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.