If you’re an engineer working at home, you do need to think about your audio interface because it’s the thing that you’re listening to tracks through. It’s the heartbeat of your setup. You need to make sure that the sound is the best quality you can get. There’s no point in spending a load of money on some speakers if you are feeding those speakers from the audio interface, and the D to A converter in there is a terrible standard.
I’ve done loads of tests on D to As and A to Ds. I’ve listened to a lot, and I’ve worked out which ones are value-for-money. I think what you have is three different stages of the audio interface. You have the first stage, where something like the Focusrite Scarlett would fall into. Things within that kind of territory are under £500. They can be portable; they’re good for listening to stuff back.
But I wouldn’t use them for critical listening because they don’t have the finer details and clarity. If you’re inexperienced, what you’re listening to can sound quite thin a lot of times when the converter isn’t of high quality, and your transients won’t have as much sharpness either.
The ideal place you want to be is around the £1500 to £2000 mark. The audio interface here is going to make quite a difference to the sound that you get. It’s going to be super clean and of a level that is pro. The frequency response is going to be a lot smoother, and everything will have clarity that’s a massive jump up from something like Focusrite Scarlett.
And then you can go to the higher end, which is things like Lavry or Prism Dreams. But note that Dreams is very old technology, and a lot of the chips in the D to As and stuff have changed a lot over the years and the more recent stuff around the £2000 mark now have better chips in them.
For the price point, I think that you’d be better off around the sort of £2000-£2500 point. You’re going to get a very, very high-quality sound out of those sorts of converters, and that’s the kind of area you want to be in. I think it’s an essential part of your studio. You need to go as high end as you can on it.