An audio interface is a device that records and plays back audio to and from your computer or mobile device.
Audio interfaces convert analog audio signals (such as those from a microphone) into digital audio signals that can be recorded on a computer or mobile device. Most route audio back out from the computer or mobile device to plugged-in headphones and/or an external speaker setup.
Audio interfaces typically connect to a computer or mobile device via USB.
Do I need an audio interface?
If you want to record more than a single input (microphones or instruments) into a computer or mobile device, then an audio interface is the best option.
Common key features of an audio interface:
- Provide one or more balanced XLR microphone inputs
- Provide one or more 1/4" (6.35mm) inch jack instrument inputs
- Possess volume control for speakers and external headphone monitoring
- Provide a phantom power source for powering condenser microphones
- Can record at a high bit and sampling rates
Cost varies from $30 to $1000+, depending on your requirements. It's worth noting that the lower-end affordable audio interfaces can produce some excellent quality audio recordings.