Multitrack Equipment – Computer Audio Interfaces

Andrew —  February 21, 2011 — 3 Comments

This post is part of the series Multitrack Equipment, your guide to creating the best multitrack recording setup for your budget.

rme800

A computer interface is a box that you can plug mics, instruments, speakers and headphones directly into and then connect to a computer via USB or FireWire. They range greatly in cost, but many do come with free recording software (covered in the next post).

Near the top of the line comes the RME fireface 800 (pictured). It’s a superb sounding piece of kit with 4 crystal clear mic amps and plenty of additional analogue and digital inputs, complimented with flawless analogue to digital converters. It works with a virtual router and mixer on your computer to interface between the actual device and the recording software that you are running. Once you’ve got your head around that, the hardware is great to use with very simple menus and LEDS etc. However at around the £950 mark, it will make a hefty dent in your wallet, and you don’t get enough mic amps to record a full drum kit, so you’ll need some external ones.

For about a third of the cost, you can get a Presonus FireStudio Project, another firewire interface. It’s a great value piece of hardware that gives you 8 mic amps that are definitely good enough for home recording, and is very straight forwards to use. Very hard to beat value for money at around £340.

I personally would chose to upgrade from the Presonus to a Lexicon I-O FW810s, which costs a bit more at around £500 but the mcuh improved mic-amps will more versatile, and have a very low noise floor. The Tascam US-1800 is also worth a mention here, as not only is it a good usb alternative to both of these (with decent mic-amps), but is also very cheap at around £250. It’s wonderfully simple to use, and has got a great selection of in and outs; eight mic amps, 6 jack inputs, MIDI and spdif all to usb, with a few various and separate monitor outputs.

If you’re really tight on cash and want to go down the interface route, then take a look at the M-Audio ProFire 610. This little box is a cut down version of the Profire 2626 and was made for home recording. It’s got two dedicated headphone outs which is a big plus for musicians, is also ProTools compatibile AND it has eight inputs including two high quality mic-amps. 4 is probably the bare minimum number of mic-amps you can get away with multitracking a drum kit; a pair of overheads, kick and snare mics all carefully placed but if you have a small mixer at home you could use that just as extra mic amps for the ProFire 610. This little gem will set you back around £240.

If you want to up the number of mic-amps on your interface without completely breaking the bank, I can very highly recommend the Behringer ADA8000 with analogue and ADAT out if you want 8 channels, or the Ulatrgain Pro Mic2200 if you only need two anaolgue.

[image via Dustpuppy72]

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