A home studio setup isn’t complete without an audio interface if you’re serious about recording music. Aside from converting the sound from various sources into a language your computer can understand, audio interfaces are essential to achieving better sound quality. But what if your audio interface sounds bad?
When an audio interface sounds bad, it could be due to incorrect settings, outdated software, or faulty hardware. Common sound quality issues include distortion, clipping, and the audio dropping out. Most of these issues can be fixed without professional help or the need to replace anything.
Keep reading if you’re tired of putting up with bad sound quality from your audio interface. This article will review the most common reasons an audio interface doesn’t sound right and how to fix these issues.
Table of Contents
- 1. Gain Is Set Too High
- 2. Buffer Size Set Too Low
- 3. The Software Needs To Be Updated
- 4. Faulty Cables
1. Gain Is Set Too High
Your audio interface has a gain control that determines how much amplification is applied to the audio signal to increase its strength. It’s crucial to set the gain correctly to obtain the right sound.
When you plug a microphone or musical instrument into your audio interface, it sends out audio signals. These signals must be intensified before being processed by the audio interface’s DAC (digital to analog converter) so that your computer recognizes the sound in its digital format.
If the gain is too low, the signal might not be strong enough to produce an audible sound from the microphone or instrument. However, the sound will become distorted if the gain is too high.
How To Fix
Some audio interfaces have an LED indicator that turns green when the audio signal is sufficient and red when it’s too strong. Start with the gain control on the lowest setting and turn the knob until the light turns green.
If your audio interface does not have an LED indicator, you should be able to get the right gain setting by checking the input level on your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).
Adjust the gain, so the sound is audible while the input signal remains below 0dB. An input signal that exceeds the 0dB mark is bound to cause distortion.
2. Buffer Size Set Too Low
Every DAW has a buffer size setting under audio preferences. Buffer size refers to the time your computer is given to process an audio signal.
Since the computer has to process an audio signal, there may be a delay between the sound source and output device. For example, if you speak through a microphone, your voice would echo through the speakers since the microphone’s audio signal is not processed instantaneously.
Reducing the buffer size decreases processing time and lessens audio latency. However, lowering the buffer size requires more work from the computer. And if the computer fails to cope, you may experience the audio cutting in and out or distorted sound.
How To Fix
You need to ensure your computer has the minimum system requirements to cope with the amount of audio data sent from the interface.
The buffer size should be as low as possible without taking a toll on the computer. Less powerful computers require a higher buffer size, which you will need to increase as you add more audio clips to your project.
During a recording session, do a sound check to see if there are any glitches with the audio. You can start with the buffer size on the lowest setting and work your way up until there’s no more interference.
If you’re mixing or just listening to prerecorded music, you can adjust the buffer size to the highest setting since latency shouldn’t be much of an issue. Keeping the buffer size high will also reduce the chances of any unwanted noise.
3. The Software Needs To Be Updated
Unless your audio interface is class compliant, it needs a driver to communicate with your computer so you can use all its features. Class-compliant interfaces do not require additional drivers because they work with the driver built into the computer’s operating system.
Audio interface manufacturers occasionally update their drivers to optimize hardware performance. Failure to keep your drivers or software up to date can result in lag or clicking issues.
How To Fix
Ensure your audio interface driver is up to date by checking for updates on the manufacturer’s website. You can download your audio/MIDI interface drivers at iconnectivity.com. All their MIDI devices are Mac and PC class-compliant so you won’t need additional drivers.
If your audio interface is class compliant, you can download the ASIO (Audio Stream Input/Output) driver to optimize performance. This driver is designed to give you high-quality audio and more control of your interface.
Aside from installing the latest drivers, you must ensure your interface is correctly set up through your DAW’s preferences menu.
Watch the video below for additional guidance in setting up your audio interface.
4. Faulty Cables
You may have faulty hardware if you still encounter bad sound after checking your settings and updating your software. However, don’t ditch your audio interface and get a new one just yet. The problem might just be with your cables.
Audio interfaces have cables that connect to the computer, input instrument, and speakers. Damaged cables can cause the audio to cut in and out or pop and crackle as you play music.
How To Fix
Cables can malfunction even if they show no evidence of damage since the problem usually lies within the tiny wires beneath the insulation.
The best way to check if your cables are damaged is by connecting the cables to another device to see if the problem persists. Always make sure the cables are securely connected.
Also, check if there’s dirt in the USB port. You can clean the ports using a cotton swab that’s lightly dabbed in alcohol. Try plugging the cable in other ports if necessary.
You will need to replace the cables if you confirm they are damaged.
If your issue is still not resolved, I’ve covered a few other techniques to improve audio interface quality in a different article. How to Make an Audio Interface Sound Better (5 Ways)
You must ensure that your audio interface is compatible with your computer and all the software to avoid any issues. If everything is compatible and you still experience bad sound, you should check all the settings and make sure that all software is up to date before replacing any hardware.
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