Does the quality of the Audio Interface affect playback, or only recording?

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
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charliechuck01
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Does the quality of the Audio Interface affect playback, or only recording?

Post by charliechuck01 » Sat Sep 12, 2020 4:17 pm

Basically what I'm asking is, does any of the processing done in the DAW—such as the performance of the plugins, playback of numerous tracks—get done by the audio interface? The reason I'm asking is to determine whether it makes more sense for me to put more money into a nice audio interface, or more money into a new computer? I know that the quality of the audio interface affects recording and latency, that's not what I'm asking. I realize that if I want to record 24 tracks simultaneously with low latency I'll need a pretty powerful interface. But I typically only need to record MAYBE 4 tracks at a time. BUT I will be playing back many tracks with many plugins, etc. And right now, I get a lot of CPU Load. So do I need a better interface, or a better computer? Does the CPU Load reflect ONLY the computer processing power, or does it reflect anything done by the interface itself?

Tarekith
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Re: Does the quality of the Audio Interface affect playback, or only recording?

Post by Tarekith » Sat Sep 12, 2020 4:56 pm

Nope, it only affects what you record and what you hear, not the actual processing of the audio. That said, if you have a very low quality soundcard and it's not giving you a true picture of what your music making sounds like, then for all intents it's affecting how you process your audio too. Most sound cards these days, even on the lower price range, are pretty decent though. So improvements tend to rather minor when you upgrade.

fishmonkey
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Re: Does the quality of the Audio Interface affect playback, or only recording?

Post by fishmonkey » Sun Sep 13, 2020 12:07 am

charliechuck01 wrote:
Sat Sep 12, 2020 4:17 pm
Does the CPU Load reflect ONLY the computer processing power, or does it reflect anything done by the interface itself?
the primary responsibility of your audio interface is AD/DA conversion — converting analog signals to digital and passing them on to your computer when recording, and converting digital signals from your computer into analog to go to your headphones or speakers on playback. as Tarekith said, even low-end audio interfaces designed for music production mostly have decent AD/DA conversion these days.

the only way that CPU use affects your audio interface is if your computer is struggling to reliably transfer the digital data with your interface — then you get glitches. so if you are running out of CPU power then upgrading your computer makes more sense.
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jlgrimes
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Re: Does the quality of the Audio Interface affect playback, or only recording?

Post by jlgrimes » Sun Sep 13, 2020 4:56 am

charliechuck01 wrote:
Sat Sep 12, 2020 4:17 pm
Basically what I'm asking is, does any of the processing done in the DAW—such as the performance of the plugins, playback of numerous tracks—get done by the audio interface? The reason I'm asking is to determine whether it makes more sense for me to put more money into a nice audio interface, or more money into a new computer? I know that the quality of the audio interface affects recording and latency, that's not what I'm asking. I realize that if I want to record 24 tracks simultaneously with low latency I'll need a pretty powerful interface. But I typically only need to record MAYBE 4 tracks at a time. BUT I will be playing back many tracks with many plugins, etc. And right now, I get a lot of CPU Load. So do I need a better interface, or a better computer? Does the CPU Load reflect ONLY the computer processing power, or does it reflect anything done by the interface itself?
Audio interfaces can affect low latency performance as well especially if going from USB to Thunderbolt as it can handle more data (typically). That said for softsynth playback most USB interfaces are usually sufficient but some might not be the best option if live processing audio like vocals, elect guitars.

What are your current specs?

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