How to choose a professional sound card for your studio

How To Choose A Professional Sound Card For Your Studio?

A professional sound card is an extremely important component of any home or commercial recording studio. There is a large selection of sound cards for recording, which differ in different parameters, including – How to connect to a computer (external or internal sound card, USB or Firewire card) – Number of inputs and outputs on the card (number of converters in and out) Quality of converters – The various features of the card (Preamp, MIDI interface, headphone port, powerful controller and more) Need to choose a sound card for a home studio? In this article, we will try to arrange the mess and help you choose the card that suits your needs

What is the role of a sound card?

The sound card is responsible for processing sound that goes in and out of and from the computer, and for converting the sound from analog format to digital format (inputs) and digital signal to an analog signal (outputs). The higher the quality of the card used, the higher the conversion and processing quality and the sound we hear or record becomes clearer and less distorted.


Do I need a professional sound card?

Almost every computer comes with a built-in sound card on its motherboard. Is such a card enough for studio work and music creation? The answer is negative. An on-board sound card will produce poor quality sound that may be suitable for the average user who wants to play computer games and listen to music here and there on Youtube but not to create high-level music. Also on the motherboard built-in card, there are no suitable connections for professional microphones, and the recording quality will be very poor.

Also, the built-in cards allow you to process and listen to audio at only 16bit resolution – resolution not sufficient for studio needs. If you want to start making music as a marginal hobby without investing too much money into purchasing a sound card, you can use the built-in sound card first, if you download and install the free Asio4all driver that helps overcome the latency problem created when using the built-in card.

Bottom line: Those who want to make music professionally need a professional sound card!


So which professional sound card to choose?

The supply of professional sound cards has grown greatly in recent years, and it is very important that everyone customize the sound card to their needs. Here are some features to consider before choosing a professional audio interface:



1. Internal or external card

An internal sound card will usually be cheaper and generally does not fall in sound quality from an external sound card, but it will usually be less comfortable for studio work. If your audio computer is a laptop, or if you want an audio interface to use with live performances, you need an external sound card. Most new professional and semi-professional sound cards will be external, however, there are still unusual ones, and of course, internal cards can be found in the pre-used market.

2. USB2 and USB3 or Firewire connectivity

An external sound card can connect to a computer on USB or Firewire. In the past, the Firewire connection was considered to be higher quality but with the advancement of technology and USB2 input and now USB3 into its image its advantage disappeared, and in fact, the Firewire connection becomes less and less popular. However, many cards still use this connection. Note: Not every computer has a Firewire connection and even if there is one it is usually not of sufficient quality. For audio work, a high-quality Firewire card is required, when a card with a Texas Instruments chip is recommended.
A sound card connected to Firewire in combination with an unqualified Firewire card will in many cases produce unwanted results such as side noise, disconnecting audio communications, clicks, ticks…

you got the idea. If you want the convenience of an external sound card without getting too involved and looking to the future, you may want to purchase a USB audio interface.

Regarding cards that connect to USB, note that many cards do not support USB3 connection, and will not work properly with them. Check that your computer has a free USB2 connection that will allow such cards to be connected, and in any case, check compatibility issues with the store from which you purchase the card.

3. How many In and Outs?

The number of inputs will determine how many tools you can record/connect to your computer at the same time. Two outputs are necessary for connecting two monitors/speakers. Additional inputs and outputs will allow flexibility in connecting external effects and synthesizers to the computer. For electronic music makers, or for creators who do not intend to record more than two instruments at the same time, a standard two-way, two-port professional sound card will usually suffice. Anyone intending to focus on live recordings of several tools at the same time will need an audio interface with more inputs.

4. Converters and conversion quality

The most important component of the sound card which converters. Each converter has a converter that is responsible for converting the analog signal into digital and vice versa. A / D converters are input converters that convert an analog signal to a digital signal (where the audio information is represented on the computer). These converters will affect the quality of the recording. D / A converters are output converters that convert digital signals to analog signals – they will affect playback quality. The quality of converters is the most important feature of your audio interface.

Higher quality converters will give a clear, deep, punchy sound and more true to the original. Less good inverters will give us distorted sound, signal to bad noise (lots of noise when recording with signal), and sound with less depth and sharpness. Different sound cards enable different conversion and work resolutions. Do not go into the depth of digital resolution here, but it should be noted that the audio interface you purchase allows working at no less than 96 kHz and 24-bit resolution. It is especially advisable to avoid sound cards that only allow 48Khz sample work. 

5. Preamp and Phantom Power

Preamp (or preamplifier) ​​is a necessary studio component for anyone looking to record a microphone. While Prehomp can be purchased separately from the sound card, the first step is a sound card with a built-in Prehump will be a cheaper solution. Most of the preamps that come with the audio interface are not of the highest quality but may well suffice for first audio recordings. A sound card that comes with Preamp will also usually supply Fantom Power – a 48volt electrical voltage needed to record a condenser microphone.

6. Midi Interface

The immediate interface allows communication between the control keyboard and other equipment and the computer. You can of course purchase an instant interface separately from the sound card, but a sound card with an instant interface is an advantage.

7. Headphone port

It is highly recommended to purchase an audio interface with a separately amplified headphone port, even if this slightly increases the price of the card.

8. Volume controller

A sound card with a physical volume button that controls the output volume can be very useful, saving us the purchase of such a separate controller: it’s very uncomfortable to control the power with the mouse. It should be borne in mind that the discounting on the card itself will always take place in the digital medium and therefore will cause a decrease in sound quality. At the end of the day, there is no substitute for an analog volume controller

9. Latency

Latency is the time from the moment Signal enters the computer and the time it sounds. That is the time from the moment you are typed on the control keyboard (or from the moment we play the guitar sound) to the moment we hear it. The professional sound card comes with an ASIO driver that allows low latency. The 12-ms latency will satisfy many musicians, but the good musicians among you will want an audio interface that provides stability in 5-ms regions too (to allow fast playback not to be interrupted by the delay).

10. Stability and reliability

The sound card is a major component of the studio and so it is especially important to purchase one that is stable, convenient, and reliable. Stable drivers are the name of the game: We want to make music and not to take care of malfunction!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *