This blog provides everything you need to know to pick the interface with the best sound and specs for your production setup.
When you look up audio interfaces, there are some key concepts you’ll need a little bit of knowledge in so you can determine which ones meet your needs; the most basic ones are sample rate and bit depth. Sample rate refers to the number of samples, or snapshots of a specific moment in an audio signal, that occur in a single second. The highest frequency audible in an audio signal is exactly half the sample rate, meaning at 44.1kHz, the frequency cap is 22.05kHz. Using sample rates higher than this has two primary benefits:
- Every audio signal must be low-pass filtered to prevent digital artifacts called aliasing from bleeding into the signal. Harsher filters with stronger slopes filter out more high frequencies at the cost of greater phase smearing, which reduces the perceived resolution. Higher sample rates allow for gentler filter slopes, leading to greater signal clarity overall.
- The higher the sample rate, the more information above 20kHz is preserved, meaning you can pitch audio files down further without losing any perceived high-frequency content (which is why sample packs are often exported at 96kHz)
Next on the list is bit depth, which is simply amplitude resolution; fewer bits lead to more prominent “steps” or “stairs” in the audio, introducing harsh distortion. The minimum number of bits required to faithfully reproduce a normal-level signal is 24, though if a 24 bit signal is exported at a quiet volume, you’ll likely hear audible “quantization noise”, which is the distortion mentioned above.
It’s fairly common to see 32 bit floating point now; that’s a more complicated subject, but all you need to know is that even quiet audio will typically be preserved in full clarity. Many DAWs run 32 bit floating point summing in the background to keep all signals clean and avoid digital clipping, even when they render at lower bit rates.
The best converters are often……..
Before we move into individual audio interfaces, there’s another important topic in the world of audio quality: digital to audio (or DA) conversion. Most audio interfaces have DA converters to turn data into an electrical signal that can be played back as audio, but no converter is perfect. Poor converters can make audio sound flat and lifeless, and it’s difficult to quantify exactly what you’re missing until you hear the sound of an excellent converter.
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