Audio Interface For Beginners: What You Should Look For

Portable sound card and condenser microphone. Concept of home music studio.

When first starting out in any profession, it’s important to learn from those who’ve had success before you. Of course, when beginning anything new you’ll have minimal knowledge—that’s okay! Learning new skills is a huge part of your growth in any aspect of life.

The same can be said for a new job in the audio industry. Specifically, learning about recording from a home studio and how to set yourself up for musical success. What’s most important when recording from a home studio? Your audio interface. Your next question may be, “what is an audio interface?”

An audio interface is what allows you to connect microphones, guitar cables, keyboards, etc., into a computer in order to record. They also have outputs that allow different kinds of speakers to be connected, so you can listen to the recorded or real-time incoming audio. In short, audio interfaces allow you to record as well as listen to your recordings. When first starting out, you may be on an equipment budget but still want to create quality work. That’s where a good audio interface will come in handy.

Close up and cropped, side view photo tattoo hands of professional DJ man. He making music inside house room studio with black dark wall interior

Without guidance, it would be difficult to choose the best audio interface, with so many fantastic models on the market. But luckily, with today’s technology it’s easy to research before you buy and ensure you’re setting yourself up to create great content – even as a beginner.

There are three top priorities to look into when buying your new audio interface:
1. Compatibility
2. Features
3. Technical Specs

When it comes to compatibility, as a beginner, you’ll want to look for an audio interface that has a USB connection, as this is the most commonly used connection. Firewire is an outdated connection and one that you likely won’t have on your newer laptop or desktop. If you have a Mac, you may want to look into the Thunderbolt connection, as it’s designed mostly with Mac’s in mind.

To break those priorities down further, you can also take into consideration:
1. Your specific needs
2. Connection format
3. Number of simultaneous analog ins/outs/preamps
4. Additional Inputs/Outputs
5. Onboard Digital Signal Processing
6. Sound quality
7. Price

Audio interfaces come in many different forms. Some are specifically made for PCs, others for Mac or iPad, so you’ll want to decide what kind of computer system you are going to be using with your audio interface.

From there, you should focus on simplicity. As a beginner, you need a system that you’ll be able to navigate with relative ease, particularly as you’re learning the basics. Beyond that, make sure to look at the quality of the hardware, which determines how your recordings will sound.

There are some options under USD$200 to suit your needs as a beginner, and as you become more skilled and begin making a profit, there’s always the opportunity to expand and grow beyond what you initially invested in. What’s important is getting yourself started. From there, the possibilities for creating music become endless.

During your search for the perfect audio interface, you may come across terms such as latency, zero latency monitoring, drivers, pre-amps, and sample rate.

Here is a breakdown of hose key terms, so, while searching, you’re not discouraged by a beginner’s lack of lingo. Don’t worry, though; the more you read and learn, the better off you’ll be when it comes time to make your purchase.

  • Latency is when there is a delay that’s noticeable between real time sound and the playback you may hear in your headphones. This background noise can be distracting but with the help of an audio interface, it’s fixable.
  • Zero Latency Monitoring is when you have the ability to hear a sound source directly, without any sort of delay.
  • Drivers are the software that allows your audio interface to communicate with your computer.
  • Pre-Amps or “mic pre” are microphone preamplifiers that amplify the small signal that comes from a microphone, and brings it to a level suitable for recording.
  • Sample rate is how many times per second your recording is sampled to create the digital signal. A higher sample rate means a higher frequency range at which sounds can be recorded.


Audio interfaces can range widely in price. The amount you should spend depends not only your budget, but also what quality of equipment you want to invest in, and the type of home recording set up you want to establish. As with any large purchase, it’s best to look over all your options and take your time before making any decisions to ensure you’re making a sound investment in your future product.

Get online, get researching, and start your journey from beginner to expert!