What is the point of an interface with a bunch of inputs?

If you have an interface that works well and has two inputs, line level, left and right, why do you need more?

If using more than one input at a time, how do you adjust their relative levels? Is an interface with many inputs a mixer? If so, where’s the knobs and meters? If not, why so many inputs?

If you need more inputs just get a mixer that has as many, or as few, of whatever kind, as you want. Or get a big one and a little one, for different recording situations, e.g. desktop and recording a band live. Plus, if you’re not using it for recording, you can use the mixer for other things, like a PA mix, monitor mix, etc.

For recording, run the output of the mixer into the input of the interface. Output of the interface to the computer.

When you interface doesn’t work and/or becomes obsolete, it goes to the landfill, and along with it, all your fancy inputs, which you then get to buy all over again.

What am I missing?

You’re missing the ability to record 16 (or whatever) separate tracks simultaneously. You may as well ask “why do I need a 16-track tape recorder”?

If you take 16 inputs and mix them down into 2 channels that mix is forever fixed. I you take 16 inputs and record each one onto a separate track in Audacity then you can mix and re-mix to your heart’s content until you get it right. If you’re recording drums, bass, keyboards and rhythm guitar simultaneously (onto, say, 12 separate tracks - 8 for drums, 2 for stereo keyboard, 1 for bass and 1 for guitar) and the bass player flubs one note but everything else is perfect, you can just “punch in” that part of the bass track to fix it. If you pre-mixed it to 2 channels then everyone would have to play it again.

– Bill

Thanks for the clarification. But just to make sure: are we talking about the ability to record 16 (or whatever) separate live tracks simultaneously? Because I can record 16 separate computer-generated tracks . . . not simultaneously, true. But isn’t that a software matter, not hardware? If I had 16 computer tracks, it seems like I wouldn’t want to to have 16 outputs from the computer to 16 inputs on the interface. I don’t know if that’s possible, let alone desirable.

As far as separate live tracks go, they’re only separate to the extent you can isolate them from each other, right? There’s a video on UTube of some guys jamming at a kitchen table, each listening to a mix of all instruments in headphones, but each instrument being recorded separately. Very cool, but only possible because the output of the instruments is electronic, not accoustic, including in this case, the drums. For each acoustic musician’s performance, wouldn’t you need a separate room to keep that track separate? With drums of course I can see the value of being able to have separate tracks for each mike, even though what each mike picks up isn’t completely isolated.

FWIW, the principal function of a 16 track tape recorder was to store and play back 16 tracks, recorded separately in time or not. Nowadays the computer does the storage function.

Yes, record up to 16 separate live inputs/tracks simultaneously. Yes, the computer takes the place of the 16-track tape deck, but without 16 (or whatever) separate inputs the best you can do is record two tracks at a time.

You seem to have missed the point about being able to mix those 16 tracks later, which is the whole point of multi-track recording. Also the point about being able to punch-in to correct a small mistake made by one player without everyone having to play the song again.

As for the YouTube video, believe me when I tell you that folks have been recording live instruments in the same room onto separate tracks for 40 years and doing it successfully, but you’re not going to be able to do it in your kitchen. Even in a great studio the isolation is not perfect, but is good enough. If everyone is playing in the room at the same time, a bit of “bleed” from one instrument into another instrument’s microphone is not a big deal. As long as the “bleed” sound is at least 10 dB below the “main” sound you have enough isolation.

We’re not talking about having 16 separate outputs from the computer. The computer not only replaces the 16-track tape deck it also replaces the mixing desk. So for your 16 computer-generated tracks, you don’t need a multi-channel output interface. In fact, for computer-generated tracks you don’t need an interface at all.

– Bill