Audio Interface For A Home Studio – 3 Choices

So where do I start when choosing an audio interface for a home studio? As usual, I recommend picking only what you need and choosing a reliable brand. I have spoken recently about how condenser mics are far superior to USB microphones. Don’t be scared by having to buy a few extra bits for a condenser mic, it won’t cost much more than a USB mic. For as cheap as £35 you can pick up the most basic of audio interface that will allow you to plug your condenser into your computer and supply it with phantom power.

This article is going on the presumption that you are using or buying an XLR condenser microphone, which is exactly what is used in professional recording studios. If you’re looking for an affordable model to have in a home studio, we gave you a great tip in a previous article.

What is an audio interface and why do I need one?

audio interface for home studio

An audio interface or preamp, is a device which via USB, plugs into your computer as an additional sound card. This means you can have a home studio set up at your computer or laptop. An audio interface at its most basic will give you the ability to plug a studio standard condenser microphone into your computer.

Of course you might tell me you could just do that with a USB mic instead of buying a mic and audio interface for a home studio, well yes, you could BUT, buying a studio XLR mic and an interface will cost you the same as a good quality USB mic, and it will give you a much better standard of audio recording.

For such an expensive investment, it is also always more beneficial to have separate parts. In a studio environment, it will make it easier to diagnose when something goes wrong if you have control over each individual element. For example if a USB mic gives you problems, it’s very hard to know where the problem lies exactly, if you have separate parts you can determine if it’s a problem with the mic, a cable or the audio interface.

If you’re still feeling a USB microphone will be the easier option for you, check out or guide to what you need to consider when buying one.

Choosing an audio interface for a home studio – what to consider?

You’ll need to take into consideration your needs when choosing an audio interface. As per usual on this website, we’re looking for value, I’m not going to recommend anything extremely high end. What you need is something reliable, something that will satisfy your own particular needs and something that is cheap and affordable (relatively speaking)

How many microphones or instruments you want to record at any 1 time?

This is going to determine the amount of channels you need. All cheap or affordable audio interfaces for home studios have a maximum of 2 channels. So you can plug in 2 microphones to record at once, or 1 mic and 1 instrument. However, if all you do is record voice overs, then there is no point in buying 2 channels and you can save money by choosing an audio interface with just 1

Would you like to plug it to external speakers?

Sometimes monitoring audio on headphones can be a little bit misleading, it’s easy to perceive levels, especially if mixing. Paying a bit more for an audio interface for a home studio will give you outputs. This means, using a cheap phono cable you will be able to hook your interface up to a good set of speakers and monitor the audio like a professional studio.

Again, studio speakers don’t need to cost an arm and a leg. You can get good standard M-Audio studio speakers for £100. Alternatively, if you have a stereo system, even an old one, if it has L and R phono inputs at the back (most do) you can hook your interface up to that. My Sony stereo system sits next to my computer, so I am able to hook my audio interface into the back of the stereo and listen through my speakers that way which works great.


ALESIS Core 1 USB Audio Interface – £35

audio interface for a home studioAn audio interface at it’s most basic. This is an entry level audio interface for a home studio. It won’t do much, but supply 1 microphone or instrument with power, send it to your computer to be recorded and allow you to monitor with a set of headphones. I wouldn’t recommend using this interface unless you have a good set of headphones.

ALESIS Core 1:

  • 1 XLR input
  • Phantom Power
  • On board input and monitor control.

Why might you choose this audio interface?

  • If all you do is record voice overs.
  • You don’t need to output to external speakers.
  • You have a good set of headphones like Sony MDR.
  • You wan’t something very basic and easy to use.

Presonus iOne Audio Interface – £65

audio interface for a home studioPresonus will give you the same as above with the main addition of outputs for external speakers. It’s a stronger build than the cheaper ALESIS, I would imagine it to be worth that bit extra as it will last longer. It’s still very portable, and can be used on PC, Mac, Ipad or Tablet. A great option for voice recording and sound design.

  • 1 XLR input
  • Phantom Power
  • On board input and monitor control
  • Stereo output

Why might you choose this audio interface?

  • For recording voice overs or instruments (1 at a time)
  • If you wan’t to monitor on external speakers.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 – £89

audio interface for a home studioFor an extra input, you’ll need to spend a little bit more, however this will give you a LOT more flexibility and options.

  • 2 XLR inputs
  • Phantom Power
  • On board input and monitor control
  • Line outputs for external speakers
  • Includes Ableton Live software
  • Very strong aluminium build

Why might you choose this audio interface?

  • You have 2 microphones or instruments
  • You would like to monitor levels on external speakers
  • You wan’t something slightly more advanced

How to connect an audio interface to external speakers

As I have mentioned, choosing an audio interface for a home studio, with stereo outputs is worth the extra if you want that proper studio work environment. Listening and judging audio is best done on speakers, as this is where the vast majority of the audio you produce will be heard.

It’s all about Outputs and Inputs. You’re interface will have output plugs to send to another device (speakers or stereo system), and all you need is a cable to connect the two.

If you’re interface has outputs they will be either RCA phono (red and white connections) or a larger 1/4 inch jack output. You will need to go from that to your speakers, which will be the smaller RCA inputs. Below is a typical image of the back of an audio interface for a home studio.

audio interface for home studio

Look at the back of speakers or any stereo system for inputs and you will see red and white inputs.

audio

 

So, you will need one of these cables below to link your audio interface to speakers, depending on your audio interface outputs. Both are very cheap. It is easier to get Twin cables which will give you Left and Right connectors in 1 cable. As always double check the length of cable you are buying to the distance from your audio interface to speaker inputs. Make sure you buy extra length.

Twin RCA Phono to Phono – £6

Twin Jack to RCA Phono Cable – £6

An audio interface is an essential piece of kit when setting up any home studio. My advice would be to buy something reliable based on your needs. I would recommend, if possible to invest in something that you can output to speakers. Even if you don’t need it right away, your work could snowball and you will want to improve down the line.

Have you used any audio interfaces for a home studio? let us know your thoughts below, share the good and the bad.

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