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Do audio interfaces output sounds from my computer or only from the input devices?


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Hello there!

I came across audio interfaces while researching for microphones with semi-professional recording quality. What wasn't clear to me, and I couldn't find the answer by reading the specifications of those products, was weather or not the audio output from those audio interfaces included the sounds of applications being used in the computer to which the interface is plugged. I am not specifying an exact interface because I didn't pick one yet; the answer to this question will greatly affect the choice. I am looking for USB interfaces, but preferably not powered by it (Don't know if that makes a difference when answering the question).

I'm not sure if this was supposed to be posted in the "computer section" or this one. I picked this one because I had the impression that by using the audio interface, I was no longer directly recording to the computer. I know it is not true since the device is only converting from analogue to digital, however it seemed the topic belongs to this section. Please, feel free to move it if that is not the case.

Thanks for your time. English is not my native language; I apologize for possible semantic misuses.

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It totally depends on the internal routing in the computer. Let's say you're using pro tools for example, the interface would slave to pro tools and only play what pro tools is playing. If you wanted to inlude the sounds coming from the computer, you'd have to route that output into protools via the interface.

Even in the beginning of my computer career, I distinctly remember it was hard to record sounds that came from the GUI or OS. Creative cards had an output called "what you hear" that summed all that was played in the computer. So you shouldn't have to worry, unless your routing stinks.

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I should have been more clear on what I intended to use the interface for depending on the case. Here are reformulated question, hopefully more straight forward: Are audio interfaces generally capable of getting audio from the computer as well as sending audio to it? Are they commonly used only for converting analog to digital or it is used both ways? (Almost like an external sound card, if you will).

I have an external USB device that I use to output audio from my notebook as well as input (It has XLR, input bandwidth extremely limited compensated by digital enhancement). The main reason for getting it was simply because the audio card in my notebook suffers from extreme interference by placing the hands where they usually stay while typing. Conventional good microphones used with my computer's audio card would go to waste. Can the output from those moderately priced USB audio interfaces be used the same way as those external devices like the one I have or it simply returns the signals coming from the input?

If I can get both, the range of headphones I can use would greatly increase, I would get a better one and I would resell the overpriced device I have. If only input and conversion from analog to digital is what those are dedicated for, I'll keep my device and get a good yet simpler interface. If I can't use it for outputting computer sounds coming in digital signals from the USB and being converted to analog to be used with headsets while eliminating the return from the mic, all I would need is an interface good enough for non-professional condenser mics.

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You mean an audio interface like a mixer or a dedicated external sound card?

Let's say you'd have a Yamaha 01v06i, I'm not sure you could use that to also power the computer's sound.

But if you had, say a Focusrite Saffire, you definitely will be able to power the computer's sound as well. I have one of those and may I say it's great.

Anywhooo, If I understand you correctly, you want an external audio interface to enable you to power mics and record stuff, and also give you the sound from the computer, right?

In that case you are looking at a JUNGLE of things and gadgets. You can use a Zoom H4n as your audio device. And, I'm a bit embarassed to admit that I have mixed several (two) short non budget films on a Zoom. And some songs.

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You mean an audio interface like a mixer or a dedicated external sound card?

Let's say you'd have a Yamaha 01v06i, I'm not sure you could use that to also power the computer's sound.

But if you had, say a Focusrite Saffire, you definitely will be able to power the computer's sound as well. I have one of those and may I say it's great.

Anywhooo, If I understand you correctly, you want an external audio interface to enable you to power mics and record stuff, and also give you the sound from the computer, right?

In that case you are looking at a JUNGLE of things and gadgets. You can use a Zoom H4n as your audio device. And, I'm a bit embarassed to admit that I have mixed several (two) short non budget films on a Zoom. And some songs.

If by power you mean receiving the audio output of the computer through the audio interface device and convert to analog signal so it can be used with headsets, yes that is what I "want" (Sorry, not familiar with the terminology). However, what I'm getting from your answer is that this is not what those simpler audio interfaces are designed for. In that case, I might as well get my jungle set. I already have a device for doing the output (I was going to sell it though). Perhaps I'm better off with something dedicated to capturing a single input and outputting it in good quality by USB, XLR, 3.5mm and perhaps optical. Would there be a considerable difference in price/value with no mixing or would it just be a waste? If I need to record computer audio at the same time as mic audio, I could use my other device extra output to feed into a mixer. But I don't think it is worth paying much more for that feature.

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I think I understand what you are saying. And the answer is yes. If I understand it correctly you are looking at an audio interface and want to know if it will output the computer audio. I currently use my Motu traveller in this manner. I listen to music thru it to run my music to my monitors. I can watch movies on my computer and be able to run the audio thru my traveller as well. Any sounds coming from my computer will go thru my traveller. I do this on a Mac. I'm not sure how well this works on a PC though. Hope that was helpful.

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This all sounds very confusing. An audio interface usually gives you both inputs and outputs. You can enable your computer to use your interface as it's audio output device. It's all very simple these days...

^^^^^^^

I think what is happening here is that you are trying to use big words that you don't exactly know what they mean. This is confusing your question.

I have an external USB device that I use to output audio from my notebook as well as input (It has XLR, input bandwidth extremely limited compensated by digital enhancement). The main reason for getting it was simply because the audio card in my notebook suffers from extreme interference by placing the hands where they usually stay while typing

I like to think I'm a pretty smart guy, and I have absolutely no clue about most of what you are trying to say here.

Please just ask the question instead of trying to use big words incorrectly. It will save us all a lot of time.

If you question is - can you send audio out of the usb device from your computer, the answer is yes. Most cards will act as a sound card for your computer. Your computer will then see all inputs and outputs associated with the device. You can then do with that as you wish.

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Hi

All modern cards are regarded as full duplex (all data can go both ways simultaneously). Everything else in terms of functionality is implemented on a driver to driver basis. If you are on a mac and the manufacture of your usb sound card (or any other card) has written a core audio driver, you can use that driver to play back (for example a dvd) your computer's sound through that card.

On windows, you would need to check that the drivers are direct X or ASIO (there are others as well I seem to remember) and more importantly, that the software you want to use, supports that output standard.

Hope that helps

Best

NCG

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