About audio interfaces


New Member
Jan 14, 2012
I'm buying a pair of monitors (KRK RP6 probably) and I'm also looking for an interface so I will get the most out of them.
However, I don't know the first thing about audio interfaces or I/Os etc. so I have a few questions:

1. What should I look for in an interface? Which inputs/outputs do I need?
I make music alone and I don't need to record any instruments, I'm just looking to connect a pair of monitors to the interface.
Also, I might buy a MIDI keyboard in the future or perhaps a DAW controller or a mixer, but I take it that these are connected directly to my PC with USB (?).

2. Should I connect my monitors to the interface with XLR or? Are all of the needed wires usually included with the products?

3. Will a USB audio interface suffice or should I buy a PCI(-e/-x) or a firewire interface?
It would be nice if the interface was portable, It doesn't need to be though.

If you have any suggestions, my budget is around 175-200€.


Edit: Linking headphones to them would be nice too.
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1) The I/Os you'll need (according to you) are whatever sockets your monitors take (be it RCA, 1/4" jack or XLR), plus MIDI in/out. In that price range though you'll get a lot more lol. Everything will connect to the interface rather than the PC though.

2) XLR and 1/4" are 'balanced' which means that the signal doesn't degrade over distance. In the real world that means you won't get a low hum if your cables are several metres in length. RCA/phono is unbalanced, so this can occur (although I'm running 2m RCAs and its fairly negligable). Based on what I know, the choice of socket some monitors offer is based more on what socket your interface accepts rather than any benefits one socket type has over another. Appreciate that the quality of cable can make a significant difference to your sound (the quality difference decreases as the price rises though. Cables can cost anything between £2-£1500. I spent £50 on two 2m RCA cables and I'm very happy). And they won't come with any monitor/interface.

3) I've got a PCIe card and wouldn't really recommend it. The audio interfaces I see in the same price range (£100-150) offer A LOT more in terms of functionality. One positive thing about an internal (PCI etc) card is you won't suffer from latency issues, but I don't think thats a big problem anyway. So I'd defo say go for external.

I'd look at focusrite to start with.
Thanks for the comment.

How about this thing? A bit overkill for my needs?

It would have two TRS outputs for the monitors (they are on par with the XLR wires in quality, right?), a MIDI I/O and a headphone out.

Edit: I just remembered that I have a Roland F-110 digital piano as well, I guess I should hook that thing up too.

Edit2: This one looks good too, opinions?
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they are on par with the XLR wires in quality, right?

Well, both types are balanced so you won't suffer from signal degradation with distance.

In terms of quality, that depends on the cables that you buy as I said before. Have a look at a couple reviews and stuff (they'll be referred to as 'audio interconnects').

http://www.audioaffair.co.uk/ is a good website if you're in the UK
internal soundcards have latency the same as external, Audiophile 2496 (pci) have served me well over the years, I've recently switched to focusrite because i wanted their preamps, apart from that, and the amount of available IO, internal is fine.

I ran my yamaha p-155 piano, midi and audio, thru my Audiophile 2496, latency was around 4ms (on quad core pc), worked great, you can get one of those cards for £50 if you shop around, they are definitly the best value you can get in terms of quality.

Focusrite are excellent options for external cards, along with M-Audio, I get 1ms latency on my focusrite, even with large projects and several inputs recording at the same time, altough latency depends allot on the power of your PC, not just the audio interface.

To connect your piano you will need LINE-IN, unless you are adding mircophones or guitars (etc), then you only need LINE inputs, if you are using microphones etc then you will also need preamps and possibly phantom power.

Midi is pretty much standard with audio interfaces, worth checking tho! you only need one Midi input and output, your piano should have a midi-thru while will allow you to connect a keyboard, but most keyboards have usb-midi anyway, a better option
To add on what's been posted, the type of preamps/AD-DA converters within the audio interface are the biggest factor in determining quality of playback/recording input.

Proper cables are definitely essential, so stick with TRS or XLR. RCA's have the tendency to produce low-end noise or even a very audible hum as they lack any type of grounding.

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