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Home Recording Audio Interface Basics

You will need the appropriate hardware to transfer recorded sound into and out of your computer. This requires a device called an audio interface. Audio interfaces are available with three types of connection methods: PCI, FireWire, and USB. Here’s a quick rundown on the three types:

  • PCI: PCI interfaces are inserted into one of the PCI slots located inside your computer’s case.

  • Thunderbolt: The Intel-developed Thunderbolt interface (originally called Light Peak) is considered by many to be the future of audio and video connectivity. Thunderbolt offers speeds from 20-100 gigabits per second, which is considerably faster than PCI, FireWire, and USB options.

    Although no Thunderbolt audio interfaces are available as of December 2011, expect this to change soon. Maybe as soon as you’re reading this book. You shouldn't expect interfaces using Thunderbolt to be cheap, however.

    With all this speed, manufacturers will want to include a ton of inputs and outputs, so expect to pay for them. Still, this may be a great way to go if your goal is to record many tracks at once.

  • FireWire: FireWire interfaces connect to one of the FireWire ports in your computer.

  • USB: USB interfaces connect to your computer — you guessed it — through one of the USB ports in your computer.

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