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BOSS Audio: Audio Interfaces – A Deep Dive

It’s a beautiful day, you’re ready to record, and suddenly it happens … interface failure! What to do? Never fear! This podcast is the next best thing to a private session with two voiceover giants! Listen as Anne and VO Tech Guru Tim Tippets discuss the “sizes and flavors” of interfaces, the importance of having a backup interface and quality XLR cables, and the components of a good travel kit. Don’t know the difference between a Mackie Big Knob or a Universal Audio Apollo Solo? These two BOSSES break down what an interface does and help you understand why it’s a vital investment in your business. They could talk about interfaces for years, but this conversation is only about 20 minutes of pure gold to help you rock your VO business like a #VOBOSS!


Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:

  1. An audio interface powers your microphone and gives you control over your input levels. It takes your analog signal and turns it into a digital format. It’s an encoder for your voice. 

  2. Audio interfaces are important to the quality of your audio

  3. A small interface (such as one designed for travel) cannot fit as much technology inside of it as a larger interface

  4. Get yourself a backup interface just in case your primary interface fails!!

  5. Not all interfaces are compatible with all operating systems or connections

  6. Make sure your cables are also compatible with your computer and equipment

  7. Be sure to check your cable specs before purchasing – see if it supports power, or both power and data

  8. Some audio interfaces require a “BUS powered USB-C cable” and get their power through the computer, while some will have a separate power adaptor

  9. USB-C is a type of hardware. Thunderbolt 3 is a type of technology. You cannot use a USB-C cable on a Thunderbolt 3 connection. It won’t work due to proprietary software

  10. If you’re getting a low price combined package with headphones, microphone, and interface, some of the parts may not be high quality enough for a serious voice actor

  11. A good basic interface without built-in audio effects/processing is an Audient iD14 or a Steinberg UR22mkII

  12. If you want real-time audio processing and have Thunderbolt technology, a good interface is the Apollo Solo or the Apollo Twin

  13. You can also purchase software plug-ins for interfaces such as the Apollo solo to further upgrade the sound of your audio 

  14. Even your highest-end equipment can have a failure. Always have a backup

  15. The Apple version of cables will work better with Apple products. Be sure to spend the extra money to ensure the best quality.

  16. When it comes to interfaces, less (in terms of size and price) is NOT necessarily more

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Referenced in this Episode

Direct links to things we brought up ++

  1. Look at all of the gear that Anne recommends!

  2. Check out all of the equipment that Tim recommends

  3. These cables are studio gold!

  4. Recorded on ipDTL

Full Episode Transcript

>> It’s time to take your business to the next level, the BOSS level! These are the premiere Business Owner Strategies and Successes being utilized by the industry’s top talent today. Rock your business like a boss, a VO BOSS! Now let’s welcome your host, Anne Ganguzza.

Anne: Hey everyone, welcome to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, with the one and only Mr. Tim Tippets, audio tech guru. Hey Tim!

Tim: That’s me.

Anne: How are ya? Hello!

Tim: Good, how are you?

Anne: I was going to say I’m doing excellent, but let me tell you the real story. [laughs]

Tim: Ok.

Anne: So the real story is, this week I had probably what most people in this industry fear the most, and that was an interface failure, yes. My Mackie Big Knob Studio Plus just — I walked into the studio Wednesday morning, put my headphones on, and then heard nothing. [laughs]

Tim: Yeah.

Anne: And the lights weren’t on, and I went into full-blown panic mode. Thankfully, Tim, I had another interface standing by, and you were instrumental in helping me to get that up and running, but yeah. I think we should talk about interfaces. [laughs]

Tim: We definitely should, because they come in all sizes and flavors, and it’s sample rates. And there’s a lot of confusion around it because we see anything from, you know, travel — you know, I don’t want to throw too many brand names out there, but let’s just, we’ll use Shure as a brand name. They sell one that’s in-line. You just, you know, you plug your XLR into it, and then you plug the other end, the USB, into your computer. But again, this is very much in alignment with the conversation that we had about USB microphones versus XLR microphones, right?

Anne: Yes.

Tim: Like how much preamp can you actually fit into a microphone? It’s the same discussion here. How much preamp can you fit into an in-line, you know, interface, ok, that’s travel size or whatever?

Anne: Right, right.

Tim: So we’re dealing with the —

Anne: Well, can I, can I —

Tim: — same problem here.

Anne: I’d like to first reiterate just for the BOSSes who didn’t quite hear it clear enough the first time I said it. Uh yeah, I was in panic mode. And interestingly enough, it’s kind of like when you go away, that’s when you get the most jobs. Well my interface failed, and guess what? I had three jobs to do. And I was like down to the wire, and I panicked. And I just want to kind of say my experience with that is, get yourself a backup interface, or if you have a travel interface, make sure you’ve got that. Because if you’ve got work on the line, and your interface fails, it’s — I was so thankful that I had that extra interface. And that’s just kind of my, my lesson learned outside of have a really great audio tech like Tim Tippets to help you [laughs] to help you like get things up and running.

Tim: Yeah.

Anne: So yeah, I just wanted to reiterate that before we started.

Tim: No, that’s really important to get in front of that, because I have my Apollo here, the Apollo Twin, which we’re hearing the Manley Voxbox plugin in realtime, but I do have another interface. I have a few of them actually that I can grab and use, even though they’re not the Apollo. I can grab and use them in a pinch, and then I can apply effects afterwards. If I’m having a live session with someone, and they’re going to take care of all of the post-processing themselves, then that’s fine too as long as I’m getting across a nice, clean signal to them. But in your case, the Mackie went down, and what other options did you have?

Anne: [laughs] Well, my option that I had thankfully was the Apollo Solo.

Tim: Right.

Anne: So.

Tim: So, we got you set up on that, and right now we’re hearing you on the Manley Voxbox.

Anne: Absolutely. And I love it.

Tim: Yeah, and we heard the difference between the raw audio even when it was in post-processing. What did we end up getting you, the…?

Anne: Yes, the Universal Audio Apollo Solo Thunderbolt 3. That’s what I got.

Tim: Right. So what Universal Audio has done now is they’ve put out this new unit called the Apollo Solo, which is kind of like the Arrow, its predecessor, except it’s a little bit more like the Twin. It looks like it anyway, but it more or less is the same thing. It runs on Thunderbolt 3 technology, not backwards compatible to regular Thunderbolt, just in case anyone’s thinking of getting one. Don’t expect it to be backwards compatible, because it won’t be. And the same thing for the —

Anne: Oh, good point. [laughs]

Tim: Yeah. And the same thing for the Windows version. The difference being that the pure Mac version is bus-powered. And let me explain what that means.

Anne: Yes.

Tim: It means that it doesn’t have any sort of power that you plug into the wall. It depends on the computer to power it through the Thunderbolt 3 cable.

Anne: Which by the way, it does not come with the Thunderbolt 3 cable.

Tim: Good point.

Anne: So yeah, I purchased the interface, and I also had to purchase a cable. Super important if you need to get yourself up and running. Always have those extra cables.

Tim: Yes, and did you order a Thunderbolt 3 Apple brand cable?

Anne: I did, yes, and it has to be the Apple. Yeah.

Tim: Yes, it does.

Anne: And also I find out, it has to be — well, yeah, Apple Thunderbolt 3, the shorter cable, the better.

Tim: Oh that’s interesting.

Anne: Because I tried a longer cable, didn’t work. I had the .8, I guess a .8 meter. So it’s a short cable. And I tried, I had another one — oh I know what it is. I mistakenly thought it was a Thunderbolt 3 cable, but it wasn’t. It was a power cable. It fit the connections, but it was a power cable, and it was I think like a six-foot. So.

Tim: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, I actually made that mistake myself too and used the power cable —

Anne: Yup, doesn’t work. [laughs]

Tim: It didn’t transmit data. Yeah ok. So it’s likely that a longer six-foot cable would work for you as long as you’re buying a data cable and not a power cable, so.

Anne: Right.

Tim: Now, with the Windows version, that comes with a power brick that you plug into the wall, and so it’s not bus-powered, so it doesn’t not require a bus-powered USB-C connection. So let’s get that cleared up too. USB-C and Thunderbolt 3, when we talk about that as a physical entity, that is a form factor, ok?

Anne: Yes.

Tim: Thunderbolt 3 is a technology, right, so that’s an important distinction, because if you are saying, well it has USB-C, technically you would be correct, but then if you tried to use a USB-C cable on a Thunderbolt 3 connection, that’s not gonna work because they have proprietary technology in place that makes it work even better, from what I can tell anyway. Ok? It’s even faster, the data transfer rates, but we’re talking about transfer rates that are so ridiculously fast that, you know, most of the applications are going to be for really heavy usage like composing, like some of the stuff I do where I’m using tons of plug-ins at the same time. For voiceover, it’s total overkill. I mean if regular USB is good enough, then Thunderbolt 3 is ridiculously good enough obviously.

Anne: So besides the importance of the cables, I want to back up a bit, for those BOSSes who are just getting into the industry and just trying to figure out like “what interface do I get?” I mean, it’s always the biggest question. Tim, what exact — just kind of break it down in layman’s terms. What does the interface do for you when you’re recording? What function does it play?

Tim: Alright, so what the interface does is it powers your microphone first of all, ok, with 48 volts typically. It’s got a button on it, and so that livens up your microphone so you can use it. Now the most important thing that it does, or two things really. One is it gives you gain control, in other words, how loud are you to the software? So when you’re increasing or decreasing that gain, you are increasing or decreasing the input into the recording software. But let’s talk about how that’s happening, because when you’re talking into the microphone, the microphone is very much like an ear. It’s listening to you in an analogue manner. Right? It’s not digital. So what the interface does is it takes that analog signal and then turns it into, you know, 1’s and 0’s, right, binary data, and then tells the computer, “hey, here’s what this sound is,” and turns it into a digital format. So it’s an encoder for lack of a better —

Anne: Got it.

Tim: — way to put it, ok, as well as a gain unit. And so when we talk about interfaces and starting out, we unfortunately a lot of the time, what will end up happening is you’ll have a package that gets put together — there’s one group that does it, which I won’t go into their name or anything, because that’s not important, but they essentially sell an all-in-one service. And then I’ve run into it quite a few times, at the end they say, “hey, use this package,” which is made by Focusrite, which comes with headphones, an interface, an iTrack Solo I believe, where you can put in one XLR interface and then get guitar input if you want to.

Anne: Right.

Tim: And it comes with this XLR cord that I have found as of late, these have been failing. Ok? So I would stay away from those kind of, you know, bargain basement deals. If you’re getting headphones, an interface and a microphone for $200-something, something’s wrong, ok?

Anne: Yes, yes.

Tim: That’s a pretty clear indicator.

Anne: And I will say there will be stores, too, if you go to stores, they will sell you that as well, because, that package, because maybe those stores aren’t specifically catering to just voiceover talent. It could be musicians in general.

Tim: Yeah, we see it happen all the time with some of the big-box music stores, right, where they’re like, “well, it’s voiceover. It doesn’t need —

Anne: Here’s a package.

Tim: Yeah, here’s a package you can afford to get you started. You know, for podcasting or something like that, I guess, I suppose if you want to mess around or get started, you know, etc. And I don’t mean to frighten anyone who’s listening to this right now, because I know some of you listening right now have that exact package, right?

Anne: Right.

Tim: But here’s the thing: you get what you pay for. If you’re gonna be serious about voiceover, then you should lean in pretty hard and expect to shell out, you know, a few dollars for a good package. Now one that I just recently put together, and this is listed at There’s a Lewitt 440 Pure on there, which is a $269 microphone, that I believe Lewitt is leading with a really low price to get market saturation, because it sounds every bit as good as its big brother, which is a $1000 microphone. It sounds ridiculously good. I would then go and get an interface at the very least like an Audient iD14. If you want real-time processing, then I would spend the $500, if you have the Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C technology, and get yourself something like the Apollo Solo where you can actually have realtime effects like the Manley Voxbox for instance or the 610 B or the de-esser and so on, ok?

Anne: Well, I’d like to — I’m sorry, I just want to interrupt really quickly — I’m sorry — make sure that people didn’t think that the Mackie Big Knob Studio Plus was a bad choice, because I love my Mackie. This was kind of a freak accident. I believe there’s a power board in there that went. So I don’t think that it’s typical for that to happen. It was under warranty. It’s been shipped to a repair site so I’ll find out soon what happens to it, but it’s gonna get fixed and that will then be my backup. So Tim, I mean because the Mackie is a good brand, I would want people to —

Tim: It’s a great brand. Yeah. I have the Big Knob here. I don’t have the one with the USB in it. So yours is the Big Knob Plus?

Anne: Yep, exactly.

Tim: So let’s clarify what the Big Knob is. The Big Knob is actually a multi-purpose device, so you can plug in several headphones into it, you can have several mics coming into it, you can have a talkback mic that’s on board where you can press a button to talk to the person in the booth. So the Big Knob is really more meant for demo production, which is something that you do, Anne. Right?

Anne: Right, exactly.

Tim: It’s meant for, you know, getting several singers in the booth or guitarists and whatnot. But in your situation, you needed that because it was purpose driven.

Anne: Yes, I was going to have people come to my studio for demo recording, which I still can because I’ll have the Mackie back.

Tim: Exactly. But to be clear, we want to make sure that everyone understands that regardless of what piece of equipment you buy — the Avalon 737 is a perfect example of a, you know, $2000/$1500, depending on whether you’re buying it used or not, $1500 to $2000 unit where you get it in, the tube goes bad, and suddenly, you know, all Hell breaks loose because the tube went bad in a month, ok?

Anne: Yeah.

Tim: Well, in the production process, we don’t live in a perfect world, so even your highest end equipment, you can have something go wrong with it. It doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the world. You know, if you’re a year and one day out of warranty, then it may seem like it’s the end of the world, but typically it’s usually something simple like the 48-volt power capacitor on the board needs to be changed out.

Anne: That makes sense.

Tim: I think in your case, that’s what we have going on too, right?

Anne: Yeah, me too.

Tim: But what I really want to emphasize to people is my Apollo Twin here, not to be confused with the Solo, ok, they both have the same capability to a certain degree. Mine has more input options and few other options, so mine costs more. Then again, mine is from 2014, and it’s still running like a champ, and I think I’ve had it on 99.9% of the time. I just leave the frigging thing on, so this thing’s built like a tank, alright? I’m actually getting my Apollo Solo here. I believe it’s being delivered today or tomorrow, and I’ll be trying that one out as well to see how it holds up against the Twin. Here’s the thing about it. People talk about travel kits. Right? How small do you really need your travel kit to be? That’s the question that you need to ask, because people are saying, “well, I wanted an in-line, you know, type of Shure thing because it’s just as big as the XLR cord, and it’s got an input level on it.” Well, you’re not getting the full capability of your home studio there because, you know, the thing’s —

Anne: Its physical size, right? Yeah. It’s got to do processing, so I would imagine —

Tim: It can, it can transform analog to digital just fine, but to what degree or quality, ok? So when we talk about travel kits, I look at something like the Apollo Solo or the Apollo Twin, which I’m gonna say is about maybe seven inches wide by seven inches deep?

Anne: Yeah, it’s not big. I have so much more room on my desk now. [laughs]

Tim: Yeah, if I have my 416, and I take that with me, and I put that in one small bag along with my XLR cord, and I’m gonna be bringing my laptop with me anyway, like — I don’t mean to sound rude or anything, but like how small does your travel kit need to be?

Anne: Right, right.

Tim: Like, are you trying to put something in your wallet? Or —

[both laugh]

Anne: Interesting that you say that. I will say that I do have the Apogee One —

Tim: Right.

Anne: — interface, and I love the fact that it was small, but I will say that it’s flakey. It’s not, like if I move that thing the wrong direction, every once in a while, it will just kind of flip out, and I’ll have to reboot.

Tim: Yeah.

Anne: It functions, but it’s a little bit flakey, and I think that my Apollo Solo, which isn’t that much bigger, to be honest with you, would be much more stable.

Tim: Right, and ask yourself this question. The Mackie Big Knob is a lot larger —

Anne: Yes, yes.

Tim: — than the Apollo Solo, right?

Anne: Exactly.

Tim: So let’s say you’re running gun, and you’ve got to get out the door. Grab your 416, you grab your tripod, you grab your Apollo Solo, your XLR cord, and your laptop that you have, right?

Anne: Yep.

Tim: We recently talked about your newest acquisition, your MacBook Pro.

Anne: I love it, my 13-inch. It’s awesome.

Tim: You throw that all in one — you can buy a foam case where you can pull out the little foam pieces —

Anne: Yep.

Tim: — to fit the interface that you have. And now you’re going to sound like you do —

Anne: Exactly!

Tim: — in your own personal pro studio.

Anne: At home, yep.

Tim: Right? So for me, I’m not going to deliver a different sound on the road than I do in my studio, because I want to be consistent, number one. And number two, why would I put myself in a position, where I’ve had this happen several times, where an audio engineer compliments me on my live sound — what if I have a live session on the road —

Anne: Sure.

Tim: — with that same audio engineer, and then he or she says, “Tim, what’s going on?”

Anne: Well, I’ll tell you what, I cannot — I think I mentioned this when we were talking about travel mics, and I can’t believe it took me this long. I kept wanting to go for you know, portability and smaller the better, and so things just kept coming out that were small, like the little Apogee, little Apogee mic, and then I got the Apogee One interface. And so smaller isn’t always better in this case, because once I started, you know, recording on the road with my 416, I was like, “wow, why didn’t I do this before?” It makes a whole lot of sense because I don’t have to worry about the audio. And now the interfaces as well, I just — it’s something that took a huge weight off of me mentally, because I know that the audio coming out, wherever I am, in a hotel in Italy, right, I can produce as good quality sound as I can when I’m at home.

Tim: Exactly.

Anne: So that means the world, and it really takes a lot of pressure off you. So all those people that are trying to look for convenience and small, I don’t think it’s always your best, your best investment.

Tim: No, it’s not.

Anne: At all.

Tim: And this is one of those cases where less is more does not —

Anne: Yeah.

Tim: — apply.

Anne: Right.

Tim: Ok? And let’s not forget what happened, with everything that you do, Anne, because you have your hands in so many different things — you have this podcast that we’re on right now —

Anne: Yep.

Tim: You do demos, you do voiceover yourself —

Anne: Yep.

Tim: You do coaching and you do tons of it, ok? And remember when that Mackie went down, you went into total panic mode.

Anne: Oh I absolutely did.

Tim: Right? And understandably so. But look how quick and easy it was for us to get that Solo fired up, to get the Manley Voxbox running, and get you, you know, sounding so much better just raw straight to tape. Right?

Anne: Absolutely.

Tim: This is one of those things where you have to make an educated decision, if you’re going to practice, if you’re already signed by an agent and that’s the only type of work you do. Hey, some of these people will send in an audition just talking into their iPhone, and that’s ok because the agent and the client already have a relationship with that person, and they know what it’s going to sound like once they get to their personal pro studio. So that’s an argument that can be made. And so if you were to say, “well, look, I’m only taking this for auditions.”

Anne: Yeah.

Tim: Right? Well, let’s say I’m auditioning against you for the same job, but I sound like this, and you sound like the in-line —

Anne: Yep, absolutely. [laughs]

Tim: You’re not competing on the same level. That’s not a comment about me. It’s just that I’m in my personal pro studio right now —

Anne: Sure, sure.

Tim: — and if I’m not duplicating this on the road, all things being equal, if we both have the same amount of talent, chances are I’m gonna win out every single time. So that needs to be taken seriously.

Anne: Yeah, let me just chime in and add, I mentioned that I had had three gigs waiting on me, so I had to get my interface up and running so that I could record. When I sent that to the production company, they literally, you know, once everything was finished, the spot was finished and they got back to me, they’re like, “wow,” you know, “you sounded amazing, and that was your raw audio?” And I was like, “Uh yup, sure was.” [laughs]

Tim: Yeah, and you had a comment from one of your friends who’s an another pro that you told me about that was like “what just happened?”

Anne: Yup. Yup. “What just happened to your audio?” [laughs]

Tim: Yeah, and so since this is the first podcast we’ve had you on the Manley, it will be interesting, even though I’m EQ-ing your voice and handling all the mastery on our series —

Anne: Right.

Tim: I’m getting you sounding better than you would raw in post —

Anne: Oh my gosh, absolutely.

Tim: This is a real emulation of a real-life unit that costs $4000 in real life. So if you can emulate that, and the thing is called Voxbox, that tells you everything you need to know.

Anne: And that is a plug-in that you can purchase once you get the Apollo.

Tim: Yes, and sometimes they’ll give you specials, and sometimes they’ll go on sale —

Anne: I got the special. [laughs]

Tim: You got the special, exactly. So I don’t know how much you paid for it, but normally the Manley Voxbox is like $300. Sometimes it goes on sale for like $129.

Anne: I got it for half price.

Tim: Well, there you go. Right? So yeah. Anyway, that’s what I have to say about interfaces, is if you’re going to invest in something, obviously you want a good mic, but you also want to make sure that you’re getting yourself a quality XLR cable. If you’re buying a kit, you’re more than likely, it’s not going to come with a quality cable. Mogami Gold, everyone knows I’m a huge fan of one of those.

Anne: Yup.

Tim: Quad-shielded, they don’t let radio interference come in and hum and all that other kind of stuff, which is another episode we’re going to be talking about, that kind of stuff as well.

Anne: And I’m just gonna say, if your equipment requires let’s say an Apple cable like Thunderbolt connection, if you’re a Mac user, get the Apple version of the cable for the most part. It’s really, they’re not cheap, but it will do the job that the other cables won’t do. [laughs] And you don’t want to run the risk of like your cable not connecting and powering your device the way it needs to when you’re on the road.

Tim: Yeah, especially right before a SourceConnect session.

Anne: Exactly, exactly. Alright, awesome. Tim, thank you so much. I feel like we could talk about interfaces like til next year. [laughs]

Tim: We could.

Anne: Because there’s so many options, so many choices, but yeah. Thanks so much for this. And I’m gonna give a great big shout-out to our sponsor, ipDTL. Thanks to them, Tim and I can be talking about interfaces until [laughs] 10 years from now. You guys can find out more at Thanks so much, guys. Have a great week, and we’ll see you next week.

Tim: See ya.

Anne: Bye!

>> Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your host Anne Ganguzza. And take your business to the next level. Sign up for our mailing list at and receive exclusive content, industry revolutionizing tips and strategies, and new ways to rock your business like a BOSS. Redistribution with permission. Coast to Coast connectivity via ipDTL.