Do I Need an Audio Interface to Record Vocals?

Audio Interface

With such a wide range of recording options available, it can be difficult to know what products to use to record your audio. In this article, we will discuss whether an audio interface is required to record vocals.

Do I need a standalone audio interface to record vocals? No, you can record vocals without a standalone audio interface by using a USB microphone that plugs directly into your computer. However, for professional sounding vocals, it is best to use an XLR microphone that plugs into an audio interface as the recording quality is likely to be better. 

A dedicated audio interface isn’t required in order to record vocals. Many microphones have built-in audio interfaces that do a great job of converting the analog signals to a digital format. Although, many professionals look down on these types of equipment as the recording quality is known to be worse when compared to a professional XLR microphone that plugs into an audio interface.

Is a Audio Interface Essential to Record Vocals?

Technically, all microphones will need to use an audio interface. An audio interface takes the analog audio signals and converts it into a digital form so that they are recognizable/readable by the computer. This means that all recordings that are captured by using a microphone will need to be processed by some form of audio interface before they are able to be used on a computer.

Microphones that don’t need an audio interface will most likely have one built directly into the microphone itself. These types of microphones are usually USB microphones (Rode NT-USB is a great example). This means you don’t need a dedicated standalone audio interface in order to use the recording device.

Microphones with built-in audio interfaces (ones that connect directly to your computer) are looked down on by many professionals in the industry as the audio quality isn’t as good when compared to an XLR studio microphone that plugs into an audio interface. There are many reasons why the sound recorded quality will not be good, but the main reasons are because the audio interface and preamp need to fit inside the microphone’s capsule which is limited sized space.

So to answer the question: No a dedicated audio interface is not required in order to capture vocal recordings. However, if you want the best recording quality possible, it is wise to use a studio XLR microphone that plugs directly into an audio interface. This will give a much larger control over the inputs of your microphone. These types of microphones are also known to capture a wider range of frequencies and is more likely to record in 24-bit giving you the best sounding recordings.

Should I be Recording with an Audio Interface?

It depends whether your microphone needs to use an audio interface in order to connect it to your computer’s digital audio workstation software. (The music production software that is required to record your vocals).

Some microphones have a built-in audio interface that converts the signal to a digital format. Therefore a dedicated external audio interface isn’t needed. For example, the RODE NT-USB is a USB microphone that has a built-in audio interface that converts the analog sound waves to a digital format for the computer to read.

Most professional music producers try to avoid USB microphones because the sound quality is known to be degraded when compared to an XLR studio microphone. The reason for this is because the audio interface and preamp have to be built directly into the microphone’s capsule itself.

Therefore, if you want great sounding vocal or instrumental recordings, it is wise that you use a high-quality dynamic or condenser studio XLR microphone that is attached to a good audio interface. You could also use an additional pre-amp to boost the signal, but this is not needed as the majority of audio interfaces will have a pre-amp built into them.

If you feel like you could benefit from an additional gain boost then a pre-amp might be worth it. With more gain, you can back off from the microphone a little and still capture a great sounding recording. If your studio has been treated correctly, with a pre-amp you can get more “air” around the voice which gives off a natural compression due to being further away from the microphone.

There are also some other benefits such as less proximity effect and timbe change. (if the artist where to move their head or body, it is less likely to be picked up by the microphone.) It also gives you a lot more flexibility with the placement and position of the microphone.

What Audio Interface Should You Use?

There are many good audio interfaces that you can use that vary in price. These are the top 2 audio interfaces that I recommend and are currently the best on the market and are highly regarded for beginners and intermediates.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (2nd Gen) USB Audio Interface

The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a very known USB audio interface in the industry. It uses super low latency and has four analog inputs. Two inputs have natural sounding Scarlett mic preamp which means it had plenty of even gain to boost the signal. The other two inputs are designed for instruments and are great for guitars and other instruments.

It can be used and is compatible with Windows and Mac OS. It’s capable of recording with sample rates up to 192KHz with a 24-bit rate.

PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 Audio Interface

The PreSonus AudioBox is another very popular audio interface. Just like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, the PreSonus is also compatible with Mac and windows and records in 24-bit resolution at a 96 kHz sampling rates.

A copy of Studio One Artist DAW software and 6 GB of other resources is also included when you purchase the PreSonus audio interface. The frequency response is 20 Hz to 20 Kkz.

Audio Interface Alternatives – USB Microphones

The other alternative is that you use a USB microphone. USB microphones have built-in audio interfaces into the device itself. This means you don’t need an external audio interface.

Rode NT-USB Microphone

The alternative that we recommend is the Rode NT-USB. It’s a great beginner studio USB microphone. Although it doesn’t beat a good XLR microphone, it sure does produce some excellent outputs for a USB microphone. The only downside is that it records in 16-bit bit depth.

The Rode NT-USB was the first microphone that I used for vocals. It isn’t the ideal solution for a studio microphone but it can sure sound great if you know how to capture good recordings.

Check out this Rode NT-USB recording:

Related Questions

Is a mixer the same as an audio interface? No, they are both two different pieces of hardware. A mixer connects multiple audio inputs together and is used for routing signal inputs. They are commonly used in live performances. An audio interface is a device that converts analog singles into a digital format so that it is readable by your computer.

How does a microphone connect to an audio interface? The majority of audio interfaces will have multiple XLR inputs that let you connect your studio microphone to. You can then connect your user interface to your computer so you can use with your digital audio workstation.

Do I need an audio interface for my USB microphone? No, USB microphones have a built-in audio interface that converts the analog signals to digital signals. Therefore you don’t need a audio interface unless you’re planning to a XLR microphone.