USB devices are widely used all over the world, and they are very compatible with computers, tablets, TVs, etc. The USB audio interface is commonly used to record multiple tracks and also to connect microphones and other instruments such as the acoustic guitars. If you are setting up a home studio for recording your singing or music, consider having a reliable USB audio interface that will help you to create great music at the comfort of your home.
Even if you have the best microphones, instruments, or speakers, but don’t have a great audio interface, you will surely have a hard time producing great audio. An audio interface enables you to reproduce very clear recordings. It also facilitates the recording process for you.
One useful audio interface is the USB audio interface. You can use it with computers because computers come with USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports. Using a USB audio interface, you can readily produce crystal-clear audio recordings on a variety of devices.
The USB audio interface allows you to record audio and at the same time, edit it using your computer. It functions as a connection between instruments, microphones, and other audio devices and computers. Moreover, it converts analog signals into digital audio information that you can process using your computer.
USB audio interface does not merely act as an external sound card for your computer or laptop. In fact, It is a central hub for all the audio signals for its connections.
A good USB audio interface is beyond the capability of converting the audio signals. It also can act as the mic preamps, general monitor/sub-mixing user, Equalizer (EQ), internal Digital Signal Processing (DSP), Multiple Input/Output (I/O) connections.
Example of Single Input and Output Set up.
Example & Chart For Multiple Inputs/Outputs (Multiple I/O) Set Up.
Things To Consider When Buying USB Audio Interface
When shopping around for a USB audio interface, you will be confronted with many options that will surely confuse you. You need to have a basis for how you are going to choose. Hence, you must know the following factors that you need to consider when buying a USB audio interface:
When reviewing and shopping for the best USB audio interface, consider the following facts, and you will be able to choose the best option from all.
1) The User Experience
User experience is a crucial aspect of an audio interface. The way a user feels about an interface determine its suitability and effectiveness in recording great sounds. When choosing an audio interface, consider whether you want a comprehensive system that requires a skilled professional to operate or just a typical audio interface for studio recording.
Control is another significant aspect to consider. If you would like to amplify or adjust your sound with EQ before it reaches your computer, make sure you choose an audio interface that allows you to have full control over your sound. Systems that incorporate gain controls are very powerful, and we recommend high-end users to go for them.
There are three types of USB interfaces; USB 3.0, 2.0 and 1.0. Their main difference is the amount of data they can transfer at a given time. The USB 3.0 is the latest USB port and can transfer data at a rate of 4GB per second while 2.0 & 1.0 USB ports transferring data at the rate of 480 Mb per second and 12 Mb per second respectively. All audio interfaces are designed to draw their power from the PC or any other supported device.
4) Bit Depth
Bit depth refers to the total amount of information in a sample. The different audio interface comes with their Bit Depth, the higher the Bit Depth, the more powerful the interface is.
5) Analog-Digital Bit Rate & Sample Rate
Sample rate refers to the number of samples of sounds taken per second to represent audio in a digital form. If you have more samples per seconds, you will have a better quality of sound. A good audio interface should be able to generate more sample rates as possible.
The general idea says that the higher its sample rate, the more details you can capture. The present highest standard is that of 24-bit/192kHz. You should know that a sampling rate of around 44.1kHz will surely capture all frequencies that many people could hear. You should also remember that the recording quality is greatly affected by the preamp. Moreover, bear in mind that the sample rate refers to the resolution of the converted digital audio.
6) Phantom Power
Phantom power is very important in any audio interface system. Its primary use in a system is to send +48v to a studio condenser mic via an XLR socket enabling the amplification of the Mic.
7) Input / Output
In an audio interface, the type of connection create on Input/Output are very important. Input mainly entails all connections for recording the voice including Mic while Output deals with the connection that plays sound on speakers and recording software.
8) Software / Audio Tool
Nowadays, most USB audio interfaces come with a free recording software that enables one to start recording sounds immediately without having to worry about software upgrades or purchase.
10) Consider Your Power Options
As you increase the channels, you also increase the circuit’s complexity. Hence, you also increase its power requirement. Most USB audio interfaces need wall power adapters for them to go on running.
11) The Instrument, Mic, and Line Level Inputs
Aside from being aware of how many the inputs are, you should also know which type of inputs are available, whether they are instrument-level or line-level inputs. You should also understand that the instrumental level ports should be for guitars and basses, and these ports come with no active preamp.
On the other hand, you can plug amps, keyboards, and other instruments to the line-level inputs. Furthermore, XLR inputs usually come with a preamp for handling mics, while Combo XLR/TRS inputs generally come with embedded preamps; hence, they are ready to handle mics. However, some units come with the versatile instrument and line-level switching for specified ports.
12) Know Your Needs
Your choice of USB audio interface basically boils down to what you really need. Hence, you should know your needs. Are you going to use it for stereo mobile recording, recording vocal/guitar overdubs, making immediate song demos, and composing utilizing virtual instruments? If you know your needs, you can surely figure out the type of audio interface that you should buy.
You can’t leave behind the price as a major factor in your choice of USB audio interface. Of course, you should only choose a USB audio interface that is within your budget. You don’t want to overshoot your expenses by buying something that is beyond your budget. Thus, among the factors to consider, you should always prioritize your needs and then allow the price to be, in the end, the tiebreaker.
Recommended USB Audio Interfaces & Reviews
Last update on 2020-01-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
After the intensive reviews of different types and brands of USB audio interfaces available on the market. On our review list, we have shortlisted three powerful USB audio interfaces that we highly recommend. The systems we shortlisted below are all supply +48v phantom power and are USB enabled with USB bus-powered; that means they draw their power from a computer and not from an external power supply. These audio interfaces are quite easy to use and don’t necessarily require sophisticated skills to operate or use them.
As mentioned above, there are myriads of choices when it comes to USB audio interfaces. But you should narrow down your choices according to your needs and budget. Here are two of the most recommended USB audio interfaces for your own consideration:
1) Steinberg UR242 - USB 2.0 Audio Interface
Steinberg is a brand that was primarily popular for its software products that include the well-known DAW—Cubase. Soon after, it has diversified into producing quality hardware. It is also successful in producing audio interfaces, and one of its audio interfaces is the Steinberg UR242 – USB 2.0 Audio Interface.
It features two D-PRE microphone preamps. It comes with 24-bit/192kHz resolution. It also offers multi-operating system compatibility along with its loopback functionality for live streaming on the net.
Furthermore, it offers impressive intuitive controls, while many are impressed with its quality and build. It is encased inside an all-metal chassis, and it can also allow for the connection of any external MIDI device.
Its 2 D-PRE Microphone Preamps are also impressive with its clarity and quiet operation. It also features a latency-free hardware monitoring system along with a phantom power that allows for the connection of any condenser microphone.
2) Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (2nd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools
Focusrite is a digital product manufacturing company that is widely known for developing quality Microphones and powerful recording tools. The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (2nd Gen) USB Audio Interface features unique specs often found on high-end expensive audio interfaces. It is the only quality system that comes at an affordable price and can be applied across multiple fields such as recording studio, home studio, Music studio, etc.
3) BEHRINGER U-PHORIA UMC202HD
The BEHRINGER U-PHORIA UMC202HD is tagged as one of the most recommended audio interfaces in the market today on its price range. It provides a USB interface for a quality recording of vocals and instruments. It offers 24-Bit/192 kHz resolution for sterling professional audio quality. Moreover, it is compatible with most popular recording software like Avid Pro Tools, Steinberg Cubase, and Ableton Live.
It offers impressive sound quality and great features that you would surely love. It is also very much affordable, which makes this audio interface a competitive one in the market. It comes with Streams 2 inputs and 2 outputs that offer ultra-low latency.
It also supports Windows XP and MC OS X. It also comes with two MIDAS designed, state-of-the-art, Mic Preamplifiers along with +48 V Phantom Power. This brand may be known for more budget-oriented products, but the U-Phoria UMC202HD is surely a real deal.
4) PreSonus AudioBox USB 2x2 Audio Interface
If you are on a very tight budget and still want to get a quality audio interface, consider having the PreSonus AudioBox USB 2×2 Audio Interface. This interface runs smoothly on most computers and comes with its own unique recording interface that is quite remarkable when compared with other models in the market. The PreSonus AudioBox USB 2×2 Audio Interface easily connects to a computer using a USB 1.1 and can be used on both Windows & Mac PC platforms.
It’s a fantastic introductory tool that comes at an affordable price and gives full access to a Studio Artist 3 and Solid DAW system, while the microphone is quite sensitive to the environment. It also comes with software components that allow you to fix this issues through sub-mix, quantizing, delays and noise gates. If you want to get a powerful audio interface for your home studio or other application, consider having the PreSonus AudioBox USB 2×2 Audio Interface, and you will defiantly enjoy its amazing features.
5) Peavey USB Audio Interface
The Peavey USB Audio Interface has the very user-friendly interface that allows you to easily run stereo audio from a personal computer to a live sound system. It’s quite cheap and affordable. Users that want to get a high-end interface that incorporates the latest recording technologies should go for this product without any doubts. The Peavey USB Audio Interface is a great option for beginners who want to familiarize themselves with sound recording. It’s simple to install and use, just plug & record in a matter of minutes.
Last update on 2020-01-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API