An audio interface isn’t 100% necessary as a new producer, but the thing that is absolutely necessary is using an ASIO Driver. But then your question is probably.. “Why do I need an audio interface for beatmaking?”.
It all depends on what you’re trying to do! If you’re trying to record your voice with microphones, an audio interface will help you a lot. If you’re plugging in reference monitors speakers, then an audio interface will also help you a lot, too.
But, if you’re just plugging in ear buds into your laptop, as long as you select an ASIO Driver, you may not even need an audio interface.
As a music producer, in order to use these music production speakers, their connections are TRS 1/4″ or XLR.. so you’ll need speaker cables that plug into your audio interface.
Let’s talk about some good audio interfaces to get started beatmaking in FL Studio.
So Just What is An Audio Interface?
An audio interface is an external sound card that we plug in either with a usb, firewire, or thunderbolt connection.
It allows us to connect high quality microphones and reference monitor speakers into our computer directly. Inside these audio interfaces there’s also something called an analog-to-digital convertor (D/A and A/D conversion), which tackles some technical number crunching, not that it matters too much for beatmaking.
Most audio interfaces have special inputs called neutrik connections, which allow us to plug-in XLR and TRS 1/4″ sized audio cables for microphones, instruments, or other hardware audio equipment. These inputs are preamplifiers to give full control over the recorded signal!
In terms of what to look for when buying an audio interface, you need to know how many pieces of audio gear you’ll be connecting. You will see this described as 2×2, or 2×4, or even bigger at 6×6!!
Additionally, most of these audio interfaces come with 48V phantom power allowing you to use condenser microphones without a problem. Finally, audio interfaces also allow you to select different quality settings like bit-depth (16-Bit or 24-Bit .WAV) and sample rates (44.1kHz, 48kHz, 96kHz, etc).
So that’s a run-down on what an audio interface is, why it’s beneficial, and why you’d want to purchase one when having a home studio.
Here’s a list of some of the most popular audio interfaces on the market right now for new home studio producers.
Focusrite Scarlett Audio Interface Series
The Focusrite Scarlett series is definitely a solid audio interface if you are just starting out, and even if you’re looking for a good audio interface and have been beatmaking for awhile.
I have owned the first and second generations of the Focusrite Scarlett audio interfaces, and I can recommend them, but in my later years, I have jumped to the Mackie BIG KNOB series, which I’ll discuss below.
Simply put, because I record my FL Studio courses, I need an audio interface to be rock solid, and sadly, the Focusrite Scarlett failed me a couple times in these critical situations. By itself, if you were just beatmaking, the Scarlett is great, and allows you to connect your speakers, headphones, and microphones. It was mainly the driver which would be unreliable in different software like OBS and Discord, so I had to move on.
What I do want to say though is the Focusrite Scarlett does offer quite good low-latency, and I REALLY like their halo lights around their input volume knobs to indicate distortion. For basic recording (inside your DAW), this is a GREAT solution.
You will not go wrong if you are just starting up. I’d suggest grabbing an audio interface bundle to save money, as they often include headphones, a microphone, audio cables, and sometimes even a microphone stand!
Mackie BIG KNOB Audio Interface Series
As mentioned, I need a solid audio interface to make sure my FL Studio courses record with high-quality audio reliably.
The Mackie BIG KNOB audio interface series comes in a couple models, but I think the BIG KNOB STUDIO is the sweet spot.
Out of the box, I have never had an audio interface be so flexible in terms of connectivity and control of the audio being recorded, or with its direct monitoring feature, which is SO powerful while doing my beatmaking podcast or recording my voice for an FL Studio tutorial, course, or even in a live chat.
If you look closely at the picture of this Mackie BIG KNOB STUDIO you can see it is JAM-PACKED compared to its competition, while also allowing you to plug in TWO SETS OF SPEAKERS for easy back and forth comparison, with volume level-matching!
Now, this audio interface hasn’t been smooth-sailing the whole way. I did have one fail on me randomly one day! It sucked, I turned it on, the lights flashed, and it stopped working! Thankfully, I was still within my warranty period, which Mackie honored, and shipped me one out ASAP. My current one has been running well, with its rock-solid drivers, allowing me to record my FL Studio training with confidence.
What to Look for When Buying an Audio Interface
I will leave you with my helpful article about buying an audio interface for FL Studio.
Ask yourself, are you recording or not? That is a big factor on what audio interface to buy, as you’ll need to buy an audio interface with more inputs and outputs to connect your microphones and connect to outboard gear to allow the flexibility to do such routing. You will also need to buy many more audio cables, and the cost definitely jumps in price QUICKLY.
A beatmaker actually doesn’t even need an audio interface if they aren’t using reference monitor speakers, or needing to plug in a microphone, but you will need to use an ASIO Driver (comes default in most DAWs).
So that’s what I’d currently recommend to get you started.
I am currently using the Mackie BIG KNOB STUDIO and really like it.
If you have ANY QUESTIONS – just comment!