A lot of people come in asking for studio, or recording mics. Often times, my reply is, "do you have an interface already?" To my surprise, the answer is no. In addition to that, they do not even know what an audio interface is! It's not bad to not know what an interface is. It's bad to purchase a microphone BEFORE your interface is purchased though.
So here is a brief explaination of audio interfaces...
In the simplest terms, an audio interface allows you to record external sounds (vocals and instruments) into your computer, converting them from analogue to digital format. It also converts the signals back to analogue from your computer to your speakers/amp.
Audio Interfaces come in all shapes, sizes, and uses. Questions to ask before you purchase an interface are what you're looking to record, how you are going to hook your interface up to your computer, and what DAW software you are going to use while recording.
To answer the first question easily, are you going to be recording vocals? What about instruments, such as guitar, keyboard, bass, saxophone, violin, drums, etc? This will determine how many inputs you will need, and what kind of inputs you need. The more the inputs, the better off you are with getting a rackmountable interface. The less input you need, you might be better off with a portable interface.
How do you plan to hook the interface up to your computer? Are you using a laptop? Desktop, maybe? If you have a firewire input in your computer with your sound card, that will be the best solution we have for audio interfaces currently. Otherwise, USB is the way to go. Higher end USB audio interfaces now use USB 3.0, which is the fasted USB input, most expensive, and newest USB connector built, to date. Not all computers have that, and not all interfaces are built with it. Please be sure to know what you are buying, before buying.
What kind of software are you using with your recordings? Are you going to use Pro Tools? If so, make sure the product, or box, says that it is "Pro Tools Ready" or "Pro Tools Compatible". Avid used to exclusively make Pro Tools to only use with very specific interfaces. Now that they have opened up to other manufacturers (kind of like what Sony did with Blu-Ray), brands like Focusrite now make interfaces to use with Pro Tools. If you are using Cubase, Studio One, or FL Studio, then most interfaces will be able to handle it.
As always, make a responsible purchase and ask for help.
You can call the store at (301)686-0406 to speak to a sales associate, or email me directly at OxonHillMGR@MusicArts.com