What is a USB interface?

What is a USB interface?

Universal Serial Bus, or USB, is found in all computers today. They come in two varieties, the 'A' connector which is rectangular and the 'B' connector which is square. The A type is for receiving and the B type is for sending. USB's come in three different standards. USB 1.1 which transfers data at up to 12 Mbps, USB 2.0 which transfers data upto 480 Mbps and USB 3.0 which transfers data at 5 Gbps.

Many digital music production software come with a USB interface. A USB audio interface is simply a software suite which plugs into your computer. You plug in the device and you are ready to go!

One major disadvantage of using a USB interface is that, as mentioned in the beginning of this article, USB's have a maximum data upload rate. This means that when you are recording a song, the USB struggles to keep up with the rate at which you are outputting your data. As a result there is a lag between what you are playing, and what is being recorded or played back to you.

To get around this problem, most USB audio interfaces feature ’no latency' functionality. As a result you can record without having to deal with the delay in output. However, your track will get out of sync with previously recorded portions or tracks. This requires further work-around. While the process is easy, it does require some time and effort.

On the plus side, with most USB audio interfaces you only need to plug in a guitar to turn your computer into an amp and recording studio rolled into one. Also you can use the stereo headphone output to peacefully go about your work without bothering others.

It is always a good idea to go for at least a USB 2.0 interface if you are planning on using a USB audio interface because the lag with a USB 1.1 interface will only annoy you. USB interfaces retail for $200 to $1000. They are ideal for people who don't need too many I/Os for their digital music production.

Some popular USB Audio interfaces along with some of their features are as below.

PreSonus AudioBox USB Audio Interface

The PreSonus AudioBox USB Audio interface has two channels capable of simultaneous recording. You can use compressor Mics thanks to its 48V phantom power. It offers TRS outputs which can be connected to monitors.

This is a perfect solution for creating demos, mixing, editing and play-back. It also features the PreSonus Studio One Artist which is a recording software utility. It has mixing and production tools and is equipped with an effects library filled with reverbs, modulations, simulations etc. Plus it also has lite versions of Guitar Rig and EZ Drummer.

Most importantly the PreSonus AudioBox USB Interface is USB 3.0 compatible.

UCG102

The UCG102 functions pretty much like a guitar amp. It has an input jack that receives the signal from your guitar. It sends the signal to the computer through a USB cable. It outputs via both monitors as well as stereo headphones.  It features most of the functionality of DAW's at a fraction of the cost.

Focusrite Saffire 6 USB

The Focusrite Saffire 6 USB features 2 input channels and 4 output channels.  It has a reputation for being a mature and stable soft-ware, with an easy set-up procedure and an intuitive interface. It offers the least latency as compared to the competition. This is a perfect suite for DJs who use their laptops as recording/mixing workstations.

These are only some of the numerous software suites now available with USB audio interfaces. With the advent of USB 3.0, the only major disadvantage of using a USB audio interface should cease to be a factor. The popularity of these software suites makes it clear that when it comes to offering a cheap solution to convert your laptop or desktop into a complete digital composing and processing studio, USB interfaces offer the best value for money.

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