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Choices Choices

Leader By Sam Inglis
Published September 2020

Why is Sound On Sound publishing a major article about choosing an audio interface? Many reasons. One is that audio interfaces are now the most universal item of studio equipment there is. It's possible to make music without a microphone, or without loudspeakers, but who now does so without a computer?

SOS Editor In Chief, Sam Inglis.SOS Editor In Chief, Sam Inglis.Photo: JG HardingAnother is that choosing an audio interface is difficult. Simply identifying your own present and future needs is hard enough; deciding which product best meets them is even harder. There are hundreds, possibly thousands of devices on the market, and it's not always obvious what separates them.

Yet another reason is that buying an audio interface is not like buying a guitar or a synthesizer. It's not only a difficult decision, but a boring one. The device we use to get audio into and out of our computer isn't an inspirational one that can help us reach new heights of creativity. Not many of us want to be comparing spec sheets or counting input connectors when we could be making music.

In an increasingly crowded market, perhaps there are still untapped opportunities for manufacturers to make their products stand out from the herd.

This is where Sound On Sound can bridge the gap. It's our job to know what musicians shouldn't have to learn in order to make music. And it's our mission to present that information in ways that make difficult choices easier. We won't pretend there's a simple answer to the question 'What's the best audio interface for me?', because that would be silly. It's a complex question and, like most complex questions, it's best answered by breaking it down into smaller questions that are more easily answered, as we've done in this month's cover feature.

However, researching the feature also brought home to me that choice can end up feeling like an illusion. There are thousands of electric guitars on the market, but how many are not derived from a 60-year-old Fender or Gibson template? Likewise, I can buy a 1U rackmounting interface with eight mic preamps, a couple of headphone amps and an ADAT port for expansion from dozens of manufacturers. But what if I want more than two headphone outputs? What if the ideal number of preamps for me is 10, or 12? What if I own no other rackmount gear, and would prefer a desktop unit? What if I want transformer-balanced preamps that can be pushed for a bit of saturation and colour? What if I'd like an audio interface that can host 500-series modules, or one with an integrated patchbay, or DAW transport controls, or one that is optimised for driving modular synths?

In an increasingly crowded market, perhaps there are still untapped opportunities for manufacturers to make their products stand out from the herd — and make choosing an audio interface less boring?

Sam Inglis Editor In Chief

Published September 2020