When you’re in the market for an audio interface, there’s one question that should be at the top of your list.

Before you start comparing specs and reviews, features and price points, you need to answer the question: How many inputs do I need?

I know it seems probably too simple, but here’s why it’s important.

The Too Few Blues

If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, you might be tempted to grab one of those $150-200 interfaces with a pair of mic inputs.

If all you ever record is acoustic guitar, and you literally NEVER need more than two inputs, this is a fine option.

But what if 6 months from now you write a super-cool song with your friend, and the two of you want to record it with both of you playing and singing? 

Well, that’s 4 inputs. Your 2-channel interface won’t cut it.

Think long-term. Use the 3-Year Rule. Don’t go too small.

Too Big For Your Britches

On the flippidy-flipside, don’t get something so big because you might “someday” need all those inputs.

If you only own one microphone, you probably don’t need 16 inputs. To utilize those inputs, you would need to buy 15 more mics, 15 more stands, 15 more cables. That can get expensive.

Be realistic.

Another Definition of “Inputs”

We tend to only think of inputs in terms of recording, but what about mixing?

I’m mixing more and more projects through a Presonus StudioLive mixer. I actually recently upgraded from the 16 to the 24-channel version.

Do I need all those inputs for recording? Heavens no.

But I DO want more inputs for mixing.

Anyhoo, whether you need a lot of inputs or only a few, make sure you sit down and think through what you need. Then go find the perfect piece for you.

Oh, and by the way, the best compliment to a new piece of gear? A Home Studio Corner VIP membership.

For 10 smackeroos per month, you get access to:

  • Weekly training videos, each designed to help you get better, faster
  • Weekly mix critiques – I critique a new mix every week. Very valuable stuff.
  • Exclusive discounts – Members get 30% off of my other products, plus special offers that no one else sees.
  • Best forum on the internet – The VIP member forum is full of awesome, quirky, helpful folks who are passionate about music and helping each other get better.

Get started right here:

www.HomeStudioCorner.com/VIP

Joe Gilder
Home Studio Corner

  • Jory

    Hi Joe,
    I have 16 inputs between two Saffire interfaces. If I do one session with drums, guitars, bass, keys, banjo, can I do a second session, reassigning all those to different instruments? In other words do I have an unlimited amount of tracks that I can record or am I limited to the number of inputs on my interface?

    • You can record as many tracks as you want, as long as your software supports it. Your interface is just the input device.

  • OmarFromTexas

    Hey Joe,

    You always put out great stuff on your website/YouTube channel which is always informative and based upon your own personal experience(s) and I thank you for that. Your following statement > “I’m mixing more and more projects through a Presonus StudioLive mixer” < got me intrigued with the StudioLive mixer that you use in your home studio. I currently looking to upgrade my own studio gear (Still running Mbox 2 Pro w/ PT 8.0.5 LE) and the StudioLive mixer sounds like a great upgrade deal especially with recent across the board price drops on Presonus gear. Is it possible to elaborate (great YouTube video idea) on how exactly your mixing your projects utilizing your StudioLive mixer???

    Thanks Joe,
    OmarFromTexas

    • I’ll definitely do a video at some point. Thanks!

  • niklasjblixt

    I’ve always bought interfaces based on how many inputs I need. But I also think it can be a good thing to have fewer inputs than you’d prefer because it forces you to be more creative as a producer and/or recording engineer. Or even as a songwriter, of you have let’s say 8 inputs an want to record this five big band you have to think ahead and plan your recording session well. Maybe you have to overdub e few instruments instead of tracking them live. Or maybe you have to rehearse the song one more time so you can capture a great live performance with all the band members live. And so on and so forth.

    • Absolutely. I’m all about limitations.

  • rustysnares

    I myself am one of those guilty souls! I purchased in a rush the m-audio fast track pro, and I’m a drummer. Duh! But I was much less experienced with recording interfaces than I am now. So now hopefully soon a new 8 input interface will be in the mix! A learning experience for sure!

    • I’ve made PLEEEENTY of these mistakes myself. 🙂

  • Jens

    Hey Joe! Thanx for your advice! I’m just thinking to buy the StudioLive 16.4.2. The first reason: I want to record my band live. Second reason: I want to use the mixer for rehearsing with the band through headphones. At the moment I have not enough microphones. So I plan to start with four microphones for the drums (Kick, Snare, two OHs), two for the two guitars, one for lead vocals and two for backing vocals. The bass goes directly into the mixer. Later, I would buy more microphones to record the drums with more microphones. What do you think?

    • Sounds like a plan to me! You’ll need a DI box for the bass, but you probably knew that already. 🙂

      • Jens

        Shure! I already have one 😉