D A W’s & Audio Interfaces
A digital audio workstation (DAW) is an electronic system designed solely or primarily for recording, editing and playing back digital audio. DAWs are software running on computers with audio interface hardware. A basic home recording studio set up has become better and more affordable as digital technology continues to improve. Today there are a wide range of products available, but which are some of the preferred products & what are the costs involved to set up a basic home recording studio?
Core to the set-up of a DAW is an ‘Audio Interface’ and a ‘Music Sequencing Program’.
An Audio Interfaces takes the various audio inputs and converts them into digital audio data. It performs the same function as a sound card in a computer only it is an external device and will typically have mic preamps onboard, provide Phantom Power for condenser mics, and have easy-access external inputs and outputs.
They can come at different price ranges which is mostly dependant on the amount of Analog / Digital Converters, the number of Microphone Preamps and the number of Inputs/Outputs. Typically for two input / outputs prices start around £120 / 1200kr for 4 Channels the prices are around £350 / 3500kr
‘Under the Hood’
It is important the digital conversion rate is of very high quality so that every note and every subtle detail is captured with great clarity. For a home studio, 24 bit rate resolution with a sample rate of at least 96 KHz is more than enough.
MIDI I/O & Preamps
Some audio interfaces may not come with MIDI I/O this could be important if you want to connect to whatever MIDI device you prefer.
Included preamps are of great importance and they should weight a lot in your decision to buy an audio interface for your home studio.
Check compatibility with all major audio editing, mastering, and music production software. An Audio Interface can often come with a basic sequencing program (DAW) that can easily be upgraded, consider compatibility here as often certain programs might be better designed to work with certain interfaces. ‘Out of the box’ can be easier!
The Scarlett 2i2 is a 2 in / 2 out USB recording interface. With 24-bit resolution at sample rates of up to 96 KHz. Included are the superior D-Pre mic preamps found in their flagship device. No MIDI I/O connectors. Recording software included Ableton Live Lite 8.
Price: approx £120 / $199 / 1300kr
Steinberg UR22 24-bit/192 kHz USB 2.0 audio interface. The UR22 is equipped with a MIDI I/O. Cubase AI included this offers an intuitive feature set for composing, recording, editing and mixing.
Price: approx £121 / $201 / 1311kr
The AudioBox 22VSL interface provides a 4×2 mixer, reverb and delay effects, and the same Fat Channel compression, limiting, semi-parametric EQ, and high-pass filter, as the PreSonus StudioLive 16.0.2 digital mixer— all with inaudible latency.
Price: approx £199 / $249 / 2157kr
Avid Mbox 24-bit/96 kHz, USB 2.0 (USB-powered) comes with Pro Tools Express, 30+ virtual instruments and plug-ins and has drivers for third-party software use. Simultaneous channels of I/O 4/4, Simultaneous analog I/O 2/2, Mic preamps 2.
Price: approx £120 / $199 / 1300kr
Roland’s 2-in/2-out offering features two VS preamps, with phantom power available via the XLRs and a Hi-Z setting on Input 1 for directly connecting a guitar or bass. Robust build, good sound and iPad compatibility.
Price: approx £175 / $239 / 1550kr
IK Multimedia iRig HD
With 24-bit audio quality, the iRig HD translates your guitar sound well, sending a clean, dynamic signal. If you have simple connectivity requirements, it could be all you need.
Price: approx £79 / $100 / 650kr
A music sequencer (or simply sequencer) is a device or application software that can record, edit, or play back music, by handling note and performance information in several forms, typically MIDI or CV/Gate, and possibly audio and automation data for DAWs and plug-ins.
This remains one of the more popular DAW’s with a range of editions at differing price breaks .
Price: Start from; £62 / $104 / 675kr
Steinberg Cubase 7
Steinberg Cubase in one of the oldest companies in music software sequencing and still maintains a strong position in the market. Cubase AI comes with the UR22 audio interface however if you want to upgrade to Cubase 7 it will cost you.
Price: approx £490 / $816 / 5320kr
Presonus Studio One
Studio One is a relative new comer on the scene but is already highly regarded by some. Similar to Steinberg if you buy their audio interface you get a lite version of the software to start from.
Price: approx £330 / $550 / 3585kr
Link to more DAW’s
Performance & Compatibility
It can be hard to determine which offers the best sound quality as this can have a lot to do with other components and the ability to use the equipment well. The following link can demonstrate this…
Logic vs Cubase vs Pro Tools DAW Test
There are a large number of DAW’s available and usually each offer a lite budget version which can give an idea of what to expect in the full version. It could be relative to consider the audio interface in conjunction with the choice a of DAW to minimize compatibility issues.