression, gate and reverb processing, and is cross-platform compatible with all major DAWs.

Light and compact portable interface that easily fits in a laptop bag
Two Focusrite microphone preamps (same design as those on the Saffire PRO 40 and Liquid Saffire 56)
Excellent digital performance with 24-bit resolution at sample rates of up to 96KHz
Rugged anodized aluminum unibody chassis provides protection against the harsh environment of the road
Bus powered - no need of an additional power supply
Includes Ableton Live Lite 8 software, as well as the company's Scarlett plug-in suite providing EQ, compression, gate and reverb and compatible with all major DAWs
Gain knobs with surrounding halo indicators for each input (red indicates a too hot signal)
Direct monitor switch on the front panel allows for hearing what is being recorded through speakers or headphones, without the signal having to go through the computer (avoids latency)

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  [email protected]

Thank you Mark.

I will contact you via e-mail for further assistance.



Dear Mark,

How about Behringer XENYX Q802USB.



Hi Sudheer -

The Behringer Xenyx Q802USB Premium 8-Input 2-Bus Mixer is a great little mixer, but it is not a true audio interface for use with your computer.  It will not integrate as smoothly with your DAW and not offer the best performance overall when compared to the Focusrite device I recommended above..

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  [email protected]

I'm interested in knowing more about the Tascam UH-7000 USB 2.0 Interface.

I hear that it has DSP and includes a compressor, EQ, Reverb, etc., and has superior quality. I would use it strictly for voice recordings.  My concern is: Can you hear

via a headset the compressor, or EQ being tweaked as you are talking and will the final setting be recorded onto a DAW audio track versus adding effects after the recording?  If this is possible it would eliminate having to have another piece of equipment ala channel strip in the chain.  I would like to use a Shure SM7B which the Tascam should have enough output to drive it - I hope.  Look to hear from you regarding this.  Thank you!  Phil

Hi Phil -

You should not need any additional hardware with the Tascam UH-7000 as it's preamp stage will play nicely with the Shure SN7B

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  [email protected]

Very thorough article.... So, I thought you might be best to answer a question I have not found answered on the web. What could cause a 4 input audio interface to only signal in the first 2 channels? It's connected via usb to an i7 core computer. I've tried changing cables, mikes, instruments, skipping inputs, changing power options... the last 2 input channels just don't register sound in the Adobe flash media live encoder 3.2 but the interface unit does indicate that it registers sound. Got any ideas?

Hi Gato -

The solution may be very straightforward once we know more about your set-up. Let us know what OS and version you are using; interface brand and model; and the drivers you have installed. Please e-mail us at the address below:

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  [email protected]

Audio Interface

Good job

absolutely best article.. Thanks :)

Amazing information very friendly and understandable

it nice

I just want to transfer an audio cassette on to my Mac 10.9.4 using garageband program so that I can burn to CD to use in my car.

need help,just a rookie.

Thanks in advance.

Hi Larry -

If you have access to a cassette player you can use the Behringer UCA202 an ultra-compact, bus-powered interface that can link a Windows or Mac computer with any audio gear. There is no setup or special drivers needed.

The interface provides two analog inputs and outputs, as well as an additional S/PDIF optical output for direct digital conversion. The stereo headphone output with dedicated level control allows for monitoring both input and output.

The U-CONTROL download area at Behringer's website offers a huge software package for recording and editing making the interface a complete audio solution, which provides a connection between the analog and digital domain.

Ultra-flexible audio interface connects instruments, mixer etc. with a computer for recording and playback
High-resolution 48kHz converters for high-end audio quality
Works with a PC or Mac - no setup or drivers required
Stereo headphone output with dedicated level control allows for monitoring both input and output
Additional S/PDIF optical output for direct digital conversion
Powered via USB bus - no external power supply needed
Free audio recording and editing software downloadable at
If you need a playback cassette deck the TAPE 2 PC from Ion is a high-quality dual cassette deck that allows you to easily convert your favorite tapes to MP3 files for use with your personal media player. Simply connect the TAPE 2 PC to your Mac or Windows computer via USB, and use the included software to convert the tape.
The TAPE 2 PC can also be used as a standard cassette deck in your home entertainment system. Use the included RCA cables to connect to your stereo system for listening in your living room, den, or bedroom.

Note! TAPE 2 PC requires you to download and install Apple iTunes in order to convert your music into MP3 files.

Tape to MP3
The TAPE 2 PC uses a standard USB 1.1 connection to connect to your Mac or PC to convert your favorite tapes into MP3 music files.
EZ Tape Converter 2 for PC Software
The EZTC2 software allows Windows users to convert their tapes quickly, and also includes Gracenote MusicID technology to automatically retrieve album, artist, and song information. 1
EZ Audio Converter for Mac Software
The EZAC software allows Mac users to convert their tapes easily. The software also lets you enter track information. 2
Home Stereo
Use the included stereo RCA cable to use the TAPE 2 PC with your home stereo system.
Dual Cassette Deck
The TAPE 2 PC features two cassette decks. Both can be used for playback, and Deck B may also be used for recording, great for dubbing tapes, or recording external sources to tape.
Tape Type Selector
The Metal/CrO2 selector provides optimal playback, depending on the type of cassette tape used.
The front-panel display shows audio meters and lets you know the record and dubbing status. A tape counter is also provided.

If you have additional questions  -  please let us know at:  [email protected]

Hi Author of this great article. I hope you can help me here. I have a M-Audio interface (Fast Track). I also have Guitar rig software. Every this is working fine when I use the headphone connection of the M-Audio interface (I mean I can hear clear sound when using head phone connection of M-Audio interface). I mean sound is very clear and OK through head phone of the interface. But when I use the RCA cable connected to studio monitor it does not sound good (through there is sound but it's very low).

I checked every set up but can't help. Can you please tell me how could I get a clear sound in my monitors through the studio monitor speakers.

Kind Regards


Hi Raj -

The interface offers very little gain for the monitors.  Make sure your cables are intact and not damaged and the volume is adjusted on your active monitors.

If you have additional questions  -  please let us know at:  [email protected]

wao!! it is really a mind blowing, my knownlegde have been upgraded the more on sound recording and audio interface, thanks so much Am so greatfull this is so fantastic, I love this.

Can you please tell me, what sound card or interface I need?
My band and I are recording live, using an ADAT recorder.
I need to get the music from the ADAT tape, to my Computer as music files, but I have no idea what sound card or interface I need.
Thank you to advise!
Best regards,
Hank Smith

Hi Hank -

The Scarlett 18i8 USB 2.0 Audio Interface from Focusrite features 18 inputs and 8 outputs, including 4 front-panel microphone preamps on XLR/TRS combo inputs. Each of the microphone inputs doubles as a line input; the first 2 even triple as switchable Hi-Z instrument inputs. The 18i8 is compatible with Mac, PC and iPad - requires an Apple Camera Connection Kit, sold separately.

The Scarlett 18i8 is capable of resolutions up to 24-bit/96kHz and features a wide range of connectivity. Its 4 front microphone inputs can provide up to 60dB of gain and have switchable Phantom power. The rear panel has 4 additional 1/4" TRS line inputs as well as an 8-channel ADAT Lightpipe connection and a stereo S/PDIF input. The 18i8 also provides MIDI input and output jacks.

If you have additional questions  -  please let us know at:  [email protected]

I was just wondering if anyone might know why I am not able to hear my recording at all unless I have my audio interface hooked up?  I recorded something earlier with my keyboard via audio interface.....then later tried to listen to it with just my laptop's built-in speakers and wasn't able to hear a thing (my software even notified me that I wouldn't be able to hear it unless I connected my audio interface).  Is there any way I could change it to where I can hear it on my laptop too?  I even tried exporting the song to a file and tried to play it and got nothing.  Thanks so much to anyone who helps!

Hi Hayl -

This is not an unusual occurrence with older versions of ProTools and other DAWs.  Please contact the manufacturer of your interface and/or DAW for details and a possible work around.

If you have additional questions  -  please let us know at:  [email protected]

Hi Sam

Thank you for the great info. We have a TAscam US 1640 and are working with a new MAcbook on Logic Pro.

Does it matter if you turn the Tascam interface on forst or the computer? 





Hi Jon -

Your computer should be on.  Then connect the interface via  the USB cable.  Then switch the interface on.

If you have additional questions  -  please let us know at:  [email protected]

This overview of recording equipment was very useful to me, a "newbie" in the voiceover biz. It was explained so that even I, someone who is not tech savvy, could understand it, and it helped me decide on just what I need to purchase.

Thanks so much!


I use Cubase 7.5 as DAW and want to connect two audiointerfaces with ADAT. I have a RME Multiface and a Steinberg MR 816. I want to use the RME as master. What must I do?



Hi Marc -

Please e-mail us at this address so we can communicate directly:   [email protected]

Nice article and info on audio interfaces, and very helpful..

Recording guitar through a Line6 UX1 interface to computer and it has just 1/4" TRS/TS jacks for connecting in to it.. And in this endeavor, I find it would be useful to connect one of the Analog outs on the audio interface (line6 UX1) to the computer's sound card which has those S/Pdif ins/outs and they are easily selectable in the software controls, to use for whatever, like monitoring the guitar sound, hopefully without latency. So I'm wondering which S/Pdif connector/patch cable to use for meshing in with the UX1 to computer. The sound card on this computer is a SoundBlaster X Fi

The only other way to do that without latency (in my recent experience), is using the Mic input which is 3.5mm jack on the back of the sound card/ rear of computer, and setting the line/mic on the software controls for the sound card to "mic" rather than "line" and then the monitor dial on the audio interface will work right and there isn't any latency at all. But I want to try the S/Pdif connector instead since it is supposed to be better sounding than the 3.5mm mic input on the computer sound card, but will need the correct S/Pdif cable with a connection that can go in a 1/4 jack on the recording interface. There is a /stereo monitor in/ on the UX1 but it hasn't put out any sound to the computer so far when connecting like the analog outs have done on the UX1, using my current equipment the way it is..

Hi Dan -

Consider using this device for the conversion you are proposing:

The GTV-DD-2-AA GefenTV Digital Audio Decoder from Gefen accepts audio encoded in Dolby Digital (at up to 5.1 channels) from your multi-channel S/PDIF or TOSLINK digital audio source and converts it to L/R analog audio. It allows you to listen to digital audio sources, such as DVD & CD players or digital computer audio, on your legacy analog sound system. Plug-and-play installation means no special configuration or software are required.

You will need cables as well:

The HPR-003X2 Dual 1/4" TS Male to Dual RCA Male Stereo Audio Cable (3') from Hosa Technology is a professional audio cable that is ideal for touring and live sound applications where a device with stereo unbalanced 1/4" outputs needs to be connected to a device with stereo RCA phono inputs. The cable has top-quality REAN connectors for excellent durability and superior signal transfer.

This Hosa DRA-500 Series S/PDIF Cable can be used with any digital device connection that supports the S/PDIF standard on a 75 ohm coaxial connection. This series features gold plated RCA connectors and spring strain-relief.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  [email protected]


3/6/14 Don't know if this is still viewed, but just got a Steinberg Sequel 3 prgram and need an audio interface.  this was extremely helpful.  would an electci guitar be considered mic level or line level, no power or effects on the guitar, at least initially.  Effectds in he loop would definately bump it up to line level, correct?  Once again, thanks a lot for the useful complete primer on this digital stuff, Mark

Hi Mark -

A guitar is considered "Low-Z" and interfaces usually offer this input for guitars and other insrtruments.  It is not a Mic or a Line output

The UR22 from Steinberg is a two input, two output USB 2.0 audio interface that features dual D-PRE microphone preamps coupled with 24-bit/192 kHz converters. The portable device is housed in an all metal chassis and also functions as a MIDI interface, allowing for connection of external MIDI devices. With a dedicated high- impedance switch, a separate headphones jack and phantom power supply, the unit is perfect for mobile musicians, touring DJs, or the small personal writing studio.

A Hi-Z switch on input two allows for direct recording of electric guitar or bass without the need of a DI box. Latency-free hardware monitoring is available and a Mix knob allows for blending the direct signal and the output of the host. Independent headphones and main output controls provide for adjusting the monitor and phones level individually.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  [email protected]

Hi Gary -

The AudioBox 22VSL from PreSonus is a portable 2 input/2 output USB 2.0 audio and MIDI interface that allows for monitoring with low-latency effects. It features two combo microphone/instrument inputs with Class-A XMAX microphone preamps, and ships with Studio One Artist DAW software.

The compression, limiting, semi-parametric EQ, high-pass filter, reverb, and delay effects are the same as found on the company's StudioLive 16.0.2 mixer. Additionally, the AudioBox Virtual Studio- Live "kernal mode" cuts monitoring latency to under 2 1/2 milliseconds, which is virtually inaudible.

The unit is USB bus-powered and housed in a ruggedly built, metal chassis. Phantom power can be switched globally. Clip lights are provided for both channels

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  [email protected]


I just bought an M-Track M Audio with 2 inputs, which means I can use 2 equipments simultaneously. Oh, and it also has MIDI input and output. I mainly use it for vocals and guitar. From my computer, when I plug in my interface, it detects 2 input sources, mono1, and mono2. So there's no problem there if I want to sing and play my guitar simultaneously.

However, if say, I want to connect a drum or a keyboard using MIDI input, can my computer track all three of the inputs at the same time? or should I just have to do it the old school way, by recording it one by one? I'd search for the info far and wide but still can't get the answer.

First off, thanks for a great article. I hope I can get some answers regarding 1. How to get my speaker monitors to hook up to my computer, 2. How to hook up home recording for keyboard, vocal, guitar?.
I have Mac Pro and mac book. I have studio monitor speakers-BUT they require power source, they are studio monitor speakers that require Pre amp power, ( any pre amp recommendations please) so what piece of equipment needed to go from monitor speakers>Pre amp>??>??>?? Mac book . This set up would be for " core audio", so I can edit audio thru various audio editors (peak, adobe audition, GarageBand, etc) and be sble to listen to playback through monitor speakers. Second set up would be one say to record electric guitar via amp>??>??>??>mac? So I mic the guitar amp then run mic XLR cable to>??>??>> to get sound of amp recorded thru speakers via mac book? I really enjoy shopping at B and H so I just started to read some of the tutorials.

Please advise

Thank you

Здравствуйте! Помогите пожалуйста с выбором саундкарты или интерфейса! У меня программа"Samplitude Musik Studio MX" на ноутбуке Asus в Vista! Мне необходимо записывать аранжировки с кейборда Roland G-70 Workstation,чтобы сохранялись теже звуки. Плюс записывать инструменты и голос с конденсаторных и со студийных микрофонов ! Что бы Вы мне посоветовали ? Я заранее благодарен ! Так как в технических параметрах не силён ! Знаю только про Usb2! И что саундкарты работают не со всеми программами .Еще раз спасибо!с уважением Александр .


Hello! Help please with the choice soundcard or interface! I program "Samplitude Musik Studio MX" on the Asus in Vista! I need to write arrangements with keybord Roland G-70 Workstation, saved to cover those sounds. Plus record instruments and voice with condenser and with studio microphones! What would you advise me? I am thankful in advance! Since the technical parameters is not strong! I only know about Usb2! And that saundkart not work with all programs. Thanks again! Respectfully Alexander.

Very good article finally, a great read. I learnt many things.

I bought a Shure microphone (PG58) for recording vocals but realised I need an audio interface to link the output to macbook pro. I have Sony STRDH820 AV receiver, wondering if it can work as audio interface? If yes, how I set it up? As it seems it doesn't have an XLR input.

I do not have big budget at this beginning stage to spend on an expensive audio interface. My aim is to set-up a home studio. If the answer to above Q is no, could you suggest if iRig microphone interface (under 20 quid), ll maintain the quality of my shure microphone when connected to macbook.


Hi ! Sorry to bother hopefully I can get this issue solved. I have a Scarlett 2i2 and when all set up with mic and headphones I can hear sound from mic but not sounds from the computer, like the instrumental of the song or any computer sound for that matter! Also: I messed around with setting on both DAW and interface as well as computer sound (widows7) earlier to get rid of latency. first I couldn't get the latency regardless of direct monitor switch. Now I got the latency to stop but now I can't hear nothing through the headphones except sound of mic only when the direct monitor switch is on! In off position I can't hear a sound!! Any ideas please???!

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