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8. Which is Best for Me?

Let’s look at the most important questions you should be asking yourself when considering an audio interface:

What do I want to attach?

This will have a large influence on your choice. If you have microphones then you need an interface with microphone inputs, if you have a guitar then you need instrument inputs and so on. If you want to incorporate a mixer then that changes your requirements, as you won’t need mic preamps on the audio interface. If you have a digital mixer with ADAT outputs, then you’ll need an ADAT input on the interface.

How do I work?

If you work alone, recording one thing at a time, then you won’t need many inputs. However, if you work with bands or multiple signals, then you’ll need lots of inputs for multitrack recording. If you prefer to mix on an analogue mixer, then you’ll need lots of outputs from the computer. If, however, you prefer to automate mixes inside the computer, then a stereo output for monitoring may be all you need.

What do I have already?

Consider your existing gear and how it may be used with the interface. You may already have good quality outboard mic preamps, or perhaps you’ve got gear with digital outputs that you want to integrate. You may also find that an audio interface and a computer will render some of your equipment redundant – such is the march of progress.

How am I going to use the interface?

You should consider whether you need something portable, or whether this is something that is going to be permanently wired into your studio? If you will be doing projects in surround sound, you will need the right amount of outputs for a surround monitoring system? Do you use your computer for other things such as games or home theatre that might affect your choice? If you need to have the connections freely available in front of you, then an external audio interface is essential. However, if you prefer everything neatly connected and out of the way, then a PCI based interface with a ‘loom’ of cables might be better.

PCI-Card with a external connection box

Which bus suits me best?

If you are running a laptop then that restricts you to Firewire/USB and ExpressCard/PCMCIA. With a desktop computer then you are open to all options, provided your computer has the appropriate socket.

Any future changes?

The way your studio might evolve in future should also be considered. Will you have enough inputs, or are you able to add more interfaces to expand at a later date? It’s not a good idea to try to combine two different interfaces – the ASIO driver standard doesn’t support it, and it generally doesn’t work very well. Some audio interfaces allow you to use more than one of the same type simultaneously in order to stack them up – their drivers are written so that ASIO sees them as a single device.

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