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which audio interface should I be using?


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hi everyone, 

a while back I made posts about my struggles with Cakewalk and it was recommended that a get a new one. I think I have enough money now for somewhat of a decent one, so does anyone have any recommendations? I am currently using Alesis Multimix 4 USB FX. It makes the metronome bleed over in the other tracks, and it picks up on the piano track while I'm recording audio, and in playback they play over each other. 

If anyone knows of any good ones, please drop the link. Thank you!!

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On 7/3/2024 at 2:20 PM, Jenna said:

I think I have enough money now for somewhat of a decent one, so does anyone have any recommendations?

The most important things to know before recommendations can be made are:

  1. Price range
  2. How many audio channels do you wish to be able to record simultaneously?
  3. Do you need 5-pin MIDI connectors?

The price for decent audio interfaces starts at around $50 for something from a reputable manufacturer who supply an ASIO driver with it. The $50 buys you a single mic/line input and a line input, 2 channels simultaneous recording. 2 mic/line inputs will cost you another $15.

Check this out on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Mackie-Interface-Onyx-Artist-1-2/dp/B07664LMPQ/

 

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As @Starship Krupa said, we really need to know more about your workflow and what you need out of the interface.

If you're only ever going to record one or two audio tracks at a time, then something like a Scarlett 2i2 will do.

If you need MIDI or an extra couple of audio inputs / outputs then maybe a Scarlett 6i6 will do (tip - if you ever think you'll need to use a re-amp box or external effects, then you'll need spare inputs & outputs).

If you think you'll ever record live drums, then you'll need something that will take at least 8 inputs - maybe more, depending on how you want to mic it.  The Scarlett 18i8 or 18i20 might be good choices in that case.  Both have 8 analog inputs (plus a stereo SPDIF) and an ADAT in for a further 8 inputs.  The 18i20 also has an ADAT out for 8 additional outputs.

Those are just some of the options from Focusrite - most other manufacturers have similar options (e.g. Tascam, Audient, Presonus etc), and some come with extra features at the lower end of the cost scale - e.g. the Presonus Audiobox USB96 is one of the cheapest interfaces available, with 2 inputs/output (like the Scarlett 2i2),  but it also has MIDI in & out.

If you're used to using a mixer, then the Tascam Model 12 is a great choice (there's also the Model 16 / Model 24, but they are VERY different beasts and in some ways far more limiting with regards to routing - e.g. you can't apply the mixer's EQ / compression / fader levels to what you record on the 16 or 24, but you can on the 12).

Zoom do some good interfaces too, such as the LiveTrak L8 / L20, although I would say that although they are great interfaces, their mixing duties are primarily focused on live use - i.e. you use the mixer for your live mix, and what is recorded isn't affected the mixer's EQ/faders etc.  This is also true of the Tascam Model 16 & 24, and the Soundcraft MTK series.

If you do go for a combined mixer/audio interface, please ensure the following:

  • It exposes individual track outputs to the audio interface, not just a stereo output... otherwise you're back to the same issues as you've got with the Alesis.
  • It has a decent ASIO driver, and doesn't rely on something like ASIO4ALL.
  • You're happy with where the signal to the audio interface is picked up from - i.e. is it only just after the preamps, or can you apply the EQ/Compressor/Fader from the mixer too?
  • If you're intending to use condenser microphones, does the mixer have 48V phantom power?
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Get at least a 2 inputs. A 2 x 4 config is really the minimum that allows the use of outboard, which is great and allows stereo work.

I've liked a lot of tascam units they are solid. Roland worked reliably  too in my experience.  FYI, these days I use motu with a Neumann m48.   Great clean capture and replication.

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I'm very happy with the SSL 2+. It's been rock solid,  has an efficient driver, and comes with a good selection of bundled software. The SSL 2 is even better priced if you don't need the extra features of the plus model.

Make sure to consider how you'll be using your interface. For example, the SSL 2+ has all the connections on the back. Ideal for my preference and desk layout but won't suit everyone. 

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On 7/6/2024 at 8:23 PM, msmcleod said:

As @Starship Krupa said, we really need to know more about your workflow and what you need out of the interface.

If you're only ever going to record one or two audio tracks at a time, then something like a Scarlett 2i2 will do.

If you need MIDI or an extra couple of audio inputs / outputs then maybe a Scarlett 6i6 will do (tip - if you ever think you'll need to use a re-amp box or external effects, then you'll need spare inputs & outputs).

If you think you'll ever record live drums, then you'll need something that will take at least 8 inputs - maybe more, depending on how you want to mic it.  The Scarlett 18i8 or 18i20 might be good choices in that case.  Both have 8 analog inputs (plus a stereo SPDIF) and an ADAT in for a further 8 inputs.  The 18i20 also has an ADAT out for 8 additional outputs.

Those are just some of the options from Focusrite - most other manufacturers have similar options (e.g. Tascam, Audient, Presonus etc), and some come with extra features at the lower end of the cost scale - e.g. the Presonus Audiobox USB96 is one of the cheapest interfaces available, with 2 inputs/output (like the Scarlett 2i2),  but it also has MIDI in & out.

If you're used to using a mixer, then the Tascam Model 12 is a great choice (there's also the Model 16 / Model 24, but they are VERY different beasts and in some ways far more limiting with regards to routing - e.g. you can't apply the mixer's EQ / compression / fader levels to what you record on the 16 or 24, but you can on the 12).

Zoom do some good interfaces too, such as the LiveTrak L8 / L20, although I would say that although they are great interfaces, their mixing duties are primarily focused on live use - i.e. you use the mixer for your live mix, and what is recorded isn't affected the mixer's EQ/faders etc.  This is also true of the Tascam Model 16 & 24, and the Soundcraft MTK series.

If you do go for a combined mixer/audio interface, please ensure the following:

  • It exposes individual track outputs to the audio interface, not just a stereo output... otherwise you're back to the same issues as you've got with the Alesis.
  • It has a decent ASIO driver, and doesn't rely on something like ASIO4ALL.
  • You're happy with where the signal to the audio interface is picked up from - i.e. is it only just after the preamps, or can you apply the EQ/Compressor/Fader from the mixer too?
  • If you're intending to use condenser microphones, does the mixer have 48V phantom power?

Thank you so much for such a detailed response. 

So what I currently do is I plug the MIDI cable from my piano into my computer, and then I plug my microphone and my headphones in the ALESIS MULTIMIX and use the USB to plug that into my computer as well. Then, I plug the whole ALESIS box in my computer. 

I don't think I'll ever really record live drums. At some point, I may record guitar or ukulele but not really ever at the same time. 

What I want to be able to do is what I'm doing now, plug in some headphones and a mic and sing over the tracks I recorded with MIDI data, to put it simply. 

I've just been feeling a little bit lost on what to choose. I want to be sure that whichever interface I choose will work well. I of course don't like that the ALESIS causes sound to bleed over into every other track, but so far that has been my only real issue. 

Again, thank you for your input. I wonder if you have any other reccomendations based on what I've told you? 

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I posted this in your thread you started a while ago. I don’t know what set you off and said I was bugging you or something? That was weird. 
Anyhow it’s the internet and people get stuff wrong and assume things that aren’t reality. 
I was only trying to tell you that I really believed that your solution was to purchase a better audio interface.  I’m happy you figured that out on your own.
 

In all my years on this forum I have only wished to help people who are just starting out. Often people read me wrong because that’s just my bad communication skills at work! 
 

I put 2 months of research into this video. I also highly recommend you Google “Best Audio interfaces” and cruise through some of those as well. There are many and most are worth your time.
 

I think once you have done that you will have a clear view of the choice’s best for you. 

These people are testing dozens of the latest audio interfaces and you will quickly see most come to the same conclusions about many brands.  I myself have owned at least 6 interfaces in the last few years. I have also used a few USB mixers. 

Some of the above replies after doing my research I disagree with those recommendations as example of why you need to look a lot wider than a place like a user group. 

Most important feature for you will be good quality pre amp for your vocal mike.  
Anyhow do a little watching and report back. 

https://youtu.be/YcDGKuBJ2VI?si=NH1QWsZtR-jdMVM-

 

Edited by John Vere
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On 7/3/2024 at 4:20 PM, Jenna said:

somewhat of a decent one

Hi Jenna. I really love my Behringer U-Phoria(umc204). It's only $119. Before that, I had two diff Presonus interfaces and both gave me driver connectivity issues. The UMC range has a true ASIO driver(connected like butter), great sounding & quiet preamps, loud headphone out, and good build quality. If u dont need the midi, the umc202 is even cheaper. If u need more than two inputs, they have the 404 and above. 

Anyway, I couldn't be happier with it. There's of course youtube demos of it if ur interested. Cheers & Good Luck! 😉

 

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Behringer interface that don’t have Midas pre amps are near the bottom of the Bench tests for Pre Amps. So are Pre Sonus.
 

Behringer interfaces with Midas pres are near the top. 
The deal is if you spend only a few extra bucks you won’t need to think about waisting money later on a dedicated pre amp. The SSL-2 mentioned above by @Gary Carey

is an example of an interface that has top notch pre amps. 
Just saying why it’s important to do your research. 
I get a big kick that everyone is quick to recommend Focusrite.

When you compare to others in same price range they are hugely lacking in features and quality pre amps. They are good interfaces but there’s better stuff at that price. 

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1 hour ago, John Vere said:

Behringer interfaces with Midas pres are near the top. 

Hi John. Just to make sure we're on the same page, the Uphoria/umc series does have the Midas pre's. I don't know if they always did but they do now. If u look up the umc204(like I have), umc404, etc, you'll see "Midas Preamp" written below the XLR inputs. And ur right, they sound awesome. I'm not even tempted to try a Scarlett or other. To each his own of course but for $119, I think it's a steal. Cheers my friend 😉

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Ya there’s actually only two of Behringer 2x2 interfaces that don’t have ASIO and have the low quality pre amps. The UMC was considered a best bang for the bucks by 2 of the reviews I watched. They blow the Focusrite out of the water. 
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 possibly is the worst bang for the buck due to its whole feature list. 
In my video I have comparisons charts so you can quickly see which interfaces have what features. Everyone will need some and not others. 
2 combo jacks?

Midi ports?

Loopback? 
Blend mix for direct monitoring? 
Meters?
As a few example of features. 

Then you need to find out how good the pre amps are compared to others. Right now I’m using a Zoom and nobody had tested them but I figured they are medium quality. I’m looking at the SSL2 as a upgrade.  I sold my Motu M4 due to learning it had issues with the drivers. There’s a few others that are rated very high like the Universal Audio and Audent I’ll be comparing. That’s a project for after summer.  

 

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14 hours ago, John Vere said:

I posted this in your thread you started a while ago. I don’t know what set you off and said I was bugging you or something? That was weird. 
Anyhow it’s the internet and people get stuff wrong and assume things that aren’t reality. 
I was only trying to tell you that I really believed that your solution was to purchase a better audio interface.  I’m happy you figured that out on your own.
 

In all my years on this forum I have only wished to help people who are just starting out. Often people read me wrong because that’s just my bad communication skills at work! 
 

I put 2 months of research into this video. I also highly recommend you Google “Best Audio interfaces” and cruise through some of those as well. There are many and most are worth your time.
 

I think once you have done that you will have a clear view of the choice’s best for you. 

These people are testing dozens of the latest audio interfaces and you will quickly see most come to the same conclusions about many brands.  I myself have owned at least 6 interfaces in the last few years. I have also used a few USB mixers. 

Some of the above replies after doing my research I disagree with those recommendations as example of why you need to look a lot wider than a place like a user group. 

Most important feature for you will be good quality pre amp for your vocal mike.  
Anyhow do a little watching and report back. 

https://youtu.be/YcDGKuBJ2VI?si=NH1QWsZtR-jdMVM-

 

Yes, the reason that happened was because I had been saying that I couldn't just drop everything and quickly get a new interface and so if there was something I could do about it for the time being I was going to try, you had replied telling me to forget it, which was what got me annoyed. I know I need a new one but at that time I didn't even have a job yet so I couldn't. Anyway, the past is the past. 

I'll watch the video. I'm wondering if maybe I should stick with a USB mixer, just a different brand of course because I've never used an interface before and I'm scared to mess up lol. Thank you for the advice. 

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USB mixers that I’ve used didn’t have your issue. They had ways to isolate the inputs and the Computer playback in the headphones. It never looped back. 
 

My Zoom L8 is a mixer. But it’s sort of a steep learning curve due to the fact that it’s 3 things in one. 
I love it but I actually bought it just for live performance. But it’s also a 12x4 interface.  
 

My best experience was with Yamaha mixers. I’m off camping right now but so it will be a few weeks before I’d have time. But the follow up to the above video was going to be about USB interfaces that are mixers.  
 

Sorry about the forget it comment. That was actually not aimed at you but the whole topic was sort of going sideways. It was probably I was in one of my old man grumpy guy moods.  

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29 minutes ago, John Vere said:

one of my old man grumpy guy moods.

I feel u John. I'm starting to get kinda up in years myself. Just a suggestion, have u ever tried yelling at clouds? I find it therapeutic. Esp when they're dropping that stupid rain all over my lawn. Give it try. After all, those fluffy bastards have it coming 😠

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1 hour ago, John Vere said:

USB mixers that I’ve used didn’t have your issue. They had ways to isolate the inputs and the Computer playback in the headphones. It never looped back. 
 

My Zoom L8 is a mixer. But it’s sort of a steep learning curve due to the fact that it’s 3 things in one. 
I love it but I actually bought it just for live performance. But it’s also a 12x4 interface.  
 

My best experience was with Yamaha mixers. I’m off camping right now but so it will be a few weeks before I’d have time. But the follow up to the above video was going to be about USB interfaces that are mixers.  
 

Sorry about the forget it comment. That was actually not aimed at you but the whole topic was sort of going sideways. It was probably I was in one of my old man grumpy guy moods.  

I guess I have a lot of learning to do regarding the mixers and interfaces and everything haha. The input was very helpful and I'll report back here after doing some searching and video watching. 

And it's okay, I understand. It happens to all of us. 

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