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Audio Interface or Sound Card in Your Home Studio?

A sound card receives audio signals and converts them to digital audio.

A sound card is synonymous with an audio interface.

The conventional sound card is a chip that is installed in the PCI slot of your computer.

An audio interface does the same. It converts input audio signals. It is simply in the form of a hardware interface that connects to your DAW computer. An audio interface is an external device that receives an analog signal and sends it to its music software application in its digital form.

For instance; By connecting a microphone to an audio interface with a compatible audio sequencer, an audio interface can convert the analog microphone signal and record a digital audio file on a track. This can also be done with a sound card.

Why do you need a sound card / audio interface?

Music production and intensive audio processing require more than your inventory that SoundCard can typically handle. Simple as that.

When an audio signal is recorded from your microphone and on your computer’s hard drive, a conversion process from an analog signal to a stream of binary code, the digital “representation” or “translation” of that original signal, proceeds.

The biggest problem is what is known as latency. Latency occurs when the time required for the conversion and output of the recorded track, along with any effects or signal processing that occurs somewhere in between, is delayed. There is a delay and you hear it late. So “LATE” like.

Clicking, pounding, error messages and other artifacts can result in a cheap sound card, or improperly optimize the settings for your recording platform.

The differences between a sound card and an audio interface

They both have almost the same function. The difference is mainly in the hardware itself. A sound card is a “card” that is installed internally in your computer via a PCI slot, while an audio interface is an external piece of hardware that can sit on your desk and offers you the convenience of not having to reach around to the back from your computer to plug things in and adjust.

The audio interface usually has a “breakout box” for all of your inputs, as well as a preamplifier, which converts a mic level signal into a line level signal.

The internal parts of a sound card / audio interface

As described above, the core component of a sound card / audio interface is the digital audio converters.

The other important part is the software drivers that manage the “code” or data stream and thus play a critical role in the overall effectiveness of your sound card.

The other piece that can be recorded with audio interfaces is onboard preamps. Preamps can be the most expensive part of an audio interface and some don’t have them.

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