Thursday, March 11, 2010

Quality Gear for the Masses Pt. 1 of ??? (The Audio Interface)

As I've said before, I'm writing this blog for all the bedroom producers & DJ's out there. One of the things I'd like do is show people the massive difference quality gear can make. Quality is one of the many things that separates the pros from the amateurs. The best tools won't make a crappy musician sound good but, the best tools will surely make a good musician sound better. Second to having good musicians with nice instruments is having quality tools to process all this sound you'd like to create. This being said, lets start this quality gear for the masses campaign with the audio interface.

Before we get started if you're making music completely inside of the box (on your computer) than you don't need to worry so much about a quality audio interface. Because, the only thing the interface is going to do is clean up what you're hearing through your monitors, which is helpful but, that sound won't exist on your project unless you bounce it through the interface and back to another multi-track recording system. However if you do use outboard gear like synths, compressors, reverbs and so on, you are going to definitely want to think about purchasing a quality audio interface.

Let's assume you have a Mirco Korg, you would run the analog outs of that synthesizer into your audio interface so that you could capture the sound onto your computer. There is a critical sound quality link in between the Micro Korg and your computer. That's the interface, which contains an analog to digital and digital to analog converter. Analog audio is pure as can be, it is an actual waveform. When you capture that analog sound to digital recording software, those analog signals are converted to digital audio signals. This is where the conversion comes in. Digital audio is simply a representation of a waveform, not the actual waveform. It uses binary, 1 & 0's to represent what it can from the waveform. There will always be a loss of sonic quality when converting analog sound to digital sound. This is because computers interpolate (or guess) exactly how the waveform looks. So, it's never a perfect representation of the analog sound. If you have a high quality A/D D/A converter in your interface that can achieve ultra high sample rates the interpolation process is going to be reduced and much smoother as there are more 1 & 0's in the binary word to represent the analog waveform. Making sense??? Higher sample rates provide a more accurate representation of the actual analog waveform. Thereby increasing overall audio quality.

The pre-amps in the interface are also equally important, a good preamp will do wonders to your sound and this part of the interface should not be overlooked. While the analog to digital and digital to analog process is important. With good pre-amps you can further maximize your sound and really drive the sound your creating.

DJ's & Live Performers I haven't forgot about you. You too need a high quality interface if you're performing using a computer with out an analog mixer. An example would be someone using Ableton Live to perform. If you have something like an Apogee Duet you are going to notice an insane audio quality boost of what you're playing. Especially if you were only using your computers sound card. You want the people to feel the music right??? Do what you can to make it sound fantastic and people are going to feel it all that much more.

I'm not going to say much about these other than just give you links so you can do your own research, but this list of links should give you a nice jumping off point. If I posted it on here, it is high quality and something you will want to take a look at. Before you start clicking links, you should know, none of these are inexpensive, it's high quality professional audio gear and unfortunately that comes at a price. There are also PCI Interfaces, these are VERY high quality and typically VERY expensive. For now we will stick to USB & Firewire Interfaces. If you have any questions about PCI Interfaces feel free to ask. But I assume, most people looking at PCI interfaces aren't going to need to be asking me any questions. With that let's check out some of these interfaces. A few of the interfaces listed below have only 2 channels while others up to 28 in's and out's. The choice is yours to make, enjoy and happy searching & listening!

RME- Fireface 400
Apogee- Duet
Metric Halo- ULN-2
Motu- 896mk3
Echo- Audiofire 8
Focusrite- Liquid Saffire 56
RME- Fireface 800 I WANT, I WANT, I WANT!!!

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