Sound Card vs Audio Interface – Music Production

Do you want to produce some quality music?

Playing with all the instruments and their sounds undoubtedly appeals as a fascinating thing to do. However, it is not that simple. You cannot simply grab your phone and guitar for the high-quality production of music. So, what should you have for better results?

Well, along with numerous other equipment, it is also important for you to get a premium audio interface.

But, why can’t you simply use the sound card that your system already has?

This question mostly prevails in the minds of beginner musicians. However, we will provide a detailed answer to you for this. Below here, you will go through a side by side comparison of the sound card and audio interface. We will let you know about the advantages that either of them has upon the other.

So, do you feel ready to take on this side by side ride that will let you know all that you want?

However, before we begin with the sound card vs. audio interface battle, we’ll take you through the basic definition of both these components.

So, let’s crack in so that you can get on the track for the production of your favorite genre of music.

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What Is A Sound Card?

Video: “Do you Need a Sound Card?”

A sound card is usually a built-in part of your computer.

This card is responsible for the supply of audio signals as input and output towards your computer and away from it as well.

Computer programs control or supervise this whole process.

What Is An Audio Interface?

Video: “What Is An Audio Interface And What Do We Do With It?”

An audio interface is equipment that allows you to record music by granting you multiple output and input ports so that you can easily and simultaneously record all the musical instruments.

Usually, you will have to connect this device to your computer via a USB cable.

What Is The Difference Between Sound Card and Audio Interface?

Video: “Interface vs. Laptop Onboard Soundcard | Sound Quality Comparison”

Is the difference clear to any extent after reading the upper-mentioned brief statement?

Do not worry; we do understand that the basic definitions are not enough to let you be able to choose between a sound card and an audio interface.

Therefore, we have mentioned the following aspects of a sound card vs. audio interface that will enable you to understand the differences clearly.


Conversion Quality

The working principle of both these components is quite similar. They convert the signals from analog to digital and then back to analog.

The analog signals enter these devices through input; then, the device converts these signals into digital ones for the sake of recording. Afterward, when you want to play the music, the digital signals are again converted into analog ones so that the speakers can give you the musical output.

The D-A (digital to analog) and A-D (analog to digital converts) that these devices feature are responsible for the completion of this job. But how will you be able to get the highest sound quality?

This mainly depends on the quality of the interface that the unit offers. In general, with an audio interface, you will get a better and more quality-oriented sound.



Furthermore, with the audio interfaces, you can also get high-end preamps that can boost the minimalist signals and deliver outstanding sound quality.

This enables the interfaces that are cheaper to sound better as well. A sound card also has the capability to do this, but still, the quality of the sound is relatively low.



Lag can never be something that one can tolerate, whether it is about games or sounds. When the unit takes time to take in the sound, process it, and provide the output, you may face some lag or latency. This factor can ruin your whole recording experience, as you will hear the sound with some delay.

Latency or lagging is a serious and irritating issue, and one would want to avoid it as much as possible.

Do remember that with sound cards, this issue is more like to happen as compared to the audio interface. Sound cards generate latency due to the drivers installed to run them and the hardware as well


Load on CPU

As sound chips or sound cards are built-in devices, these depend on the completion of the CPU cycle to work properly.

This factor is the main reason why your CPU can hang as it puts a lot of work-load in it. This is why lagging is also a persistent issue in the case of sound cards.

However, when compared to the load that a sound card brings with its functioning, an audio interface will win the battle as it can reduce the work-load of your system.

Note that this aspect is one of the most core reasons for the maintenance of sound quality.


Input Options

The main difference that can be a deal-breaker in sound card vs. audio interface is the number of inputs and outputs they offer.

When it comes to sound cards, these will only allow you to input a single sound at an instance. Hence, the complete recording will demand a lot of time from your end, as you will have to do them one after another.

So, for recording your voice and instruments simultaneously, you will have to switch to the audio interface. With this device, the primary benefit that you can have on a sound card is a one-go recording. The market is full of many options. You can find interfaces with one, a few, or even four inputs.

But wait, as that is not where the benefits of an audio interface end. You will also get input and output midi in these devices. Moreover, many options also come with ADAT and SPDIF as well.

With the help of the ADAT feature, you can include more input connections, as this is an external accessory that lets you customize the device. This can help you record a song easily, even if you are in the form of a whole band with multiple instruments, backing vocalists, etc.


Multiple Outputs

While sound cards offer you only two sources of output, namely stereo and headphone output, audio interfaces, on the other hand, offer you multiple outputs as well.

Several types of outputs are a part of the audio interface. So, it entirely depends on your choice to make the purchase as per your need.

Do you want to know all about those outputs?

Well, here it goes. Following is a list of the available ones that you will come across on an audio interface.

  • Midi output
  • Word Clock
  • Monitor output
  • ADAT
  • Headphone output
  • Line output

Don’t worry; we are not leaving it all here. The explanation of the crucial ones is given right below:

MIDI Output

These types of outputs are of much use. Since the MIDI devices have taken all over with their versatility and precision, this output option is a must in every audio interface. The MIDI output and input work side by side.

This part basically receives all the information from a MIDI controller. For instance, if you are using a MIDI keyboard, every key that you press, the duration for which you press it, and the intensity, every signal will go to the interface via this output.

Line Output

This is yet another important component for you to know before you begin recording your music.

Line outputs are there to link a separate set of recording instruments, transmit a particular form of a blend to an individual whose recording you are doing, or transmit content to be routed from your system to outboard equipment.

Monitor Output

Monitor outputs are mainly responsible for controlling everything on the speaker’s end. For each speaker, there is a separate output present.

Headphone Output

These types will enable you to connect your headphone to the system or directly to the audio interface. With this added feature, you can listen to the music that your system produces.


ADAT transfers up to eight different channels of recording out of the audio interface into an additional piece of equipment that has digital and analog adapters to transform it into a signal at the signal path.

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Final Verdict

Sound cards and audio interfaces are both quite crucial components when it comes to sound and production. However, when one thinks of making music that will remain high-end in quality, the one that plays the major part is an audio interface.

The side by side comparison regarding every possible aspect of these devices has proven audio interfaces to be more promising, versatile, and quality-oriented.

From the quality of sound to the number of inputs and output available and the latency, every other point might shift your mind towards investing in a high-end audio interface.

An Audio Interface is the best route to take if you want to record high-quality recordings, and particularly if you need the capability to record several parts of them at once.

Nevertheless, if you are willing to take the digital approach in creating music with the help of a MID controller, keyboard, or a DAW, without the prevailing need to record the audio, then you can also go for a sound card.

Juan Stansbury
Juan Stansbury

I'm Juan Stansbury, author and owner of Homerecordio – your ultimate destination for everything about homerecording. With hands-on experience, courses, workshops, and industry research, I offer tips on selecting the best equipment, and mixing and mastering your recordings to achieve professional-quality results at home. Join me on this journey to explore the world of homerecording and music production.

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