How to pick the right audio interface for home recording

In her latest column for MI Focus, musician and freelance music and technology writer Jess Walter looks at the different needs musicians have when recording at home, and what requirements they should think about when buying an audio interface…

Home recording for sound and audio is convenient and simple with the right equipment – you just need a good audio interface. Choosing the right one for you is important though. If you are just recording one instrument at a time, the interface you choose will be different than if you need to record a band simultaneously. Mobile recording interfaces that work with smartphones are now available too, making it easier than ever to record music at home, without having to pay for the cost of hiring a studio. So how do they work?

Do I need more than one instrument input?

Even if you are recording a song with numerous instruments, the likelihood is that you will be recording these separately. For the majority of people recording at home, an interface with 2 instrument inputs is enough. However, if you are using more than one microphone, for recording vocals, make sure that you have more than one XLR input. Look for an audio interface with combo inputs for band work. It is of course possible to record a band with only 2 inputs, but you will need to work on layering the track afterwards, which can be time consuming.

The advantages of digital signal processing

Digital Signal Processing (DSL) is more often found on an audio interface that has numerous outputs. You can install this software on your computer and use it to create different mixes within the outputs. This can really help with levels if you are recording a band at home. You can listen to the balance of the musicians and adjust the sounds, or add effects such as reverb. If you make headphone mixes, it won’t affect the recording of the original track, so you have the added advantage of being able to adjust the music at a later date.

What you get for your budget

An entry level audio interface can be bought for as little as £50. Alesis, Behringer, Steinberg and Focusright all offer interfaces with USB, suitable for microphones and instruments. Some include a gain knob, and are iOS ready. If you want to go a little more upmarket and have 8 channels, then you will have to look at spending somewhere in the range of £150-200. The quality of the recordings are only ever going to be as good as the quality of the components that the interface is built with. The next generation of audio interfaces move into the £500-£2000 range, and can capture some outstanding recordings.

If you are recording music at home, there is something out there for every budget. You just need to decide what your priorities are for quality and convenience.

Jess Walter is a freelance music and technology writer. She has teamed up with a guitar learning site Guitar Fella to develop articles on learning to play the guitar at an older age. For more information visit