Top 15 Things to know before buying an audio interface

It is important to analyze some facts before buying an audio interface. These will not only help you to choose the best audio interface but also reduce your time to do the mind boggling research.

These are some of things that can prove extremely helpful for your decision of buying or even upgrading to a new audio interface.

Now without any further due, lets have look a 15 considerations you should make while buying an audio interface for recording purposes.

How do I choose a good Audio Interface?

These are the top 10 things to consider before buying an audio interface for home studio.

1) Budget

The first thing to do anything in this world is to decide the budget you want to allocate. The price you pay determines the quality and number of features you will get on the audio interface.

Audio interfaces start from $50 and may go up to $3000 or more. As the price increases, the quality of Mic Preamps used to record audio signals and the number of features like inputs, outputs, build quality and other features that may be exclusive to one interface increases in quality and quantity.

However, if you buy your first-ever audio interface, I recommend that a good starting point be anything above $100.
$100 is the minimum you have to spend to get a good quality audio interface.

For someone wanting to upgrade to a best high end audio interface, I recommend reading a complete list of best high end audio interfaces for professional studio artists.

However, go through the article link mentioned below. It has a list of best audio interfaces under $500 and covers a vast category of audio interfaces whose price ranges between $100 to $500.

You may also like: Best audio interfaces under $500 that works well for both professionals and beginners

2) Your Recording Instruments & Studio Requirements

The next step is to analyse your production needs and all the gears you have in your studio or home studio.

Asking these questions might help:

  • Am I a beginner at music composing and production?
  • Do I have a lot of Instruments with me?
  • Is there any mic with me?
  • Do I really need an audio interface to produce great music?
  • What types of studio gear and instruments do I have?
  • Is there any way I will co-produce music with my friends?
  • Do I perform Live Music Sessions?

Related: A realistic approach to get studio quality recordings at home!

These questions cover a large spectrum of inquiries related to buying an audio interface.

If you have many instruments, there is no point in going with an audio interface that cannot accommodate more than four instruments at any particular moment.

Likewise, if you are new to music production, it is best recommended to choose a high quality beginner friendly audio interfaces.

3) Inputs

Now, as you have a budget figured out and your studio requirements figured out, it is time to see the type of interface you need to buy.

The input ports in the audio interface determine how many instruments can go into an audio interface at any given moment.

Learn more about Mic vs Line vs Instrument level inputs.

If you do not have many instruments and want to build a new home studio, then a two input two output audio interface is all you need. You can plug a microphone in one input and a guitar or a keyboard in another input to record yourself in such audio interfaces.

For gear lovers and studio professionals with many guitars, keyboards, microphones or any other studio instrument, it is better to have more inputs. In such scenarios, how many inputs you should get depends solely on your studio requirements and the type of work environment.

Also checkBest audio interfaces for a home studio that professionals use

4) Outputs

The next thing to know about is the outputs of an audio interface.

The output ports of an audio interface can connect to headphones or studio monitors/external speakers to hear the audio signal that goes in the interface.

Most of the budget audio interfaces under $200 contain one headphone o/p and two line outputs.

As the price rises and goes up the $200 mark, the audio interface incorporates more and more output ports. More o/p ports mean that you can connect more studio monitors, guitar amps, FX racks and whatnot. You don’t have to worry about such things. As you’ll advance your producer journey, you’ll get to know it all.

5) Audio Quality & Round-trip Latency

how to choose an audio interface

One of the most important things to consider while buying an interface is the sound quality.

A good sound quality is the characteristic of good mic preamps. Better mic preamps mean better audio quality. However, most low-cost interfaces are now being equipped with better preamps due to the rise in technology.

Apart from sound quality, resolution and sampling rates also play an equally important role in shaping the audio signal. Whichever interface you purchase, make sure it has a 24 bit sound resolution. And a sampling rate of atleast up to 96 kHz.


An important aspect assicated with the audio interfaces is the round-trip latency. Roundtrip latency is known as the time taken by an audio signal to reach back to your ears after travelling through the audio interface.

Suppose you said a word in the microphone connected to the audio interface. Firstly, the word or the audio signal will travel from microphone to the audio interface.

Then, the signal will be processed by the audio converters in the interface. Afterwards, the signal will reach the output line where it is going to be travel again through the converters before the signal reaches your ears.

In an interface, low latency is desirable as it helps the music producer to record various instruments after the signal goes the VST Plugins that may be set to get a particular sound. I know it seems a bit complicated.

But know one thing!


6) Portability

The portability of an audio interface depends on the following factors:

  • It should have atleast two inputs and outputs to record one artist at any given time,
  • Availability of all the basic features like a headphone o/p, direct monitoring, phantom power,
  • Small size as to fit in your travelling bags,
  • Good enough build quality.

Also check: Audio interface setup diagram to connect different studio gears

For touring artists, the portability of audio interfaces becomes as crucial as any other feature. Therefore, it becomes essential to analyse the overall size and the features of the interface. Again, as the features increase and the sound quality improves, prices rise.

Some audio interfaces are highly portable and budget-friendly, like the Audient Evo 4 or the Audient Evo 8. They may not have many features or studio leading sound quality but are good enough for recording purposes.

Other portable interfaces include a wide range of features, an excellent studio grade sound quality and tons of free software with VST plugins. For example, Universal Audio (UAD) Apollo twin x.

The downside of such interfaces: they cost a fortune.

A great thing about them: Equipped with industry-leading plugins and software for music production.

7) Do you need extra I/O?

Some audio interfaces can connect to other interface to increase the number of inputs and outputs. Such type of audio interfaces are extremely versatile in what they can do.

The most common way for an interface to connect with another audio interface is through SPDIF and ADAT.

Having the option to expand your interface instantly makes it compatible to hold a lot many things.

For example, you can make your interface to connect and:

  • Record drummers,
  • add analog gears,
  • connect FX racks,
  • add mixers,
  • and lot of other superb things that you will learn as you gain experience.

Therefore, having an extra set of SPDIF or ADAT ports makes your audio interface age slow.

8) Build Quality

Build quality when buying an audio interface

Build quality is another essential factor to consider while buying an audio interface.

Audio interfaces are typically made up of metal bodies. Example: UAD interfaces, Focusrite Scarlett, PreSonus Studio Series, etc

But, it is expected, these days, to see an interface made up of good quality plastic material. Example: Audient Evo series.

Additionally, to flavour up the metal body, some interfaces add a rubber finish to strengthen the grip on the table.

All in all, the build quality can be a vital aspect for touring artists. In such cases, you will need firm and solid-quality audio interfaces.

9) Dynamic & Gain Ranges

Dynamic range refers to the maximum amplitude that a wave can reach before it starts to clip off.

Gain range: It refers to how loud an audio signal can get.

I won’t lecture you about the technical stuff. But, make sure that an audio interface has atleast:

  • The dynamic range of about more than 110 dB,
  • A gain range of more than 50 dB.

In general, more is better.

A higher dynamic range in an audio interface will help you record any instrument or vocals with the highest precision and harmonic quality. 

It will also ensure that enough headroom is present for basses and electric guitar not to clip.

For guitars, I recommend going with a dynamic range of atleast 115 dB.

Also check: Best audio interfaces for recording basses and electric guitar

10) LED Metering Display or Indicators for gain metering

buying audio interface - LED Clip Meters

You cannot just plug your favorite instrument or microphone into an audio interface and start recording.

Before recording anything, a bit of pre-production work is required to ensure that everything is working correctly.

Here is what I mean!

The first step is to plug in your favorite instrument or a microphone. Then, adjust the gain levels properly so that the audio signal does not clip or distort. Clipping occurs when the audio signal exceeds the limit of your DAW and audio interface. In such cases, the interface is unable to record the audio signal.

Likewise, it is equally important that the gain levels are not too low. If the gain levels are too low, you will not hear the recorded audio signal.
Now, each audio interface has clip indicators and LED metering for gain levels.

Clip indicators turn red if the audio signal is clipping, green if they are in the optimum range, and yellow if the gain levels are too low.

On the other hand, LED meters to show a range that varies from, for example, -24 dB to 24 dB. Such numbers show you where the gain levels lie and whether the audio signal is clipping or not.

A good range to aim for your audio signal is anywhere between -12 dB to 12 dB.

11) Ease of Use, setup and compatibility

One aspect of choosing an audio interface is how easy it is to set up. By setup, I mean the actual drivers you have to configure to make an audio interface recognize and work with your DAW.

Equally important is the audio interface compatibility with different DAWs and PC/Laptops/Macs.

Carefully check the website of an audio interface to see whether it is compatible with your system or not.

Most of the interfaces work perfectly fine with well-recognized DAWs like Logic Pro X, Abelton, or FL studio.

12) Power Connections

buying audio interface

There are two ways to power an audio interfaces:

  • USB Bus powered,
  • External power supply.

In Bus powered USB connections, the interface powers itself from the PC/Laptops. Hence, No external power supply is required.

Other types of interfaces that need more power and have a whole lot of things going on inside them, you need to have an external power supply that powers the interface. In such cases, you cannot rely on USB bus connections.

13) Additional software/Plugin Bundles

Complimentary Plugin bundle with UAD audio interfaces

The software plugin that you get with an audio interface is hugely determined by the price you pay.

An audio interface like Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 priced at $159 can never compete with the plugin and software bundle that comes with an IK Multimedia Axe I/O or with a more premium audio interface like UAD arrow or UAD Apollo Solo.

Therefore, before buying any premium audio interface, look closely at the plugin bundles too.

14) Additional Features

Each audio interface has a feature or two that are exclusive to that audio interface only. For example: the air mode in Scarlett Series, smart gain Audient Evo or the Luna app in UAD Apollo Twin x.

In addition to these exclusive features, you should also consider features such as MIDI I/O, direct monitoring, extra set of outputs, LED metering display, dedicated gain knobs and other different specs.

Bottom line: After you have finalised your budget, closely observe how the interfaces in that specific price range differ from each other in terms of exclusive and additional features.

15) Future needs

While we focus on helping you choose an audio interface with unique features that stay within your budget, it is equally important to consider the future requirements.

You don’t want to be limited by your audio interface when you want to expand your studio capabilities. If your interface cannot incorporate new studio equipments or cannot connect to a different audio interface, it is a short-term investment.

Related: How to turn your room into a home recording studio?

You will have to purchase a new interface that can connect to multiple audio interfaces to increase the input and output channels in such a case.

Instead, focus on buying an interface that can sit in your studio for years.

I will recommend trying to get an audio interface that can expand quickly using ADAT or SPDIF.

These expansion ports can come in handy when you want to record a drummer or connect your audio interface to a separate set of gear like compressors, analogue EQ etc.


In Conclusion, these were my top 15 things to consider while buying an audio interface. These tips are going to be helpful whether you are a beginner artist or someone who wants to upgrade their gear inventory.

Keep rocking, keep producing!

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