Getting to grips with your interface
We have covered audio interfaces in great detail on the Dawsons blog from home studio to professional-grade gear to suit every budget. But what happens when your recording requirements begin to outweigh your setup’s limitations. Do you need to upgrade, replace or start afresh? Let’s have a look at your options including that ADAT interface.
Assess your requirements
First of all, work out what you need. If you’re only ever going to be recording guitar and/or vocals, possibly some bass or an additional miked acoustic instrument, chances are a limited setup will suffice. However, if you’re a drummer who wants to record an extensively miked kit or are part of a band who wants to capture live performances, you’re going to need to expand your horizons. Even if you just fancy having every setup and ready to go at the drop of a hat, it’s nice to simply plug in and plug if your budget allows. You’ll never be lagging behind when inspiration strikes!
Buying to budget
When it comes to buying an audio interfaces, a good rule of thumb is to buy the best piece of kit that your budget will allow. Hands down it is one of the most important pieces of gear in your studio. The better the mic preamps the better the recording, the more connections you have the more efficient the recording process, etc. If you’re buying your first interface, err on the side of future-proofing and ask yourself, ‘will I want to record more than just a guitar and/vocals in the future?’. If not, then that’s fine but if you are, then work out how many connections you can get for your money and look at expandability options.
When it comes to adding more to your existing rig, utilising the ADAT (Alesis Digital Audio Tape) optical connection on your interface is usually the easiest way forward. The ADAT interface uses fibre optic technology to stream up to 8 channels of pristine 44.1 or 48kHz 24-bit digital audio. Devices such as Focusrite’s Scarlett OctoPre allow you to connect an additional 8 mic preamps without any effort. If you’re already rocking a Scarlett 18i8 audio interface, you may have noticed that there aren’t quite 18 inputs at your disposal. The optical input allows you to boost the inputs available by a further 8 by connecting a device such as the OctoPre. Just remember to sync everything up properly before you start laying down your tracks.
The Sony/Phillips Digital Interface – of S/PDIF for short – can transmit two channels of audio via a single cable. You can use coaxial cable with RCA connectors or optical cable with To slink or Mini Optical connections. S/PDIF is useful across relatively short cable runs within the studio. If you’re all out of mic inputs but want to record additional instruments, then you can connect a preamp to the S/PDIF input and you’re good to go! Just remember that as with ADAT, you need to sync the device to your internal clock settings to ensure that everything is running in time. You can also run a stereo feed to your studio monitors via a digital to analogue converter (DAC) for enhanced audio fidelity.
If you don’t have the ADAT interface option immediately available to you but the chance to grab a second interface pops up, there is the option to aggregate multiple devices. Whether you’re using a Mac or Windows based operating system, you can set everything up to access the combined total of connections across multiple units. The upside is that if you already have a couple of interfaces, you can get to work straightaway. The downside is that there can be increased latency, which will become pronounced if you integrate software-based plugins, etc.
When it comes to expanding your setup there are a range of options available to you. Though the proclivity to amongst musicians and producers to upgrade gear is so well known that it has an acronym – Gear Acquisition Syndrome or G.A.S. -, sometimes additional hardware can be very useful. Often a cursory glance is passed over the rear of an interface without further investigation taken but getting to know what your ADAT and optical outputs are capable of can save your headache in the long run.
Hopefully we’ve given you something to mull over, but if you need any help or advice then our Customer Service Team are more than happy to help over the phone on 01925 582420. Our in-store specialists will guide you through the wonderful world of guitar effects, just pop into your nearest Dawsons store. You can also check out our selection of Computer Music and Studio Equipment gear at the Dawsons’ website.
Jon is a multi-instrumentalist with a passion for inspiring others to get involved in making music. After spending many years playing venues here, there and – pretty much – everywhere, he joined the Dawsons’ Music Web Team before progressing into his current role managing the Dawsons Blog.