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Interface vs. Soundcard
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JC Biffro
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#1
18th November 2012
Old 18th November 2012
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Interface vs. Soundcard

Hey all,

So I've spent most of today reading up on the different types of interfaces (i.e. firewire, PCI etc) and sound cards to try and figure out exactly what I need for my home studio setup.

To put it bluntly, I currently have no plans to record directly into my machine, i.e. through a microphone. All I really need to do is ensure that I can use my DAW, as well as connect up a pair of studio monitors.

I'm using the ASIO4ALL driver at the moment but it's pretty restrictive in that I can only listen to one audio stream at the time. For example, I can't use my DAW and watch a YouTube video at the same time.

Would I be right in assuming that I just need a decent external soundcard (I have a mac) rather than an audio interface? And if so, are there any 'obvious' picks for a beginner setup that would suffice?

Appreciate the advice in advance. Cheers all!
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#2
19th November 2012
Old 19th November 2012
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Any simple audio interface would probably be just fine for your needs.
If you're using a Mac I'd suggest maybe a little mbox or something like that that connects via FireWire or USB . Consider how many channels you're going to need and how many things you'll be recording at the same time and make sure you have enough inputs to support that.
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19th November 2012
Old 19th November 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JC Biffro View Post
Would I be right in assuming that I just need a decent external soundcard (I have a mac) rather than an audio interface?
A soundcard is an audio interface but an audio interface isn't necessarily a soundcard.

Soundcard = It's a card, so ISA, PCI, PCI-e....
Audio Interface = Everything that outputs audio

What you have in your Mac now is called: onboard audio chip
What you want is: a USB or Firewire audio interface
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19th November 2012
Old 19th November 2012
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Mac and Asio4All?
JC Biffro
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19th November 2012
Old 19th November 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by krushing View Post
Mac and Asio4All?
Yeah. Well, I'm using Bootcamp on the Mac to use the ASIO4ALL driver.

Ok, thanks for the replies so far. Looks like a need an interface of some sort afterall.
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19th November 2012
Old 19th November 2012
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So...are you using a Windows-only DAW that necessitates this? Just asking because OSX's native CoreAudio performs very well out of the box, does multiple streams and generally is a lot less hassle than audio on the Windows side of things.
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19th November 2012
Old 19th November 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by krushing View Post
So...are you using a Windows-only DAW that necessitates this? Just asking because OSX's native CoreAudio performs very well out of the box, does multiple streams and generally is a lot less hassle than audio on the Windows side of things.
Afraid so, yeah. I do eventually want to transition from FL Studio to Pro Tools, but would rather stick to a DAW i'm familiar with for now until I further improve my skills.

This whole subject around audio is what confuses me more than anything else. A few months ago after a ton of research, I bought a Soundblaster x-fi HD and couldn't get the damn thing to work, so ended selling it on eBay and giving up until now. All I really need is to be able to effectively have 3 streams of output audio. My monitors, the DAW and anything else (like audio via a brower, i.e. youtube). Not worried about recording in at the moment.

Thanks for your comments so far!
JC Biffro
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21st November 2012
Old 21st November 2012
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Any other advice?
#9
22nd November 2012
Old 22nd November 2012
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Generally speaking, I'd say only get a card if you're going for a AVID HD system or something. If you're mainly looking for a glorified HTPC, you might want a sound card for nice chassis integration. If you're looking to be able to connect a mic/instrument easily, or do a lot of audio editing, then you'll probably be more interested in an audio interface (especially if you plan to use Pro Tools).

You can get some audio interfaces for about $100, and some of them will even come with DAW software. An interface will also have an easier time connecting to studio monitors. Since you say you have no need to record, I'd say it probably doesn't matter much what you get if you're just looking for a cheap solution. Check out the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2.
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