Creating a USB Audio Shopping List
Updated: Nov 26, 2020
So, NOW that we're heading into the cooler months and we won't be able to play outdoors, some of you may soon be in the market for a good USB audio interface to connect your instrument (or voice) to your computer.
There are numerous lists of opinions that can be found on the Internet to identify the "best" USB audio interface, and the prices normally range from about $50 to $3000. There are many options and you'll need to find the best option for your project or playing style. I will attempt to provide some basic guidance any average person can use to help to identify your requirements and narrow down your selection.
If you'd like to know more about the basics of playing music online check out the the previous post about Setting up a Virtual Jam Session: Part 1 . We will only cover USB audio interfaces in this post.
Start by answering some basic questions to identify your own requirements for a USB Audio Interface. This list may also be useful if you ever find yourself speaking with someone online or at a brick and mortar store:
1) How much is my budget or the range for cost?
2) What are my requirements for connectivity? (How many inputs/outputs are needed & how will my PC connect? )
3) Do I need to consider brand loyalty or compatibility with my existing Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)? (see below if you don't have a DAW)
4) I don't have a DAW, so do I also need some "free" bundled software to use my new USB Audio Interface?
5) Other features (easy to use, DSP, plugins, AD/DA converter)
6) Should it be portable? (other options are rack mounted or desktop)
7) Appearance - (Yep... some would consider how sexy it looks)
There are many other factors to be considered too but the seven above will give you a great start to go shopping on your own.
During my personal journey to find the right USB Audio Interface I purchased a PreSounus AudioBox USB. It works pretty well for me; however, this could be a really lousy option for you and your instrument. As a drummer, this works well for me for the following reasons (also from my shopping list):
- It provides enough inputs for XLR or 1/4 inch for my digital drums;
- I can also connect an XLR mic for speaking, if necessary;
- This device has ports for MIDI, and
- This device came with Studio One software and some cool plug-ins.
This is an article from edmprod that provides lots of help: https://www.edmprod.com/best-audio-interfaces/
SUMMARY: If your in the market for a USB audio interface to connect online use the seven categories above to narrow down what product may be best for you.
For those who hate to read directions or other commentary:
A musician will need a USB audio interface to connect their instrument to a computer. These can cost a lot of money so shop for one with the features you need and one that fits your price range. They can cost $50 to about $3000 bucks. You can have one that works will for less than $150 normally.
Special thanks to Magic Ray of Magic Ray Jazz for helping to share this information via social media with our local partners. A few of you have shared information about your own experiences with hardware and online music software with me. Please continue to do so and I'll be happy to partner with anyone else who has an interest in sharing information to get more of us playing online in the interim. My email is below if you'd like to send me a note.