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Necessity of Audio Interfaces

If I don't record anything do active studio monitors have to be connected to audio interfaces if they also accept unbalanced inputs?
I'm on a 2018 Mac if that helps. Getting a 3.5mm to dual TS cable seems to be the easier method. Is that going to sound the same as going the balanced route through an audio interface?


Re: Necessity of Audio Interfaces

Reply #1
As long as nothing is "wrong" it should sound the same.      

The main advantage of an audio interface is that it has "proper" balanced microphone inputs  for stage/studio microphones and phantom power for studio condenser mics, and better quality mic preamps..  

Balanced connections provide more noise immunity but noise pick-up through the cables is not much of a problem at line-leve,l and it's not much of a problem with short cable runs.     ...If you've got cables running all over a studio, balanced connections are a good idea.

And, some regular soundcards & laptops can have noisy outputs, so if you are getting excessive noise an interface should help (with balanced ro unbalanced connections to the monitors).

Re: Necessity of Audio Interfaces

Reply #2
If the monitors are self powered, can the cable be further split at the computer jack with a splitter so a headphone can be attached too? Professional monitors don't seem to like having headphone ports on them.

Quote
And, some regular soundcards & laptops can have noisy outputs, so if you are getting excessive noise an interface should help (with balanced ro unbalanced connections to the monitors).
This brings up something else that I wanted to ask about. For some reason for practically any model there are a lot of complaints over self-noise. This goes for monitors AND audio interfaces. What are the causes of this?

Here are just some examples:

https://www.reddit.com/r/edmproduction/comments/8n6xmv/about_yamaha_hs8_producing_white_noise/
https://support.focusrite.com/hc/en-gb/articles/115005675925-Why-do-I-hear-white-noise-when-I-turn-up-the-gain-on-my-interface-

So if there does happen to be noise when connected straight into the Mac, could adding an audio interface introduce even more noise?

Re: Necessity of Audio Interfaces

Reply #3
I have two Yamaha HS80M active studio monitors connected to the mini jack plug on my onboard Realtek high definition audio chip via an unbalanced cable that has a stereo mini jack plug on one side and two mono jack plugs on the other.

When I bought new monitors for the studio I tried the yamahas in my room. After 10 minutes I put the amp and the passive speakers into the garage.

Re: Necessity of Audio Interfaces

Reply #4
Quote
If the monitors are self powered, can the cable be further split at the computer jack with a splitter so a headphone can be attached too?
Yes, but that's where an interface (and or a monitor controller) might be more convenient.

Quote
This brings up something else that I wanted to ask about. For some reason for practically any model there are a lot of complaints over self-noise. This goes for monitors AND audio interfaces. What are the causes of this?
There are two sources of noise (plus any noise in the recording) -

1. All active electronics generate some noise and any gain amplifies the noise.  That's usually white noise or hiss.  With a strong signal into the monitors you can turn down the monitor level/gain which usually lowers the nose from the monitor's amplifiers (hopefully to the point where it's inaudible) and giving you a better signal-to-noise ratio.  

Microphone preamps are usually the biggest source of electrical noise because of the tiny microphone signal and the high-gain.   A better preamp will have less noise.

2. Computer power supplies are usually electrically-noisy because they are designed for digital which is very-immune to noise.   And, the "digital activity" inside a computer generates more electrical noise.    Either of these can get-into the analog part of a soundcard/soundchip.   

A separate audio interface is isolated from the computer's internal electronics but you can get power supply noise from a USB-powered interface (and then you don't know if you should blame the computer for having a noisy power supply or the interface for being sensitive to power supply noise).   So, it's usually "safer" to use an interface that has it's own separate power supply. 

You can get hum from a regular-old "analog" power supply or high-frequency switching noise from a switching power supply, but that's rare in properly designed equipment that has it's own power supply.

...Oh, I forgot about electric guitars that pick-up hum from the nearby AC power.    The magnetic pickup-and unbalanced high-impedance connection make it a LOT more sensitive to noise than a balanced microphone connection.

Re: Necessity of Audio Interfaces

Reply #5
Quote
If the monitors are self powered, can the cable be further split at the computer jack with a splitter so a headphone can be attached too?
Yes, but that's where an interface (and or a monitor controller) might be more convenient.
So multiple connection points won't introduce more noise?

As for the convenience, I was thinking that a passive solution would always be more desirable than something that needs you to install drivers and be an additional source of potential problems.


1. All active electronics generate some noise and any gain amplifies the noise.  That's usually white noise or hiss.
Do reference monitors generate more of this than the typical computer speakers?

With a strong signal into the monitors
What gives you a stronger signal?

Re: Necessity of Audio Interfaces

Reply #6
Do reference monitors generate more of this than the typical computer speakers?

I am not sure if you want them to use in the studio or just for listening to music...

When using active studio monitors nearfield in the studio you sit nearer to them then you would typically in your flat. While it could be a problem in the studio there should be no concerns when they are used for listening in the flat.

I never had issues with noise in the studio with the yamahas (and I sat very near to them) nor do I have issues with my new RCF Ayra Pro8. Some people have reported louder hiss with the new Kali monitors, but I think the problem is a little bit overrated in general.
I have not faced it so far.

Re: Necessity of Audio Interfaces

Reply #7
I am not sure if you want them to use in the studio or just for listening to music...
More like a bedroom studio. It's either a pair of 5 inch monitors or headphones in my scenario.

So, it's usually "safer" to use an interface that has it's own separate power supply. 
It seems like Steinberg's UR22MKII is the only budget interface that has that option. I did a quick google search which turned up a slew of complaints from its users.

Can you recommend an audio interface that doesn't cost hundreds?




Re: Necessity of Audio Interfaces

Reply #10
Have a look here: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/review-and-measurements-of-topping-d10-dac.2470/
I thought I was supposed to look for one with its own dedicated power supply? (and balanced outputs too)

That is just a DAC, no power amp, so no need for more than USB power.

Re: Necessity of Audio Interfaces

Reply #11
I thought I was supposed to look for one with its own dedicated power supply? (and balanced outputs too)
You asked for a budget solution.
My take: if you want it on the cheap, get that Y-cable and use the onboard audio of the iMac.
Say $10 get you started.
My expectation, sound quality will be fair but not top.
It might be possible to improve on the on board audio by using an external DAC.
If it must be on a budget, have a look at the Topping.
If you want all the boxes checked
- DAC
- Headphone out
- Balanced line out
- self powered
- measures superb
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/review-and-measurements-of-rme-adi-2-dac.2582/
But you can’t get this quality on a budget.
TheWellTemperedComputer.com

Re: Necessity of Audio Interfaces

Reply #12
That is just a DAC, no power amp, so no need for more than USB power.
DVDdoug said above that audio interfaces can pick up noise from the computer's power supply if it's bus powered.

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/review-and-measurements-of-rme-adi-2-dac.2582/
But you can’t get this quality on a budget.
Thunderbolt audio interfaces that have all of the above cost less and come with a lot more.

Re: Necessity of Audio Interfaces

Reply #13
That is just a DAC, no power amp, so no need for more than USB power.
DVDdoug said above that audio interfaces can pick up noise from the computer's power supply if it's bus powered.

Given the extremely low noise floor when running off of bus power, this is evidently not a weakness of the particular device.

Re: Necessity of Audio Interfaces

Reply #14
That is just a DAC, no power amp, so no need for more than USB power.
DVDdoug said above that audio interfaces can pick up noise from the computer's power supply if it's bus powered.

Given the extremely low noise floor when running off of bus power, this is evidently not a weakness of the particular device.
That applies to all audio interfaces too? (Focusrite Scarlett Solo, Native instruments Komplete Audio 2 etc...) I was wondering in #2 why there were so many complaining about added noise from the interface for every brand/model.

Can you also take a look at this?

https://www.theguitarjunky.com/best-audio-interfaces-for-mac/

It seems to say that many audio interfaces randomly go haywire after a few hours of use and need to be turned off and allowed to rest. Is this true?

Re: Necessity of Audio Interfaces

Reply #15
It seems to say that many audio interfaces randomly go haywire after a few hours of use and need to be turned off and allowed to rest. Is this true?

I never had that problem and I own an audio interface.  Any device can go "randomly haywire" and might need a hard reset or cold reboot to function correctly again but resting it after a few hours isn't necessary unless the device is prone to overheating because of bad design.

Re: Necessity of Audio Interfaces

Reply #16
DVDdoug said above that audio interfaces can pick up noise from the computer's power supply if it's bus powered.

Given the extremely low noise floor when running off of bus power, this is evidently not a weakness of the particular device.

That applies to all audio interfaces too? (Focusrite Scarlett Solo, Native instruments Komplete Audio 2 etc...) I was wondering in #2 why there were so many complaining about added noise from the interface for every brand/model.

Check reviews for those products and see if bus power is a problem or not. 

 
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