Can You Use Cubase Without An Audio Interface?

Cubase, as one of the foremost Digital Audio Workstations available today, is a software that you may have heard of and want to work with. You may however be wondering if you will require an interface to use this software. Having worked with Cubase for some years, I’ll be sharing with you what I’ve learned using Cubase.

You cannot use Cubase without a suitable audio interface as it is a basic requirement for the use of the software. The reason for this is that you need the audio interface to act as the link between your computer and any analog audio signal that it will be interacting with.

There’s more this than the answer you just read above. While an interface is a requirement, you may actually already have one you can work with and may therefore not need to get a new one to be able to use Cubase. It will therefore be helpful if we looked at some important information that may help you decide if indeed you already have an interface you can use or if you’ll need a new one.

What is an Audio Interface?

An audio interface is a device that converts analog audio signals to the digital signal that your computer can understand and also converts the digital signal from your computer to the analog audio signal that you can hear and understand.

By default, every computer comes with a basic audio interface. While the stock interface may not pack so much by way of power, it will suffice for some basic operations and with some audio software, including Cubase.

Our DAW of focus, Cubase, has no clear audio interface specification requirement stated by Steinberg, the owners of the software. That said, I’ll quickly share some tips that will help ensure you choose the interface that will be best for your needs as you work with Cubase.

How Do I Choose the Right Audio Interface?

To determine the specifications of the interface that will work best for you, follow the steps listed below:

Determine Your Need

This is easily the most important thing to consider. Under this heading, there are a number of other sub-factors that you’ll need to carefully look at before making a final decision.

Your Purpose

Define exactly what you need your audio setup for. Why are you getting the Cubase DAW? Do you want to record music, podcasts or what?

Once you have decided what you want to do with the software, you’ll have taken the first step towards deciding some important features your interface of choice MUST possess. This is because knowing all of these will not only help you decide the required external features, but also the power, resolution, speed and capability requirements of the interface that will work best for you.

You will then be able to decide if the sound card that comes with your computer’s motherboard will be able to do the job or not.

How Many I/Os

Inputs and outputs, fondly called “I/O” by producers, describe how many simultaneous inputs and outputs an interface offers. The specified input number states how many microphones, instruments and other audio sources you can plug into the device at the same time.

The specified output number on the other hand states how many outputs can be taken from the devices.

While checking for this, you will need to understand the different between analog inputs/outputs and digital inputs/outputs.

Connectivity Option

This is another important thing to consider. What kind of connection options does your computer support? Knowing this will help you determine if you will go for a USB, Firewire, Thunderbolt or PCIe type interface.

If you’ll be working only with your laptop, you can’t possibly go for a PCIe type. You certainly don’t want to get a device home only to discover that there is no way to connect it to your computer. Leaving you to have to either get a new one, or change your computer.

Know Your Budget

After all said and done, everything is very much likely going to come back to the issue of how much you are willing to spend.

Thankfully, the breathtaking speed at which the home music production trend has grown has meant a lot of competition in the low budget category of interfaces. While you’ll still find interfaces that cost thousands of dollars, you will also find those that cost a few hundreds and have the capacity to produce professional level results if used properly.

You should therefore know your budget range and then focus on products within this range. This will save you both time and stress.

Just know that whatever your budget, you are sure to find something that will work for you and your version of Cubase.

Tips for Improving the Performance of Cubase, Your Interface and Your Computer

It’s one thing to have a setup but another to have this setup working properly. In this section, I’ll be providing some tips that you can use to improve the overall performance of your production setup. This will include your computer setup, Cubase and your interface.

The Computer Setup

Your computer is the heart of the system where everything will be happening. It is therefore important that it is operating optimally. To ensure this, follow the checklist below:

  • Ensure your Operating System is updated.
  • Make sure you have the minimum required hard disk space.
  • Check your RAM size to be sure it meets the minimum requirement.
  • Get a dedicated external drive on which to store your projects. Do not save your projects on the system drive.
  • Be sure to specify to your computer which interface it should use. There will usually be an internal one and your external one.

Setting up Cubase

There are a lot of things that you can set up when using Cubase. These include your control room, inputs and outputs, templates, and more.

However, the most important of all these is linking your interface to ensure it is the primary sound card for the DAW. If Cubase cannot see your interface, then no signal will be sent to it.

Select your interface from the settings and then choose your default sample and bit rate for your recordings. This will impact on the quality of your recordings and the size of the resultant files.

Your Interface

The very first thing you need to do when you get any interface is to ensure that the driver is up to date. Don’t just install the included driver and believe that you’re all good to go. Go to the site of the seller, (in this case Steinberg) and check for the latest driver. Doing this will ensure your setup works as well as it should.

Next thing to do is to read the included documentation to ensure you have all the information required. Many of us don’t like reading these manuals until we run into problems. Avoid this by first reading the documentation.

Aside from an Audio Interface, What Else Will I Need?

What else you may need will depend on what you want to do with the DAW. At the very least, you will need a microphone to take sound into the software through the interface and monitor speakers or headphones if you want to hear (monitor) the sound coming from your computer.

Are there Cubase Alternatives?

There are certainly a number of alternatives to Cubase. On the professional level, you have examples like Ableton Live, ProTools, Studio One, Logic and Sonar, to list but a few.

On the lower level spectrum, you can consider Audacity, Audition, Garageband and a few others.