So now that we've covered the types of computer hardware that make a good audio system, let's focus on getting music in and out of the computer. It's time to talk about interfaces, those wonderful devices that connect music to an otherwise lifeless machine. Interfaces are pieces of hardware that connect to a computer to bring music in and out.
MIDI interfaces are the simplest and least expensive interfaces for a computer. They come in many shapes and sizes, one for every need. You will want to get an interface that has one input for every piece of MIDI-enabled gear in your studio. The MIDI interface is shown in Figure 5-1.
Figure 5-1: USB MIDI interface Courtesy of Avid Technology, Inc.
Prices for basic interfaces start around $35; an interface with more inputs will be more expensive. There are several types of MIDI interface connections:
You will need a MIDI interface if you plan to record MIDI from keyboards, synthesizers, or drum machines that lack USB connections. More and more MIDI-capable instruments ship with USB connections, negating the need for a separate MIDI interface. If you plan to use the computer as an audio recorder only, a MIDI interface is not necessary.
In terms of routing audio in and out of your computer, you have to make some hard decisions about how many instruments you can record at once. Simple interfaces that support one or two channels are relatively inexpensive. If you want to record eight simultaneous inputs, be prepared to pay more. Also key is the number of microphone inputs that the interfaces have. If you plan to record acoustic instruments such as piano, voice, or anything else that requires a microphone, you'll need a few microphone inputs (shown in Figure 5-2).
Just like MIDI interfaces, audio interfaces come in three basic forms and you can get started for around $200.