If you are looking to record your music or compose music using a computer then an Audio Interface will enable you to do this. So, what is an Audio Interface? Read More/Less
Audio Interfaces come in many styles and offer different functionality. It is important to choose an audio interface that will provide all the required ports as generally, once purchased, there is no way to add on new functionality to the device.
When choosing your audio interface you first need to decide how many inputs and outputs you will require. If you only intend to record one or two tracks at a time, for example one guitar and one microphone then there are a range of basic audio interfaces that will do this at excellent prices. If you intend to record a live band then you really need to be looking at four to eight inputs. Bear in mind, that it is always wise to have more than you initially think you require as there is no chance of upgrading your audio interface if you find that you really need one more input in the future!
Generally you will need a minimum of two outputs on your Audio Interface - a left and right to go to monitors or speakers. If you intend to work with surround sound, or wish to feed different mixes to different people then you will need more. Again, it is worth the investment in getting slightly more than you need so that you can avoid expensive replacements in the future.
There are numerous other inputs on an audio interface to consider. By far the most popular digital input is the MIDI connection and generally these come with pretty much all audio interfaces these days. If you do not currently use MIDI then once you get into to recording you will find great things can be achieved using it so certainly worth investigating before you go ahead and purchase your Audio Interface.
Connecting your Audio Interface to your computer is usually quite simple thanks to most being either USB or Firewire connections. There is a large debate over which of these is better. USB is found on almost all computer systems which is really handy if you intend to record on different machines with ease. Ideally, USB 2.0 should be used where possible as it is faster and much more stable. Firewire is often considered to be more superior over the USB devices. If you wish to go down this route but do not have a Firewire port in your computer, you can generally obtain cards in the form of PCI or PCMCIA cards that will provide you with a suitable Firewire port.
There are many other aspects to consider when purchasing an audio inteface though, certainly for those starting out, the above points are the first step in whittling down the various choices based on your requirements. This should then leave you with a few Audio Interfaces, within your budget that you can check out user reviews etc.