In this guide, we will show you the most straight-forward steps can take to connect your audio interface to computer or laptop.
Quite frankly, if you want to record audio from a condenser or dynamic mic to your computer, your best option is to use an audio interface. The reason is you can never connect your microphone to your computer directly unless you are using a USB microphone. Unless you don’t mind having lower sound quality using your laptop/computer’s internal sound card to process the audio signal from the USB mic.
The audio interface converts analog signals to digital signals for computer use. Hence, the audio interface comes in handy if you want to record your voice or your musical instrument to your PC and edit the audio signals afterward. To connect your audio interface to your PC, you also need to select the right audio interface, devices, and software.
Steps on Connecting the Audio Interface to Your Computer
Since the computer works only on digital signals, you need an audio interface to convert the analog signals of your mics, guitars, and other instruments into digital signals before your computer can work on these signals. To get your audio interface and computer connection right, you can follow the following useful steps on how to connect the audio interface to your PC/laptop:
Step 1: Choose the Right Connecting Cable
The audio interface belongs to external peripherals that you can connect to your PC. To connect the audio interface, you will need cables. Your computer, too, should have stereo inputs to connect it to an interface with stereo outputs. You can also connect your audio interface to your PC and these cables via FireWire cable, USB cable, and Thunderbolt cable.
Each of these cables requires plugging into your computer to let your audio interface communicate with your PC. So, you can choose from any of these three cables. Your choice, of course, will also depend on the type of audio interface you would select.
It will be useful to note that all devices connected to your PC or laptop can be referred to as an audio interface. Even a USB-connected mic is also an audio interface. Nevertheless, if you want to raise your recording quality a notch higher, you would need a quality audio interface.
Depending on your needs, you can choose an audio interface with inputs and outputs that address your needs for inputs and outputs. Inputs let you connect your mic and instruments to your audio interface. These inputs usually make use of standard sized jacks like the 1/4″ jacks.
Most audio interfaces come with two outputs for their stereo audio output. With these outputs, you can connect your interface to your computer. Yet, if your laptop doesn’t come with a stereo input, you need to select an interface that comes with USB, Thunderbolt, or FireWire connections.
Nevertheless, if you want to enhance your audio recording quality further, you need to consider buying an interface that comes with PCI express output. With this feature, you can directly connect your interface to high-end soundcards using PCI express connection, which results in the reduction of latency, giving you an instantaneous recording.
Step 2: Setting Up Your Operating System
Once you’ve zeroed in on the connecting cables you will use, you can then select the audio interface for your operating system. If you’re OS is Windows, you can click on the Start menu and select Control Panel. Afterward, click on Hardware and Sound, and then click on Sound. Then, you can tinker with the Playback and the Recording tabs.
If you are using Mac, move your cursor to the top left of the menu bar. Click the Apple. Then, click on System Preferences, then Sound. Then, you can tinker with the Output and Input tabs.
If you are always on the go, you might as well set to memorize navigation to these settings because, more often, you will be navigating back to these settings. You will click on your preferred audio interface in the Output and Input tabs once you are all set to record.
If you want to use your headphones to monitor your recording, you can choose headphones as your output. You can also select the interface as your output and then use your headphone jack with your external monitors.
Step 3: Connect the Equipment after Installing the Software
Once all the pieces of equipment are set, you can install the editing software and the software that comes with your audio interface. The interface software may come with drivers to enable your PC to recognize connected hardware.
Once you have installed your software, you can connect the interface to your PC. Your connection, of course, will depend on your audio interface. You will need to hook the stereo output of the interface to the sound card’s stereo jacks. Nevertheless, you can also choose an audio interface that has USB, Thunderbolt, or FireWire Ports.
Once you’ve connected the audio interface to your PC, you can then connect your mic or instruments to your audio interface. If you got an outboard preamp, you can connect the instrument first to the preamp and then connect it to the interface.
Once you’ve connected all the components, you can begin a sample recording to check on the signals’ quality and level.
Step 4: Setting Up the DAW
Once your PC and your audio interface are already communicating with each other, you’re almost through with your setup. The next step is the setting up of your DAW so that it can use your audio interface. You can use any type of DAW like the Logic Pro X, Pro Tools, FL Studio, Ableton, and Garage Band. The steps in using any of these DAWs are almost the same.
Now, you can turn on your DAW on your computer. Then, tinker with the general settings section of your DAW. Select the name of your DAW in the menu bar and then click on the Preferences. You will have a direct link to each tab of the settings.
Look for the tab that functions like the sound settings of your operating system. Finding this tab will let you choose the device that is hooked to your computer for your output and input devices.
Step 5: Multitrack Settings
Now that your devices and DAW are all set, you can then select which audio interface’s input to channel to your Multitrack. On your DAW, you’ll have the means to choose the input that you would like to direct to a particular track.
Your choice of the audio interface will determine the number of inputs you can channel to the multitrack. If you have two inputs, you can transfer each of these two inputs to any track. If you have 20 different inputs on your audio interface, you can use as many tracks in your multitrack.
Additional Tips That You May Find Useful
- Aside from the tips mentioned above on how to set up your audio interface with your PC, you may also find these additional tips helpful in making a good setup:
- Besides the audio interface, you will also need editing software to make fully operational your recording rig. The good thing is this editing software usually is already a feature of most audio interfaces. Nevertheless, you can avail of high-grade editing software if you want to raise your recording quality a notch higher.
- If you want to enhance your recording’s audio quality, you will also need a preamplifier. Of course, the audio interface may come with built-in preamps. Yet, these preamps are usually very transparent, or it may fail to enhance the audio signals. Hence, many professionals opt for an outboard preamp for more precise audio signals.
- Another thing is that your laptop or PC specs should be at par or at least meet the minimum technical requirements for a quality recording. This requirement means that your laptop should come with higher memory and a hard drive with enough space for storing lots of data. Moreover, you might as well upgrade your sound card if your laptop or PC doesn’t come with a stereo input.
- You will also need an additional outboard preamp to boost the low-level signal of mics to a line-level signal. Once the signals got amplified, your audio interface can then transform the line-level signals into digital form.
- If you have an analog mixing desk with mic preamps, you need to connect this analog mixing desk to your audio interface to convert the signals to digital.
- It would be best to choose an audio interface that supplies phantom power to the condenser mics. You will need such a feature, primarily if you use condenser mics, which need phantom power to operate.
- Make sure that the audio interface is connectible to your preamp. Most preamps utilize the standard 1/4″ jack. hence, your audio interface should also come with 1/4″ inputs. If it doesn’t come with this type of inputs, you will need to buy an adapter to accommodate the preamp jack.
Connecting the audio interface to your PC is no longer difficult compared to the difficulties you had to deal with before several decades ago. At present, computer and audio interface technologies have been made user-friendly, and most audio interfaces that you can buy already come with almost all that you need to connect to your high-end modern PC. So, it is no longer brain-taxing if you decide to dabble in the recording by setting up your own recording rig.
Given the abovementioned tips on how to connect an audio interface to a PC, you’ll never be at a loss on how to do it as long as you know how to follow simple steps and instructions. Hence, nowadays, even ordinary, non-techy guys with no background in sound engineering can easily build their own recording rig without so much fuss.