PreSonus AudioBox USB USB Recording Interface
Affordable way to begin multitrack recording with most music softwares
Audio interfaces are the staple of home studios. They are among the best home recording equipment for Mac or PC. Digital audio companies produce two significant variations of the analog to digital audio converter. One is the form of a digital mixing console; mimicking the feel of a classic board, however providing analogue digital audio conversion for mics, guitars, line-level instruments, effects processors, and other lines-ins. Some of these boards feature option 48v phantom power, or integrated effects, but options vary widely from unit to unit (and from cheap to expensive). The other variant of interface is rack mounting consoles. While these may not simulate the feel of a convention board, they commonly provide excellent audio quality, reliable construction, and compact size. If you’re looking to record a large number of digital tracks inexpensively these can be a very valuable asset. Not only can you daisy change multiple units (of the same audio interface brand and model) to obtain additional tracks, the devices can provide up to 8 preamp mic/instrument channels (per unit), as well as additional line-inputs.
There are many features to be aware of when considering an audio interface. One thing is to make sure the a few of the channels feature preamps. These will make all audio sources much more audible (and thereby increase head room) while recording. Furthering that point, make sure it features good preamps. In its infancy analog/digital I/O unfortunately sported poor audio quality, and noisy digital preamp circuits. As the technology evolved, many upgrades brought about higher audio fidelity, and nearly noiseless preamps. A sub par model may feature noisy, and ineffective preamps; quality models commonly offer low distortion circuits, with clean and transparent sound. This means high definition recording consisting of high signal-to-noise ratios, and usually around 70 dB worth of gain. While you may save a decent sum by choosing a more affordable interface, it commonly will suffer in preamp and digital conversion circuitry. To get the audio quality of a Mac recording studio, it would be best to invest in a decent audio interface immediately; all audio recorded using it will automatically sound better.
M-Audio ProFire 2626 High Definition FireWire Audio Interface - 26-in/26-out Analog to Digital Conversion
Experience audio studio (24 bit/192 kHz) fidelity from a home recording Studio using FireWire 400 or 800
There are two different standards in digital audio quality. While cheaper interfaces feature lower audio fidelity, it is best to attempt to get as high of definition as possible (basically the digital equivalent of large headroom). FireWire, with its slightly faster connection speed tops out around 24-bit/192kHz, giving you pristine audio quality and functionality (sometimes not even requiring a power cord). USB, being slightly slower, only reaches about 24-bit/96kHz. It is important to first consider if the device will function with your computer (if your Mac lacks FireWire, obviously it would not be the proper choice). Then it is important to consider how much you are willing to spend. If you are seeking to create your own Apple music studio, it would probably be best to look at a high definition FireWire model (with at least 8 mic/instrument preamp channels). If your only seeking podcast recording equipment on a Mac, you might be able to settle for a 2 mic preamp unit.
Digidesign Mbox 2 Mini Portable USB Audio Interface ___________________ Digidesign Mbox 2 USB Audio/MIDI Interface
M-Powered Pro Tools LE Audio Workstation _______________________ Pro Tools LE Audio Workstation
Software compatibility has two fronts. First, one must determine if the device will function with Mac OSX. After that, one must determine which sound recording software compatible with Apple will communicate with the interface. While its seem remedial, you might buy a quality converter does not function with your current recording software. Worse yet, you may be in the middle of a project, and lack the ability to produce it with the new device. While it could just be a matter of upgrading to a different recording software, it might be easiest to simply find a compatible device in the first place. Companies like Avid (the Digidesign Mbox), only function with studio apps like Pro Tools (considered the industry standard), and commonly call for a USB iLok. If you are looking to create a Pro Tools based studio, and have a powerful computer, these can be very effective interfaces. However, if you are just starting your home studio for Mac, you might be much more satisfied with a more universal analog/digital converter. A good multi channel A/D-D/A converter will function with Cubase, GarageBand, Pro Tools, Live, Logic, and Sonar.
The audio interface (of whatever sort) is a quintessential step in transforming any Mac or PC into a recording studio. While you may use more economical options such as your computer’s built-in mic/audio input, a USB microphone, or some sorta handheld recorder; you simply will be unable to obtain the quality an audio interface has to offer (without spending more than an interface would be already). The best part for any continuing recordist/musician, is the majority of pre-existing audio gear you already own should function with the device. Microphones using XLR and quarter inch instrument cables simply plugin to the device to begin converting.
Some interfaces included an iteration of the onboard DSP mixer. This DSP allows for for creating different recording environments. Not only may you create a custom master tracker, some devices allow for multiple independent monitor mixes to be shared through the interface. This is commonly done using some sort of software control panel to configure the different recording setups. A functional DSP supports saving mixes for later recall, as well as an active track monitoring during recording.
Functionality differs from device to device (especially in terms of I/O). Along with the number of ports, one of the other largest discrepancies is the actual type of ports installed on the device. While a mobile interface may only feature microphone and quarter inch inputs (sometime S/PDIF and MIDI), a full rack unit will most likely posses multiple TRS, XLR, MIDI (for keyboards and other outboard hardware), S/PDIF, ADAT, and TS combo inputs. If you are interested in recording multi-track music, it is important to get a device with as high of connectivity as possible.
M-Audio Fast Track Pro 4x4 Mobile USB Audio/MIDI Interface with 2 Preamps
Highly compatible compact audio workstation for Mac or PC
Some of these devices feature standalone capabilities. The device’s preamps and channels function without connecting to a computer. This allows you to either use the interface with conventional storage methods (via the master channel output), or as a live audio processor. While it may not sport the features of a mixing board, it beats the price any other setup, and proves such a small device can excel in versatility. The audio interface is pretty much the easiest way to obtain the mobile recording experience, and maintain studio quality sound.
Digital audio used to mean sacrificing the quality of audio found at large studios. Before the capacity of hard drives skyrocketed, it also used to meant limited recording time. Now, audio quality and storage capacity alike have made groundbreaking steps forward that eliminate both of those shortcomings. Not only that, the introductory price to those advances is fallen to lower than ever before. If have interest in a DIY Mac compatible audio studio, an audio interface would be a major step in the right direction.