Audio InterfacesAudio interfaces provide the interface between audio signal and the DAW computer and are available as USB audio interfaces, FireWire audio interfaces, iOS audio interfaces for iPhones or iPads, PCI audio interfaces or guitar and other instrument interfaces.
In order to record your own music, on-board sound cards shouldn't be your first choice, because instrument and microphone pre-amps are missing or the data transfer from the input to the output of the hard disk sound card takes much too long - keyword: latency period! So, you'll need an individually rendered recording audio-interface that doesn't only have the preamps you need, but also allows a low latency system.
The offers for audio-interfaces are not always clearly represented. The different data interfaces from PCI to USB and FireWire or equipment with microphone preamps, as well as digital in- and outputs in their different formats have to be kept in mind. Especially interesting are the number of audio channels which can send and return the interface to the computer independently.
A universal interface should offer at least the following features: 1 or 2 microphone preamps including phantom circuit, 1 input for e-guitars/e-bass (often called Hi-Z), 2 line-ins and -outs and 1 S/PDIF-interface.
USB audio interfaces are the most widely used interfaces to input audio into a DAW computer. USB audio interfaces are available from manufacturers such as Focusrite, Presonus, Tascam, Native Instruments, MOTU, and Apogee. USB audio interfaces are designed to allow input and output of audio from a personal computer running DAW or other digital audio software.
FireWire audio interfaces are available from a range of manufacturers including Focusrite, Presonus, TC Electronic, MOTU, RME, M-Audio, and Universal Audio. Firewire is a new high speed data exchange protocol developed at Apple.
PCI stands for Peripheral Component Interconnect and is a bus for parallel data transmission. This format allows the simultaneous transmission of multiple signals coexist. Thus in a PCI audio interface, the transmission lines are clearly limited. PCI audio interfaces are therefore used only within a computer. PCI Express is available for PCE and is a relatively new format. This will replace in the near future, the "old" PCI standard certainly. Major difference from the predecessor is the possibility of interconnection of multiple serial communication links.