Monday, 15 December 2014

Sound Equipment for Creating Audio Books: What is an Audio Interface and Why Voice Narrators Need an External Sound Card

The creator of audiobooks might at first might think a studio microphone, earphones, power supply, computer and sound editing software are all that are needed for recording audio books, but another essential bit of kit is needed: the audio interface. But what is an audio interface?

The Best USB Audio Interface for Audio Books

Which Audio Interface for Narration
Simply put, an audio interface is an electrical box that plugs into the USB terminal or Firewire port of the computer. It has input sockets for the mic, headphones and other sound equipment that might be needed. The interface converts the sound signal from analog to digital, a code the computer can understand prior to editing. Every computer has a built in sound card, which is really a basic type of audio interface. This might be OK for listening to podcasts, YouTube, or for basic recording, but not for audiobooks.

Does the Narrator Need an Audio Interface to Create Audio Books?

The answer is yes. The audio interface enhances the recording and listening experience for narrators who wish to create professional quality audio books. This is because the audio interface is a much superior kind of sound card than the basic one that exists in the computer. Like a USB-connected external drive, the computer will perceive this superior soundcard whilst sound files are being created.

The Best Audio Interface for the Home Studio

Not all audio interfaces are the same. Some have racks of input sockets for various sound equipment. The MIDI (a musical instrument digital interface) provides input jacks and controls for guitars, bass, keyboards and other sound-related equipment.

The humble voice narrator will not need these complex types of audio interfaces more suited to a multi-piece band. The FireWire interface, developed by Apple, for instance is designed for the transmission of large amounts of sound data, suited for such complex projects. Only sockets for earphones and a mic are really needed. But what is the best type of audio interface the voice narrator will need? Well, the USB interface is generally thought to be best suited for voice narration.

The Home Audio Interface for Voice Recording

A robust, good quality but simple audio interface is ideal, as the narrator might be paying for effects that will not be needed. The only important factor is after all, the quality of the recording, not special features or numerous input jacks.

Best Audio Interface for Voice Recording in Audio Book Narration

The FocusRite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface with award winning preamps is highly regarded in the recording industry and can be used on Mac or Windows. Note: the Focusrite Scarlett Home Recording Package provides the complete home studio as it includes the audio interface, a large diaphragm condenser mic, pop filter, earphones, Phantom power, XLR cable and sound editing software. Purchase of this complete home recording kit works out cheaper than purchasing the components separately.

Also recommended is M-Audio MTracks USB Interface. This simple to use USB audio interface with two input jacks for mic and headphones provides crystal clear signals, ideal for the voice acting. Pro Tools Express is the sound editing software that comes with this interface. Pro Tools are the favorite of ACX, the creators of Amazon’s Audible.com.

The PreSonus Audiobox USB Audio Interface with Studio One software is ideal for easy sound editing of voice narration. Again this provides all the sound enhancements the narrator is likely to need for creating audio books. Note: the PreSonus also comes in a complete home recording package: the AudioBox Studio Complete Hardware/Software Recording Kit with headphones, large diaphragm condenser mic, XLR cable and DAW software.

Other recommended range of USB interfaces can be found in Roland, Behringer and Lexicon Alpha. The simple models are compact, robust and boasts low noise power with professional quality preamps.

Which Audio Interface Should I Buy for Audio Book Narration?

Prior research is essential before purchasing the most suitable audio interface for narrating an audiobook. Make sure the interface is compatible with the computer (Mac or Windows) and that 48V Phantom Power is included (if the mic doesn’t have it. Phantom power by the way is what powers the mic). Not all audio interfaces include phantom power.

Audio Interface for Book Narration

Don’t rely on the basic soundcard that exists within the standard computer for professional audio book creation. A good audio interface will enhance the sound of the recording and digitalize the signals, a format the computer can understand.

Avoid purchasing the expensive type of audio interface that overkills the requirements of the modest voice narrator. Is a MIDI really needed? (a musical instrument digital interface for guitars, bass, keyboard, etc.). Racks of input jacks and special features may remain mostly redundant by the voice narrator. All that matters in the end is the quality of the voice recording.

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