How to Choose the Right Audio Interface for Podcasting
This article will cover how to choose the best audio interface for podcasting as well as basic home recording. Audio interfaces are also called “sound cards” and choosing the right one will have you ready to podcast in no time at all.
Does it matter which audio interface I buy for Podcasting?
If you’re thinking of starting a podcast odds are you already starting to look at what audio interface to buy. Another term for an “Audio Interface” is “Soundcard”. A good quality audio interface will typically plug in via a USB cable to the computer. What is the best soundcard for podcasting? There’s no one answer but I will give you some great options to check out.
Does Brand Matter Anymore?
In 2019 the brand doesn’t matter as much as it did even 5 to 10 years ago. Back in the day, there was a clear cut difference in audio quality between more expensive soundcards and some of the less expensive ones.
I have been fortunate enough to own a number of different soundcards over the years. Currently, I own 5 different brands of them at the moment which is these:
- Behringer UMC22 | B&H
- M-Audio M-Track | B&H
- Steinberg UR22 MKii (2x) | B&H
- ZOOM R-16 8 input sound card | B&H
Do you need a particular type of Audio Interface for Podcasting?
If you’re using a regular studio microphone the new definitely need a particular type of audio Interface. If you’re using a USB microphone you don’t actually need an audio Interface I did a full tutorial about this that you can check out here.
For those going with the studio microphone route then read on. A Studio microphone generally is a phantom powered microphone. This means that the microphone requires power to operate properly. There are some exceptions to this rule, of course. Certain microphones like the Rode Procaster or Shure SM7B microphone do not require any phantom power to operate. They are “dynamic microphones” which use sound pressure to trigger the diaphragm instead of power. Either way, though you still need to connect the microphone to the soundcard.
Podcasting alone or with others?
The first thing you need to assess is where you’re podcast be hosted only by yourself or will you also have guests. If you’re flying solo, you can get away with a single Channel XLR soundcard. The great news about this is the fact that a single channel soundcard is usually very inexpensive. If you’re 100% certain you’ll never have another guest in a room with you these are my suggestions forgetting a single channel soundcard.
Why are these the only three that I recommended in this particular list? All of these I tested and used personally. I also currently still own the Behringer. I have compared the audio quality of the Behringer to more expensive units and there is no audible difference to my ear. The Focusrite is a “higher quality” unit. The main difference will be the audio drivers. If you’re using a Mac then it doesn’t matter. If you are on Windows the drivers for the Focusrite are generally better. This means it’s a bit easier to set up and to keep updated. Mac doesn’t require drivers in this way. You just plug any of them in and they work.
Podcasting with others in the room
If you’re podcasting with others in the same room you definitely need a multichannel audio Interface. Just to be safe, I would choose this option over buying one that only has one channel. A two-channel sound card for a computer will definitely be the best thing for recording two different people in the same room. I would suggest this over buying a single channel on just on the off-chance you have a guest.
If you’re looking for a dual channel soundcard then these would definitely be my pics of the bunch
- Steinberg UR22mkII | B&H
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (2nd Generation) | B&H
- Behringer U-PHORIA UMC204HD | B&H
- Mackie Onyx Series Artist 2-2 | B&H
- Presonus AudioBox 96 | B&H
- Motu Audio Express | B&H
Up to 4 Microphone Inputs/Channels
One of the great things about most of the audio interfaces on the market is they accommodate up to 4 channels easily. There are a lot of single, dual, and quad soundcards on the market to choose from.
4 or More People or Guests Dialling in via Phone
If you have more than four people in the same room or you want to actually take and calls from people out in the real world, then you need a mixer. A mixer will allow something called “Mix minus”. If you are looking to something like this make sure the mixer can do a mix-minus. This allows the host to bring in calls while muting them until they are ready to go “on air”. These type of setups require are pretty complex and I will do a follow-up tutorial on this coming up on this website.
You could purchase a USB mixer. This will allow you to have as many guests as you like at one time but the majority of them will only output to stereo to a computer. If you want to be able to tweak the audio after you’ve recorded the podcast this is probably not the best way to go.
You could also try a Zoom R16. These are an 8 channel sound card that also works recording to its own SD card to a computer via USB. This means you can run 8 microphones at one time. The only limitation of this unit is you can only power two condenser microphones. If you are going to be using dynamic microphones then this limitation doesn’t matter at all.
What are the Best Microphones for Podcasting?
If you are wondering which microphone you should use for any of these audio interfaces I put together an article covering this. The article also includes sound samples and various options depending on your budget and needs. Check it out here it will be a huge help.
In terms of build quality, the majority of the interfaces listed here are very solid construction. The lightest one on the list is the Behringer branded gear. If you’re looking for something portable it’s a great choice.
Most people doing a podcast will leave the interface in one spot or it’s no hassle to move it as required. The only really “plastic” one is the Zoom R16 but it’s built like a tank. I doubt you’ll have any issues with any of these ones.
Operating System Compatibility
My suggestions for Windows users is to use Windows 10. The reason for this is as the drivers get updated, you’ll have a fully operational unit and current operating system. As the drivers get updated for stability reasons, you can always upgrade. If you are using Windows 7 at this point in time it’s time to swap over.
Running a Mac or Linux OS makes things a lot easier on the most part. The majority of these audio interfaces are plug and play. The only exception is the Zoom R16. This will require a Macintosh driver (see the video above). Without installing the Zoom R16 driver the computer will not see all of the inputs in interface mode.
The only requirement for any of these units is either USB2.0 or USB3.0 ports. If you have either, it will work. There are no benefits using a USB 3.0 port over the 2.0 port. Just plug it in and you should be good to go. Some of the audio interfaces listed for podcasting come with their own power supply. Usually, you don’t even need to use it. You can just power the units with the USB cable straight out of the computer.