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Which audio interface should you purchase for a home studio. (Beginners)

One of the most common questions we get at the Marshall Music Studio Department is which audio interface, or sound card, one should purchase for a home studio environment. To the beginners in this field, this can be quite an intimidating task, but not one without a solution. Here, we’re going to break down the differences between the various audio interface ranges so that you have a better understanding of what you would need for creating in the home environment.

To keep things simple, we’re only going to look at audio interfaces that house two inputs with microphone preamps and two outputs (often referred as “two channels” in layman’s terms). Not only because it is the most common format of interface used in home settings – specifically due to its balance of flexibility and costing – but also because the number of combinations that exist from changing the format and other physical feature inclusions would make this article far too long. Additionally, the ranges that we are outlining in this discussion are mainly applicable to the South African market.

An important and fortunate thing to note when getting started and purchasing your professional/ technical use products is that you will generally get what you pay for. Unlike consumer-range products, the cost of factors such as brand marketing, name and “status” of a product are far more insignificant which means you really are paying for what has been put into the product in terms of quality of performance and features.

Budget Range

This range would be characterized by interfaces such as the M-Audio M-Track Duo, the Behringer U-Phoria UMC202HD and the Presonus Audiobox 96. Interfaces in this range are a good option for those who are just starting out in recording or those who require basic performance from an interface for more of a hobby kind of purpose. These interfaces provide a solidly functional performance at an affordable cost; however, they could be considered only a temporary solution for those looking to improve over time.

Entry-Professional Range

This is probably the most populated range in this format and includes units such as the M-Audio AIR 192X6, the Presonus Studio 24C, the Audient Evo 4, the Arturia Minifuse 2 and the ever-popular Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. Interfaces such as these would be a great option for those looking to be a little more serious with the quality of their recordings or those who are looking to start presenting their recordings in a professional manner. Along with an increase of overall audio quality, these interfaces also have better longevity than those in the Budget Range. This is not only due to the higher build quality and subsequent product lifespan, but the fact that most who are purchasing in this range will likely not get to a place where they feel they need more in terms of performance. These are the type of interfaces that many will have happily for years only upgrading when absolutely necessary, such as due to a shift in technology.

Professional-Standard Range

The final range we will look at – although there are always more advanced ranges. Interfaces in this range include models like the MOTU M2, the Audient ID14mkii, the Universal Audio Devices Volt 2 and the Solid State Logic SSL2. This is the kind of range one should consider purchasing if you are looking to start producing, recording, and mixing at a consistent and satisfactory standard in a professional environment. An important improvement worth noting in this range is in microphone preamp performance, which results in higher gain capabilities, lower noise and better audible response.

Along with this, an important improvement which is often overlooked is the converter performance. The converters are responsible for translating the analog input information from your source to digital information that a computer can process and converting it back again for us to hear. Many people only focus on the preamp performance of interfaces but without having converters of equal or better quality, it would be like having the top of the range iPhone and trying to make a video call with terrible signal. This overall build improvement allows for both higher quality in tracking your audio as well as higher quality playback required for accurate and critical use needed in the professional environment.

Whatever your needs, Marshall Music has the perfect solution for you. Get in touch with our studio specialists for the best advice.