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How to Find the Right USB Audio Interface
If you’ve just started recording or producing music, you might not need an audio interface. Using free software like Apple’s GarageBand, an inexpensive USB microphone that plugs directly into a computer, and maybe a MIDI controller, you can make music that’s good enough to share with close friends and family.
When you’re ready to get a bit more serious about your recordings, however, you’ll start to see the shortcomings of that simple setup. Not only are you restricted to using USB microphones (which tend to have trouble recording instruments and vocals clearly), but you’re limited to capturing one track at a time. If you wanted to record yourself singing and playing the guitar at the same time, which might result in a more natural-sounding recording, you’d be unable to edit each source independently. If you accidentally strum the wrong chord, you’ll have to re-sing that part of the song, too.
A USB audio interface gives you the flexibility to record multiple tracks at once using practically any microphone available. You’ll also be able to record instruments that use ¼-inch inputs, like electric guitars, by plugging them directly into the interface—rather than placing a USB microphone in front of an amp. Yes, I have done this, and yes, it sounded terrible.