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Audio interfaces allow us to get audio in and out of the computer. They are usually an external device that allows us to send in input signals like microphones, or line signals. It handles A/D conversion, and then through a cable, sends that digital information to our computer to record. The main thing they do that we love them for is they take care of the analog-to-digital conversion and they do it away from the computer. So, usually that means there's something in there that's dedicated to just doing A/D conversion. Now, while most computers come with stuff where you can plug a mike in and things like that.
They don't as good a job at A/D conversion as stand-alone audio interfaces do, just because they have hardware in there that's dedicated to that, and fine tune to it. Really, the stuff that ships on your computer generally isn't that high ended, it gets the job done, but you wouldn't want to use it to produce a record necessarily. The other advantage is it gets away from the computer, there's a lot of noise inside an actual computer, and it's not the best place, in a way, to be doing A/D conversion. I know, that's sounds weird, because it's all digital and electronic, but actually there's a lot of noise that's generated in electronic machinery in terms of the different voltages and sounds.
So, it's not just that there's like a fan going, but it's that there are other kind of interruption and interference inside the computer that audio interfaces don't have. So, typically connect to your computer via USB or FireWire or via PCI card, which goes into a slot in your computer and then hooks up via special cable back to the audio interface. In this chapter, we are going to look at kind of the inputs and then the outputs and then some of the different functionality of the audio interface. But the first thing I want to talk about is analog to digital conversion, which we'll look at in the next movie.
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