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How to choose an audio interface?

The vast majority of computer-based musicians will need an audio interface, but with so many on the market, it can feel like an impossible task to decide which to buy. You can narrow down the choices significantly with the help of our essential guide.

At its simplest, an audio interface lets you record external sounds such as vocals and instruments into your computer, converting them from analogue to the required digital format en route, and performs the opposite function on the return journey from computer to amp/loudspeakers. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned pro, there’s now a bewildering choice of audio interfaces available, at prices ranging from pocket money to arranged loan.

We’re regularly asked on the SOS Forums ‘which is the best audio interface?’, but even if we know the available budget that question is impossible to answer without knowing what the person asking it wants to achieve. After all, the best audio interface for a musician creating electronica may be totally different from one used to record a live band, while if you only require stereo inputs and outputs, within a given budget you’ll generally get better audio quality than spending the same amount of money on an interface with eight or more channels. To successfully choose the perfect audio interface for your own particular requirements isn’t difficult if you follow some basic steps to narrow down the options. Follow this SOS step-by-step guide to make a more informed buying decision.

How to choose an audio interface?

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