Very basic question about audio interfaces

at risk of sounding very ignorant (I am!), what is the purpose of adding a dedicated audio interface such as Focusrite 2i4 in a Cantabile configuration? I’ve been using the sound card on my laptop (Toshiba Satellite Pro P755-S5390) to produce audio. The signal goes out of the headphone jack and into a small mixer/preamp, then on to our sound board (Presonus 16.0.2). I like using the WASAPI as my audio driver. No latency problems and in shared mode I can run Cantabile and Transcribe or VLC player at the same time.

My set up is used primarily for live gigging with my band. Keyboards are connected directly to the laptop via USB and are the only instruments I play.

Should I stick with what I’m using?

One reason some might use an external box would be sound quality and reliabilty of drivers. That said, if your current setup covers all the bases, the drivers are stable and you like how it sounds, then stay with it. The shared capabilities alone give it some advantages over ASIO. That’s my opinion anyway. :relaxed:

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I had been using exclusively vst instruments for several years, much as you are doing now. Using the laptop’s soundcard worked great and no problem with latency. Cantabile works GREAT with that setup. I switched to a Focusrite 18i8 last year because I wanted to eliminate the extra hauling and setup for my guitar, which I also play. I now use the interface to send my guitar thru vst amp simulators, and I am also running my vocal mike thru the interface. Now, with Cantabile, everytime I switch songs, my keys, guitar, and vocals are setup automatically. There is a little better quality with the interface, and the Focusrite driver is really good for what I am doing. Just saying, if you don’t want to spend the extra $$$, you are good for what you have going.

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If your setup is working well for you, then no need to change! It seems to be a bit of a black art, setting up a good reliable computer for hosting plugins, and if yours is delivering the goods, stick with it!

For me, I found that internal audio interfaces were often noisy, sometimes prone to hum (PC power supplies don’t tend to provide the cleanest earth!), and typically didn’t allow me to run VSTs with sufficiently small buffers to have a latency low enough that I could tolerate. Everyone’s tolerance to latency is different (I once did some research into people’s tolerances for latency in a previous job, and it was quite surprising - some people could happily tolerate latencies of 60-70ms, whereas others were feeling a latency of 7ms was affecting their playing). I now need an audio interface with multiple input and output channels, so have to have a dedicated external unit anyway, regardless of the above points.

I’d say, stick with what you’ve got if you’re happy with it!


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@Neil_Durant were you polling pipe organ players? Seriously, those guy have to learn to deal with latencies I couldn’t put up with.

+1 to the “If it works don’t fix it”

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Hehe actually one of them was, and he was quite happy with 250+ms latency! I think we left out that data point in our subsequent work :stuck_out_tongue:



Hi, I’m looking at your 3 year old post about audio interfaces. I too have been using the output from my laptop, straight into my speaker amplifier. However, I can’t really tell if I’d get better sound quality using an external audio interface. What is your advise 2 years on? Also, what do you use for your pre-amp? Regards.

I’ve used both WASAPI and ASIO (Focusrite Scarlette 2i2). Haven’t used WASAPI in a while, but honestly, I think any difference in sound quality would be imperceptible.

IF the shielding of your built-in audio interface is good and doesn’t “leak” computer noises, then WASAPI is indistinguishable from ASIO. That however is a big IF. I went to the Focusrite 2i2 myself when getting started again some years back due entirely to that shielding issue on the line outputs.

Also, for Cantabile use, it does not currently accept WASAPI inputs, so if you need to input a microphone or other audio stream into Cantabile you will need to go with an ASIO device or use Voicemeeter’s ASIO mode (which is in actuality WDM/KS, not WASAPI).



Hi all,

I want my vst audio output to sound as good as my hardware synths (they always sound more “alive” ), will an audio interface like the:

improve the sound compared to the regular pc output?
I’ve tried playing around with the EQ using a variety of plugins and the vst synths do not sound as “bright” as the dedicated hardware(analog and FM) even to my amateur ears.

Which hardware and which VSTs are you comparing?

Even a modest audio interface will likely result in an improvement in audio quality and lower latency over a PC’s pretty nasty built-in audio capability. But whether that particular interface is best for you, only you can tell. It’s not one that I would choose, but I have different requirements, and audio quality is not the ‘be all and end all’ of choosing an interface - especially for live.

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Just my personal experience: I wasn’t happy with the Presonus AudioBox - low latency performance wasn’t too good; I kept getting drop-outs / crackles at latencies of 128 samples and below.

I had better performance from Zoom UAC-2, Audient iD14 MKii, or even the (very affordable) Behringer U-Phoria series.



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VST: Tyrell, Zebralette, Pigments, OB-xd
Hardware: Microbrute and FB01

Thanks for the advice. What about a dedicated DAC? Are the DAC’s in an audio interface generally equivalent to a dedicated DAC (assuming similar price point)?

That’s good to know as reviewers seem to like it!

I totally agree with the others opinions about a separate interface being better in the long run, but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it either.

I play guitar through amp Sims hosted on C3, So latency is probably more important to me, versus sending MIDI from a keyboard controller.

Even so, I used the Scarlet 2i4 for several years, I think you can still pick one up for a couple hundred. That’s not to say there aren’t others, but I found the Scarlet to be pretty darn good for the money, and their latest round of drivers improve the latency. However, currently I’m using the PreSonus quantum 2626, which is by far and away the best interface I’ve ever used. It’s firewire, which is mostly why the latency is so low. But the 8 ins and 8 outs can be very handy, not to mention the price and the audio quality. It’s been rock solid for almost 2 years now…

Another advantage to an interface that I found particularly effective, is the ability to simultaneously run an input from your mixer aux send into the interface and into cantabile. Then you can set up a separate rack for vocal effects. Now you have total control over almost any vocal effect you might need, and you can program effect changes very easily. For example, we do Smooth by Santana. Even though I have a digital board, I can’t control the EQ through MIDI at all, so I can’t get that “radio”/all mid-range vocal sound, and then switch to a normal EQ for the next section of the song. But in cantabile, I just have a vocal effects rack, and a state with the mids, and another with normal. This is all while playing guitar etc in cantabile. And if you’re using a backing track, you just set a binding at the right point on the timeline.
To do this you need a dedicated vocal input on your interface, and a dedicated output for that effected vocal to go back to the board. And of course a mixer channel for the vocal effect, or a effect return if your mixer has that.
And I’ve read of many others who do the same thing, in fact that’s where I got the idea!

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I wouldn’t be bothering with a DAC. Just get a decent interface and you’ll be fine.

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I settled on the U-Audio Volt 1. All sound is much better, and cranking the gain sounds much nicer!

I’ve been using the Audiobox Go (the cheap one) and haven’t had any issues with it