The computer-based digital audio workstation or DAW software used today offers great music production and recording power compared to the fully-equipped studios used in pre-digital times.
But despite all the features and functionalities of this powerful software, the sound quality still depends on an external hardware unit, the audio interface!
These devices provide you with the connectors you require to plug in your instruments and microphones for recording and headphones or speakers for listening. Not just that, an audio interface also offers other additional features, including metering.
But many people often get confused between audio interfaces and audio amplifiers. Some even use both the terms interchangeably, if you’re among those and looking for an answer to “Is audio interface an amplifier? We got you covered; keep reading on!
The answer is, No. While both the audio interface and an amplifier perform a similar job, both are different devices and functions differently.
Whats is an Audio Interface?
So let’s talk about the audio interface first. An audio interface is generally connected via a USB. Its function is to convert the input signals into a digital output, which can is saved onto your computer.
Then, convert the stored digital audio files into analog output for monitoring playback or both. You can call it an outbound sound card from this aspect.
An Audio Interface usually has better preamps, better Digital to Analog Converters, better Analog to Digital converters and better codecs that result in premium quality sound and more output /input than the inbuilt sound card that comes with the computer.
According to the definition, “An audio interface is a device or a piece of hardware that improves and expands the audio capabilities of a computer system. Some audio interfaces allow you to connect other devices like instruments, microphones, and other signals to your computer and result in various output signals at the same time. “
What is an Audio Amplifier or a Power Amp?
Now let us talk about an audio amplifier or a power amp. Audio amplifier or a a power amp is an electronic device that amplifies low-intensity audio signals (for example- signals from an electric guitar or a radio receiver) to a level that is adequate for generating loud and better output through headphones or loudspeakers.
An audio interface input can be a whole range of sources such as instruments, microphones, and other digital devices.
Further, the Analog outputs generated by an audio interface are most of the time connected to audio amplifiers to play on loudspeakers. But some audio interfaces can play the external sonic devices directly.
Also, an audio amplifier for a computer is important to amplify the output of the inbuilt sound card or audio interface enough to drive speakers.
So, this is how an audio interface is different from an amplifier. Though both perform nearly the same jobs, the audio interface offers several other functions also. Below is how an audio interface works.
What Exactly Does An Audio Interface Do?
An audio interface allows you to playback and records audio from your PC. While it may sound basic, it offers a lot more functionalities, including enhancing the quality of sound from the devices you’ve connected.
Although the computers come with their inbuilt audio components, they don’t perform well, especially in recording or playback scenarios.
This is where the professional audio interface comes in. They not only offer a high-quality sound but also provide you several options for recording, playback, or both.
Most DJ’s and personal home studio owners use two-channel USB audio for recording professionally at home. An interface’s job is to take an audio signal as an input and convert it into your PC via A/D Converter.
This transforms the audio you hear using a headphone or a microphone into the audio interface into 0’s and 1’s that represents – Sound!
This digitized sound can be stored on your system and can be edited, enhanced, and mixed as per your preferences. Finally, the last function of an interface is to playback the audio out of your PC to your speakers through a reverse process known as D/A conversion.
Audio Interfaces allows you to connect devices like guitar cables, microphones to your computer and record using a USB.
Typically, it also has outputs and thus, it allows computer speakers, external speakers, and headphones to hear the recorded music or play it directly from the computer.
Here is how you can use an audio interface :
Connecting and using the audio interface is relatively simple. You can easily do it in a few minutes. If you don’t know how to do it, check out the below section :
Connect Your Audio Interface To Your Desktop Computer or Laptop Using USB or Other Connection
- Install the recommended drivers as the first step. Sometimes this is done automatically in the latest systems, but you might have to download the drivers manually if you have an older system.
- Now, connect your powered speakers to the audio interface outputs.
- Launch or install your playback or recording software.
- Determine the output of your playback or the audio software in order to route it to the audio interface you’ve just installed.
- Now, test the setup by playing some pre-recorded audio or music from the audio software itself.
- Plug in your inputs such as guitar cables, microphones, or other devices to the interface.
- Time to test the input signal by directing the input channel to your audio software input and recording a test sound clip.
- Playback via your loudspeakers to check if it’s working correctly or not. If the sound is loud and clear enough, then congratulations. If not, then fix the connection.
So, that’s everything about the audio interface and how it’s different from an amplifier. Though both perform nearly the same functions, they are two different hardware devices.
And if you think that an audio interface is similar to a sound card, then again, the answer is no. We hope you get your answers by now.