Why do you need an audio interface?
If you bought an XLR microphone, instead of USB, there is no way to connect it directly to your computer. What you need in this case is an audio interface.
There are a few different devices on the market that you can buy. In this post, I’ll describe and compare two affordable units: Behringer UM2 and Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. Read on to find out what you can expect from these devices.
This USB 2.0 powered audio interface is more affordable than Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. It comes with the Tracktion DAW, which you can download from the manufacturer’s website. It works both on Windows 7, 8, 10 and the newest versions of OS X.
This 16 bit, 48k audio interface is ideal for a home studio: 1 instrument, 1 mic, and phantom power, that will power up a condenser microphone.
If you want, you can plug in regular headphones and speakers. When you do so, there will be lower latency than running directly from a computer.
It offers a MIC / LINE 1 input where you can choose between mono and stereo in your production application.
The unit offers three control knobs that are located on the top of the unit. They are used to adjust sound:
- left knob is for a microphone.
- center knob for an input device or an instrument.
- right knob for headphones.
PROS: Good quality / Free software / Comes with the USB cable.
CONS: Only one output / Does not come with an XLR cable.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is the second proposition. It’s much more expensive than Behringer UM2. Let’s see what you get for the price.
This is the second generation Scarlett 2i2. The main difference between this device and the first-gen is this one can do 192KHz sample rates vs 96KHz. The Latency, or delay time has been greatly reduced.
Apart from that, there are a few differences in cosmetics. Manufacturer changed the plastic knobs to metal ones. The whole device is also slimmer now than before.
The main difference between these two devices is that Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, contrary to Behringer UM2, offers two microphone pre-amps, instead of one.
There is an option to buy this device in a bundle with headphones and microphone, by paying an additional 100$.
It comes with the DAW software called ProTools First – Focusrite Creative Pack, which is the lite version of ProTools, but a bit more powerful than the free version, offering a bunch of additional plugins.
If you don’t like ProTools, check Ableton Live 9 Lite, which is a stripped down version of Ableton Live 9.
You can use this device to improve speaker and headphone quality. It has a built-in high-quality DAC that will bypass the computer’s low-quality DAC.
Similarly to Behringer it is powered by USB port and offers 48v Phantom Power to power up condenser microphones.
If you don’t plan to record voice and musical instruments you can use it as an audio amplifier, which will surpass your default computer settings and will allow you to turn up the volume.
When you buy this device, it comes with the following content:
- microphone cord.
- USB cord.
- 2 Gigabytes of VST plug-ins.
- Free DAWs.
PROS: Two mic preamps / You can buy as a bundle.
Both audio interfaces can be installed on Windows or Mac. Both devices offer great quality.
If you planning to add a MIDI keyboard, you should probably buy Scarlett 2i4 for 20$ more or get a MIDI to USB adapter.
You have to remember that these devices are not plug-and-play, you will have to install drivers from manufacturers’ websites. The next thing you have to remember is the USB port that you plugged the devices since the drivers use this port exclusively for the audio interface.
The next thing you have to remember is the USB port that you plugged the devices since the drivers use this port exclusively for the audio interface.