When Do I Need An Audio Interface?

Hey community, I've got an audio-based question on my mind and want to come straight to the experts for it.

I'm a stay-at-home podcaster and live streamer in my spare time, and for the last few years I have made do with a very simple setup. I have a Blue Snowball (one of the cheapest USB options) and recently add a basic arm mount to my desk so I am not slouching into its tiny little stand and a foam filter over it.

We've been just successful enough on the pod and the streams that I'm able to invest a little more in my setup, but I am not sure which direction I want to go next.

On one hand, the plug-and-play ease of a USB mic basically can't be beat, so I have an AT 2020 USB+ in one corner of my eye. In the other hand, I can't help but think I should truly go to the next level and get the XLR version of the 2020 along with an interface to have more control over the quality.

If anyone out there has been in the same position as I have, is simply upgrading to a somewhat higher-end USB going to be a noticeable difference, or should I spring for the whole nine yards to up my audio game? If the answer is the latter, what can I get in a reasonable range that will both upgrade my sound and not break my bank?

Any help would be appreciated, thanks!


  • markofthewild
    markofthewild Member, Voices_Premium
    10 Comments Name Dropper 5 Likes Photogenic

    Spring for it!! But be forewarned, buying new audio gear can be very addictive!

    I say ALWAYS XLR. I do not believe that USB can deliver real balanced audio and since everything is now recorded on a computer and no longer tape...(i say bring tape back for fun!) yes you will need an interface.

    I have a unique setup i use. Being live sound engineer i utilize my mixer and console.A Behringer XAIR18 and A Behringer X32.

    Both have USB midi if you need that for VSTs and such. Both have bidirectional usb audio from mixer to computer. The XR18 has 18 inputs and the X32 has 32. not that you would ever need that many channels but they are nice tools that have everything you need.

    But dont get anything like the x32....you dont need all that, unless you do!

    I suggest the XR18 because of the multi channels. maybe one day you'll have 8 guest on your podcast and want to send audio to different places, auxes, busses etc....it can be controlled by phone, computer, tablet. Windoze, mac or Linux (yay for LINUX!). retails around 600

    However again it maybe too much machine that you dont need. therefore I would suggest the RODE Podcaster!!!!!! AWESOME UNIT!!! google it! you WILL want to buy it. I promise you, I want one and I dont even do podcasts...yet

    You'll pay the same price as the XR 18 but its geared for podcasting, pretty sure you can record with it too. And I believe it has a phone interface too!

    You may still need an audio interface. Focusrite is a good place to start and it wont break the bank

    I'm pretty sure you have a computer so the next thing would be the mic....

    that subject alone has caused many a flame war! lol

    I use a shure SM7B, only because my iso room isnt done and i have a bit of background noise. currently i pretty much wrap myself in moving pads! hahaha. I'm 58 and am still building forts inside! hahahah

    once my room is done i will be upgrading to nice condenser and maybe even a ribbon mic

    Now, the MAIN reason I use what I use. PORTABILITY.

    My goal is for me and one of my DJ brothers to travel the country in RVs and jam with local musicians and record it all. Sorta of a musical caravan.

    I will need an income of course hence the VOs. since the gear I use takes up very little real estate its perfect to travel with and I can build a iso room in an RV quite easily.

    Near Field monitors perhaps. Got to a music store and demo them all, choose which ones your ears tell you to get.

    cans are necessary, again choose what your ears tell you not what the salesman tell you!

    Alot to digest to be sure but like i said, its addicting...hahaha

    Mark of the Wild

  • Andrew Zuber
    Andrew Zuber Administrator
    25 Likes 10 Comments First Answer Photogenic

    @markofthewild amazing answer! Thank you. I hear you on the addiction to buying new gear. The way that shopping for something nowadays means all of my targeted ads are for those same products isn't helping haha.

    Great recs, I'm going to do a bigger look into it this weekend and hopefully have a decision made soon.

  • timbrefox
    timbrefox Member, Voices_Premium
    10 Comments Name Dropper 5 Likes Photogenic

    I use the Focusrite itrack solo as an interface and it's been great but that's a good point made about potentially needing extra inputs.

  • markofthewild
    markofthewild Member, Voices_Premium
    10 Comments Name Dropper 5 Likes Photogenic

    @Andrew Zuber Thanks, but I mean it about the podcaster, its an amazing setup built for podcasting!

    disclaimer..i dont work for RODE..lol