So you want to record drums at home. Before we begin, please remember, that recording drums is no easy task. In fact, most audio engineers consider tracking and engineering drums to be the most difficult part of making a record. That said, there are some factors to consider before buying a drum recording interface.
Best Drum Recording Interface – A Quick Glance
What is an audio interface?
When recording in a home studio, it’s common to use what is known as an audio interface to convert audio from a microphone into digital data that you can manipulate inside a computer. Interfaces contain microphone preamps that amplify the signal and sometimes, if desired, give the sound a “color” to make a record more unique. Many modern records are made this way in home studios and basements all over the world. Technology has come a long way and recording yourself has become very affordable. Audio interfaces come in a variety of sizes and prices and generally range from one microphone input to eight. Certain audio interfaces can also be daisy-chained together to expand the number of microphones you can record at once.
How much to spend on an audio interface?
If you’re brand new to recording drums, I suggest starting small, with an affordable drum recording interface. As you move up the price ladder, you’ll find that even spending upwards of $1,000 won’t change the quality of your home studio drum recordings. As you “practice” recording and engineering more and more, you’ll find that your recordings will vastly improve despite the gear not changing.
The secret lies within the engineer and his or her ears.
Audio interfaces that range between $300 and $1,000 tend to be pretty similar sounding as far as preamps go. Some of the more expensive audio interfaces will offer things like DSP plugins, extra inputs, special preamps, and so on. For just starting out, this is nothing to concern yourself with.
How many inputs do I need on my Interface?
If you’re recording drums, it’s best to start out small. You’ll still want to make sure you get an audio interface with eight preamps, but don’t expect to be recording a drum set the size of Neil Peart’s on day one. To fully grasp the concept of recording drums, it’s important to begin small, maybe a four-piece kit, and really get the techniques correct.
A smaller setup wins in the beginning
You may even want to experiment will smaller microphone setups, as well. A good starting point is kick, snare, and overheads. This will give you the least amount of phase issues and will get you a great sound when just starting out.
My personal setup revolves around the Universal Audio Apollo Twin. It’s a great interface to start with, but it only has two inputs.
Our Best Pick – Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 Audio Interface
- Eight natural-sounding Scarlett mic preamps with plenty of even gain, exceptional headroom, low noise, and minimal distortion; two newly-designed instrument inputs, with increased headroom
- Class-leading conversion and sample rates up to 192kHz / 24 bit; super-low latency for using your plug-ins in real time without the need for DSP (measured at 2.74ms, working at 96kHz with a 32 samples buffer)
- 10 1/4-inch balanced jack outputs, including a dedicated stereo pair with anti-thump circuitry; two discrete headphones output with dedicated gain controls; MIDI I/O; S/PDIF in and out; ADAT I/O (expand up to eight additional inputs and outputs)
- Includes Pro Tools | First Focusrite Creative Pack and Ableton Live Lite, Softube Time and Tone Bundle, Focusrite's Red Plug-in Suite, 2GB of Loopmasters samples, and monthly Focusrite Plug-In Collective offers, all available via download
- Focusrite iOS Control now available - download the free Focusrite iOS Control app and adjust cue mixes remotely from an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch
Focusrite is an audio company that really needs no introduction. Thanks to the genius mind of Rupert Neve, they have been on the cutting edge of recording hardware since 1985.
The Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 is an affordable eight-channel audio interface that will be perfect for anyone looking to start recording drums. Recording is simple with this audio interface as it comes packed with a version of Pro Tools and Ableton Live. You don’t need to spend extra money on a digital audio workstation.
Hands-On With The Scarlett
On the front of the drum recording interface, there are two microphone inputs. The other six are located on the reverse side of the unit. Each knob corresponds to a different microphone channel input. You can adjust your microphone gain here before it hits your computer. To the right of the knobs is a nice display, giving you a clear sight of all your microphone inputs. Next up are the monitor and headphone control pots. You can plug a set of studio monitors in, as well as two separate headphones to this unit.
Lots of I/O With The Scarlett 18i20
On the backside of the drum recording interface, there are eight separate line outputs. If you plan on using this in a touring situation, you could always use these for your backing tracks. Next to the line outs, we have your monitor outputs. This is where you will connect your studio monitors.
Expanding To 16 Inputs Is a Breeze
Next to the monitor outputs we have what is known as ADAT in and out. If you ever want to expand your input count to 16, you can add an additional piece of hardware known as the Scarlett OctoPre. With a simple optical cable, upgrading your interface is made easy with the Scarlett 18i20.
USB Connection Made Easy
Connection to your PC or Mac is made via USB 2.0, so if you aren’t on that 3.0 game yet, you don’t have to worry. Thankfully, we don’t have to deal with Firewire anymore either. Focusrite uses a console software called Focusrite Control for all your monitoring purposes. You can even control this software from your iPhone or iPad!
Very Low Latency For Tracking
Many drum recording interfaces suffer from what is known as latency or lag. Imagine recording yourself and hearing your drums delayed from when you’re playing. It really will throw you and your playing off. The Scarlett boasts a latency factor as low as 2.74ms.
How does the Scarlett sound?
The preamps on the Scarlett 18i20 are very clean. You’re not going to want colorful preamps for your general recording interface. You want the cleanest signal you can get from the source to allow you to add EQ, compression, and other effects inside your DAW during mixing.
Colored preamps, like the Neve 1073, are expensive, require maintenance, and are generally suited for professional audio engineers working in world-class recording studios.
Compared to everything else on the market, this drum recording interface sounds amazing and will do wonders for you if you take things slow and apply the right skills to your drum recordings.
Conclusion – Best Drum Recording Interface
If you’re in the market for a drum recording interface, look no further than the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20. It’s the best value for the money when it comes to recording drums. If you’re brand new to recording, this audio interface will be the perfect one to learn and grow on. I promise you, do not go with Presonus no matter who tells you.