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The Best Budget Audio Interfaces for Recording Drums

As a session drummer, one of your biggest sources of income will most likely be from remote drum recording. In order to do this effectively you will need (at the least) a decent audio interface.

All the time I’m asked for recommendations of which audio interface to get. The thing is there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this, everyone is at a different level and with a varying budget to match.

Here I’m going to give you a choice of 2 audio interfaces at 3 different budget levels, depending on where you’re currently at. I could have listed dozens, but The Entrepreneur Drummer is about simplicity and efficiency.

And so, I’m making this as simple for you as it can be so you can quickly make a choice. Then you can get your audio interface and start taking real action towards delivering drum recordings, therefore growing your business.

About Audio Interfaces

An audio interface in basic terms takes an analogue signal from a sound source going into a microphone and converts it into a digital signal that can be represented as a wave file that we see in our DAW's.

The digital representation of true analogue can never be perfect, however the higher the bit depth and sample rate, the better the quality of the analogue to digital conversion. 

Think of the sample rate like a camera capturing lots of quick snapshots of the analogue signal every second. When converted, the dots of each snap are basically connected to create lines of best fit. 

The higher the sample rate, the more snapshots per second are taken and therefore a more accurate representation of the analogue signal can be created when converted. This will range from 44.1kHz to 192kHz.

All these interfaces will be either USB, thunderbolt or both. This means they can be connected directly into your computer and used to record into a DAW (Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase) of your choice. USB is standard and thunderbolt offers better connectivity and lower latency.

Latency - The amount of 'lag' or time from you playing the instrument to you being able to hear it being recorded through the interface.

Beginner

If you’re a beginner you don’t have any (or very little) experience with recording drums and are looking for your first audio interface. This stage is very important to start building your experience to then go onto working on projects with clients. 

Usually as a beginner you are either young or not earning anything from recording drums so most likely have a smaller budget. These 2 interfaces have been chosen to fit a budget of around £400/$500 and under which gets you a simple interface that’s easy to understand and start using.

  • Tascam US16x08

I had this interface for years and worked an absolute treat for the price. It travelled a lot and was taken to do sessions all over so was very rugged and portable.

The preamps aren’t the best in the world, but it’s a great way to get started with how simple it is to understand and use. I recorded many songs that hit the radio with this interface, so it can’t be that bad can it!

- Price: £265/$270

- XLR Inputs (How many Mics can be used): 8

- Quality: 24bit/96kHz

- Outputs: 8

  • Roland UA-1010 Octa Capture

This is over 50% more expensive than the Tascam, however gives you better quality pre-amps and some really cool features. One of which automatically sets your input level when you play.

Unlike the Tascam, you also get built in tools for each preamp including phase invert, a low cut filter and digital compression. The downside in my opinion is the design; you have 4 inputs on the front and 4 on the back, which personally I think makes routing cables that bit more of a pain.

I’ve tested this and it’s bigger brother (studio capture) and they’re really sturdy and well built pieces of gear. Definitely worth the extra money, but it all depends on how long you intend on using this for before upgrading.

- Price: £400/$520

- XLR Inputs (How many Mics can be used): 8

- Quality: 24bit/192kHz

- Outputs: 10

Intermediate

If you’re an intermediate you have been recording drums by yourself for a couple of years, and have perhaps even recorded projects with other people and started earning. You now want to go to the next level by improving the quality of your recordings.

As you are most likely a little older and have started earning a bit from the odd project, you are willing to start investing in yourself more. These interfaces are under the $1000 bracket and will give you better sounding recordings and a better recording experience with more features.

  • Roland Studio Capture

Here's the bigger brother of the Octa Capture. You have all the quality of the lower down model with 4 extra preamps, meaning you can mic more elements of your kit. This will be especially useful if you have a large setup or want to add more room mics.

The design is similarly skewed, with 4 XLR inputs on the front and 8 on the back, however still has all the features of the 'Octa version'. I would highly recommend this interface to anyone in the recording industry.

- Price: £699/$850

- XLR Inputs (How many Mics can be used): 12

- Quality: 24bit/192kHz

- Outputs: 10

  • Focusrite Clarett 8 Pre

Focusrite are renowned for their great quality audio equipment at a fairly low price. Don't let the 'cheaper' price put you off, the specs of the Clarett 8 Pre makes it unrivalled in it's price bracket and lots of people have great things to say about this interface.

It looks great with nice visual feedback of sound levels, has very low noise and recording latency. There is also a cool  'Air' feature which changes the sound of the pre-amps which will make your hats and overheads shimmer.

- Price: £545/$700

- XLR Inputs (How many Mics can be used): 8

- Quality: 24bit/192kHz

- Outputs: 20

Professional

You have recorded a good amount of projects for many clients over a few years and you’re either breaking through to being full-time or are already there.

As you now have the money to invest, spending more on a better interface is going to improve your recordings drastically. This will help you attract better clients and charge more for your services by delivering a better end product. These interfaces will cost you at least £2000

  • Focusrite RedNet A16R - 16x16

Focusrite don't just do budget interfaces, here's one of their higher tier products which is perfect for the professional recording drummer. You get up to 16 XLR inputs through the two DB25 connectors in the rear, giving you a lot of room to expand your setup in the future.

There are no physical controls for monitoring and input levelling, this comes with its own powerful software where you can remotely control these and set multiple headphone mixes.

- Price: £2520/$4500

- XLR Inputs (How many Mics can be used): 16

- Quality: 24bit/192kHz

- Outputs: 17

  • UA Apollo x16 Thunderbolt MK3

Universal Audio are the big daddy of recording interfaces and you will only see them releasing high end gear. This is reflected in the price, however if you're looking for a world class setup it's worth every penny.

This interface is known for having one of the lowest signal-to-noise ratio's of any interface created, meaning you can crank that gain way up with very little noise. Benefit from up to 16 XLR inputs and a cool talkback function if you're working in a studio environment. 

The latency is super low, the build quality is insane and to make things sweeter, most of UA's products do come with a bundle of their world-renowned plugins for free to enhance your sound after the recording stage. 

- Price: £3120/$4300

- XLR Inputs (How many Mics can be used): 16

- Quality: 24bit/192kHz

- Outputs: 18

These interfaces have been chosen as of December 2019


Article written by Eddie at The Professional Musician Academy


 

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