What is an audio interface, how does it compare to a mixer and do you need an audio interface when creating a podcast?
What is an audio interface and do you need one for podcasting?
Hey, I am Ryan from PodcastFast.com and recently I was creating an article on the 10 Best Audio Interfaces For Podcasting. Now, audio interfaces – before I went in to creating this article, was not something I knew a lot about. I did not even know they existed so I have a lot of questions that came up that I thought would be helpful to answer on audio interfaces.
And so the first one is, what exactly is an audio interface and do I need one as a podcaster? So an audio interface is a device that goes between your analog microphone and your computer which is digital. For example, I am using the Blue Yeti microphone which is a USB microphone which plugs directly into my computer. This microphone does not need – and I could not even use, an audio interface with this microphone.
The goal of an audio interface is to act as an awesome sound card for your computer and basically to convert your analog microphone sound into digital sound that you can deliver to your computer. And the goal of the audio interface is to give you great quality sound. What most computers have as their microphone input is one of those 3.5 mm headphone jacks. So if you have a high-quality microphone, plug it into a 3.5 mm headphone jack is not going to do the sound justice and as well, the sound cards on your computer are not going to be that high-quality.
So the goal of an audio interface is that you plug your microphone into the audio interface, it then processes the sound really well and then delivers that sound digitally to your computer, to your recording software whether that be Audacity or Screenflow or GarageBand or whatever it may be. So if you have a good high-quality microphone you are going to want an audio interface in order to make the best of that microphone and to get the best sound possible.
Now audio interfaces start from around $100 so you can get the Focusrite Scarlett Solo which is a great product for around $100. And then they go up from there and depending on your needs and how many inputs you need, etc. they get quite expensive. One of the highest recommended audio interfaces, really good product, is the Apogee Duet 2 which is around about $600 or something like that. And if you have a whole group of podcasters and you need a lot of different mic inputs so you are not just using one or 2 microphones but maybe using maybe 4 or 5 or more, then they get really expensive. We are talking $1,000, $2,000, $2,500 for these audio interfaces.
So that is what an audio interface is. It is basically an awesome sound card that converts the analog sound coming from your microphone into digital sound that is delivered into your computer. And it delivers in such a way that you are going to get great quality sound for your podcast.
Audio interfaces often provide 48 volt phantom power which is needed to charge some condenser microphone so some other microphones as well. So depending on the microphone that you have you may need to get an audio interface that has that 48 volt phantom power because otherwise you will not be able to power your microphone. So most of them have that and if you go to PodcastFast.com/25 then all of the audio interfaces that I recommend have that 48 volt phantom power to charge those condenser microphones.
One of the microphones that Pat Flynn recommends is the Heil PR40 or something like that which is an analog microphone and requires that 48 volt phantom power. So if you are going for something like those high-end microphones you are going to need either a mixer or an audio interface in order to get the sound from that microphone to your computer and have it sounding great. And so a lot of people think, “Okay, I need a mixer in order to do that” but really you do not necessarily need a mixer.
The difference between a mixer and an audio interface, I will go into more detail in a future lesson but basically, a mixer is something where you edit the sound on the fly so you might have a couple of different inputs coming in. Maybe you are doing an in-person interview and you have two microphones so a mixer will be used to mix the sounds of those microphones, to get them level, get them sounding great, and on the day so if you are doing a live broadcast, the mixer is going to be very important. But that mixer will just send one line of stereo input or audio into your computer.
So those two audio tracks will be mashed together when they deliver it to your computer and so you cannot separate them out and edit them when it comes to post-production. Whereas in an audio interface, you can take those same two microphones, put them into the audio interface which will process them, send them to your computer and you will then have two different tracks which you can edit in post-production. So a mixer is really only needed if you are going to be live broadcasting. So if you have a podcast that you do live online then you want a mixer so you can edit the sound on the fly. But if you are doing post-production recordings so you record and you will then edit it and you will then publish it at a later date then an audio interface is going to be a cheaper and a better solution for you.
I hope that answers your question, what is an audio interface? They are extremely confusing to understand. It took me a really long time to write this article. If you are interested in understanding more, go ahead to PodcastFast.com/25 and you can see my article on the Best Audio Interfaces For Podcasting. And also I talked about some things to consider when buying an audio interface and help you to make your decision.
I hope this has been helpful to you. Until next time, do not just podcast, podcast fast!