How to Use an Audio Interface

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Written By Tanya

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The most basic hurdle almost everyone faces is how to use an interface audio. This was our latest question, and it was universal enough to benefit all. Music theory and learning an instrument are two of the most important aspects of being a musician.

We rarely think we will need to know how to use computers to improve our hobby. When you start recording your own songs, covers, or music.

This was the first time I ever recorded, and it was 18 years ago. This question is from a friend of mine who bought an interface but couldn’t understand what was happening when pressing record. This tutorial will show you how to set up your audio interface.

How to Use an Audio Interface

QUESTION:

I just purchased the most expensive audio interface. It makes my tracks sound very distant and has a lot noise when I record. The Shure SM57 and the cables are the same ones I used to record other places so I don’t know what is wrong.

ANSWER:

My brother and I went over to Koi’s house the next night. I began investigating as they set up the stand, guitar, amp, microphone and mic just like it was before the bad signal started coming through. After verifying that the microphone was receiving the signal, I passed it on to Logic Pro X where it was recorded.

It sounded terrible, just like it was described. It produced a lot noise, reverb and distortion when the amplified was increased. This is why? An audio interface that can be used on a tabletop.

I made sure to check everything but one thing was missing, even though we had looked at it in the settings. We initially thought it was the headphones, so we changed headphones. The problem was still there, but this was the key.

While I was speaking out loud, I realized that the microphone that was being used for close mike was not being recorded through. We were actually recording through the microphone on our laptops! I could hear my voice clearly, but couldn’t hear the guitar.

HOW TO CONFIGURATE YOUR AUDIO INTERFACE

For anyone who isn’t familiar with cabling, I will state the obvious. The interface will come with a power cable, adaptor or power cord. This must be connected to the power conditioner or wall before it can be turned on.

Depending on the type of cable you bought, it will come with one of three cables that can be connected to your computer. It will come with either a thunderbolt or firewire cable. Both of these cables must be connected to your computer before the interface can communicate with it.

Your interface is responsible for capturing audio signals from microphones or direct inputs from keyboards, guitars, and other instruments. The interface converts the electrical signal from the analog-to digital converter into a digital signal that your computer can understand. The interface is like a fancy outboard soundcard with more preamplifiers and other features.

Even with today’s plug-and-play hardware you won’t be able just to plug in an interface and have it start receiving audio signals and output music automatically. This is a little more complex than the other types of devices that your computer is familiar with.

In the past, your interface came with either a CD to install drivers or a card that directed you to the manufacturer’s website. While this may be true for certain purchases, it is not the norm. Most interfaces will be able use standard system drivers within your operating system. Based on the next step, you will know if separate drivers are required.

CHOOSE YOUR AUDIO INTERFRACE IN YOUR OPERATING SYTEM

Next, you will need to locate your audio settings on your operating system.

If I remember correctly, Windows will allow you to access these settings by going to the Start menu > Control panel > Hardware & sound > Sound. Then you can work in the Playback or Recording tabs. This will show you how it looks: Windows Sound Settings

You will need to go to the top of the menu bar and click on Apple > System Preferences. Sound. Then, you can work in the Output or Input tabs. This is how it will look: Mac sound settings

As you can see, the Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 is set up as my output device. This routed all sound from the firewire cable to the interface, and then to the master stereo outputs via the XLR cables to my Adam Audio A7 studio monitoring monitors.

This is how I listen, watch videos, and play YouTube videos. This output setting is never changed, but I do change the input device between my webcam (for video conference calls and phone calls) and my interface for recording.

Because you will need to remember how to navigate to these settings, you might also have to change input and output devices often, especially if your laptop is portable. When you are ready to record, you will need to choose your audio interface from these tabs.

You might ask, “But what if my headphones are connected to the computer?” If your headphones are already selected, it will be displayed. You can also choose your interface to be the output and connect the headphones via the jack, just as you would with external monitors.

SELECT YOUR AUDIO INTERFRACE IN YOUR DIGITAL DIO AUDIO STATION

You’re now halfway done. Next, you need to get your digital sound workstation (DAW), up and running. The example below will use Logic Pro X. However, the steps for Pro Tools Garage Band, FL Studio, Ableton and others will be almost identical.

Navigate to the general settings section of your DAW. In Logic I choose the name of the DAW in the menu bar, then click Preferences. This will give me a link to each tab within the settings. Audio is the one we are looking for and it looks like this. Sound settings for Logic Pro X

No matter what software you use, there should be a tab in your settings that acts exactly like the operating system sound settings. This allows you to choose which device will be used to input or output data to your computer.

My webcam can be selected as an input device in my case, but you will see that I have chosen “Saffire”, which is my audio interface. Because I want the music to be sent to my headphones and monitors, I choose the Saffire for the output.

CHOOSE WHAT INPUT YOU USE ON THE MULTITRACK.

Once your DAW has communicated with the interface, there is one more task before you can actually record audio. You’ll be able to choose an input for a specific track on your multitrack, mixer or workspace depending on what software you use. Let me tell you why it is set up in this manner.

An interface might only have two inputs. My interface has 20 inputs, which can be used with microphones and direct injected instruments. This is how you record each instrument and vocal separately on your track. The software does not know which input is which microphone or which instrument. It must be instructed:

Logic’s “New Track” Slide-down Menu

If you don’t specify, the image shown above will be what Logic Pro looks like when you add a track to your multitrack or mixer. It must know the type of track it will be. This can include:

  • Software instruments such as the ES2 synthesizer
  • You can record audio for instruments and vocals
  • Drummer for synth drum sets such as Ultrabeat
  • External MIDI to a MIDI keyboard/MIDI controller
  • Guitar or Bass automatically loads certain plugins

Set up an audio track. You can now choose the input you wish to use, set it up for recording, and even enable input monitoring. It’s not possible to do this on the screen.

It’s always done on my mixer, which I’ll show below. Your interface will display a list with inputs, such as “Input 1, 2,… Input 19, input 20. These software labels don’t always match the numbers on your interface.

Most interfaces will include inputs for XLR cables with preamps. You can also use TRS to direct inject a guitar or bass. These will be labeled 1 and 2 on the hardware, but if you look at the back, you’ll see that the label numbers begin at 1 again.

If you don’t pay attention to the software labels, this can make it difficult for you to identify which input you are using. You will often need to be close enough to hear the input monitoring and the meter move.

It takes some trial and error, but once you get it right you will be able to find the I/O labels settings that allow for you to name your outputs and inputs. If you have the same drum setup on the same mics and inputs, you can simply label them to save a lot of time. This is how it looks: Logic Pro’s I/O Labeling Panel

The driver will show you the hardware name and software name. Next, you can provide a user-based name. Logic allows you to create a longer, more descriptive name as well as a shorter, more concise name that will be displayed in different places.

Let’s go back. How do I choose which input to use in the mixer? In Logic Pro X you can simply locate Input on your mixer and click and hold it. Then, select the new source. It must be an audio track in order to view your audio interface’s input options, not a list. This is what you will see once you click and hold on the Input option.

https://6a11f00a8ae7b6506c9a7582da679b9e.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html Logic’s Multitrack with the Inputs Shown on the Right

After you have selected the correct input, it is time to record.

Note: Set your track to mono if you have a single microphone or stereo if you have a pair of mics or stereo mics. You can choose a dual input source such as “Input 1 and 2” if you have two microphones.

You can enable recording by simply navigating to the multitrack and finding the [R] button. Once it is red and blinking like below, you can press it to activate it. The Multitrack “Enable Recording” Button

Depending on whether your interface has a software mixer, or not, the [I] button can be used to activate input monitoring for that track. This will allow you to hear the microphone recording from your headphones. This is extremely useful for vocalists as well as instrumentalists.

This will cause a delay. As you can see, I have a 9.3 millisecond latency. This is almost as good as zero.

Once you have pressed the master record button, each track you’ve selected an input for, and enabled it for recording, will start capturing what the microphone or direct output is hearing. That’s it!

THIS IS HOW TO USE A AUDIO INTERFACE.

Once you get used to the routine, it takes only 5 seconds to change the DAW input or output device. Even faster than that, you can set up projects by moving your inputs around once you have adjusted the I/O labels.

You can save time by only setting up one input for each input and then saving it as a template. It is much faster to delete tracks that you don’t intend to use on a project from the template, than to re-set up the template each time.

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