Don’t buy the cheapest audio interface

When I got interested in trying to record some music, I had virtually no instruments at all. I had my drum kit, and a budget electric guitar.

I figured that a MIDI keyboard and a MIDI interface would be a good starting point, especially if the MIDI interface had audio recording capabilities. After reading up and checking the budget alternatives, I realized that a full sound-packed keyboard was only marginally more expensive than a MIDI keyboard.

My first purchase at my local music shop 4Sound in Malmö was a €250 Yamaha PSR-E423 keyboard. Not as cheap as I had planned, but what the heck. I figured, if I would get bored of music some time in the future, maybe my daughter would use it.

Then I needed the audio interface. The cheapest ones in the music shop were in the €100-€200 range, and I couldn’t really figure out the pro’s and con’s of the various options. Were they audio interfaces with MIDI I/O or were they MIDI interfaces with audio I/O? What was a €100 interface missing compared to a €200 interface? I didn’t understand anything.

So, I went to the local computer accessory shop Kjell & Company, and got myself a €30 USB recoding interface of a brand that I’ve forgotten by now.

I downloaded the trial version of the Reaper DAW, hooked up the keyboard and the audio interface and started recording. Now I realized why this interface was so much cheaper than the others. It is spelled l-a-t-e-n-c-y.

No matter how much I tweaked reaper’s latency correction settings, I couldn’t get the interface to operate well with the keyboard and reaper. Playback would either be delayed or too early, so recording new takes was simply impossible.

So, I strolled back to the music shop and asked “What do I need?” They presented me with a €200 Presonus AudioBox USB interface that also contained a microphone and MIDI input/output.

After making some test recordings, I realized the price tag was worth it. It wasn’t completely free of latency, but unlike the cheapish garbage I’ve tried first, it was usable and good enough.

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