A huge amount of my time with my students involves discussing equipment purchases and decisions. This series of posts will address some of the most common areas of discussion. This is targeted to young students just getting started. There are no ground-breaking secrets here; just real-world considerations for purchases.
This post will focus on Interfaces.
For most audio students, the interface will likely be an all-in one unit that includes the mic preamp and converters. In the past, interfaces were a bit more of an issue since Pro Tools was proprietary to M-Audio and Digidesign (Avid) hardware until version 9. Now, there are more options.
This is another area that I think a lot of students have irrational issues with the want vs. need thing. Things that you NEED are things that are essential for you success in school, or things that will pay for themselves in a short time by allowing you to make money you would have been able to make otherwise. Anything else is really a WANT, a luxury. I’m an established professional, so my needs are very different than students. I also have a budget for WANT. Most students do not.
When it comes to interfaces, of course you want 24 channels of great pres and conversion, all for $400. Unfortunately, that won’t be happening. For most students, the question is really one of 2 channel, 4 channel, and 8 channel interfaces. That is the NEED. I encourage students to not over-buy interfaces. You have access to facilities while you are in school. Like all computer-based equipment, interfaces become obsolete within a few years, so it isn’t a solid investment for a student. If you can get by with four channels until you graduate, do it. Don’t buy an 8-channel. Save your money for something that will last.