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Thread: Should I Buy a USB Microphone?

  1. #101
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    +1 to Bob.

    I assume you will be able to take any purchases back to Blighty? If so I would seriously recommend the Native Instruments Ka6. With that you could use two mics and record the keyboard audio in stereo. You also get "a" Cubase to play with and latency would be a thing of the past.

    Snag is it is 90 above Bob's costing.

    Dave.

  2. #102
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bobbsy View Post
    Hope this helps.
    Quote Originally Posted by ecc83 View Post
    I assume you will be able to take any purchases back to Blighty?
    Dave.
    Thank you for the replies!

    Ah, I see what you mean by interface now.
    I'm planning to only use the one mic for the foreseeable future. Yeah, maybe one day I'll win the lottery, haha, but for now I'm only looking into using one mic.

    In UK the sound would go from my Korg M3 synth, through a mixer into computer (to record the audio), & return to the mixer, amp, speakers (to hear the sound). (My old mic was also plugged into the mixer.) However, with the cheaper keyboard I have here, I'm planning to use VSTi's because of the "better" (or wider range of) sounds. I'm also not planning on the guitar or home-recording duets, although thanks for mentioning them as things to consider.

    I see what you mean about latency, a serious issue indeed! However, while reading about the AT2020 USB+ version, it seems they've solved this issue. The 3rd paragraph seems to mention this: Audio-Technica AT2020 USB+
    It says "As well transmitting the mic signal, the USB connection brings stereo audio back from the computer. Headphones are plugged into the mini-jack socket on the side of the mic and a thumbwheel potentiometer governs the headphone level, while another adjusts the balance between the direct signal from the mic (for latency-free monitoring) andthe computer's stereo output."
    And in the 5th paragraph: "Its headphone output is very clean and loud, and the ability to balance the mic and computer return signals is ideal if latency is normally a problem on your system."

    Yes Dave, when/if I go back, I'd plan to take any items I can back with me, such as a mic.

    Thanks for your information & links guys, I really appreciate it! Still thinking & deciding for sure. Those items you showed me the links to are certainly worth considering.

    Richard

  3. #103
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    Well, "direct monitoring" solves the latency issue for the mic (maybe!) but if you want to run VSTi's through the system soundcard of a laptop you are going to get delay, I would put money on it.

    Dave.

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    RichRain, only you can decide what works for you. If you want to go with the USB mic (which, with your description, involves running line level audio from your keyboard into your computer via the 39 cent onboard sound chip) then best of luck to you and happy music making. If it was my money though, I'd spend the extra 37 quid and get a far better and more flexible system.

    In the end, up to you.
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    Mmmm okay, I'm trying to decide, but to make the right decision, I have to ask questions. Although I ran the audio from my M3 into my computer at home, here (without my M3) I will only be using this keyboard as a MIDI controller. So I'm still trying to see how the XLR is a far better system for me.

    The VSTis seem to be working well on my (Asus, SonicMaster) laptop. I know this is not amazing studio equipment, but it just needs to do the job for one-person recording.

    Maybe I will go with your 37 quid extra option. It depends if I can find a reason to need to. It may be that, for some reason, I'll want an interface/mixer system again, like I had before, so it may be better to get the XLR + interface option. I'll do a little more investigation, then decide. Thanks for the advice guys!

    Richard

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    Quote Originally Posted by RichRain View Post
    Mmmm okay, I'm trying to decide, but to make the right decision, I have to ask questions. [snip] It may be that, for some reason, I'll want an interface/mixer system again, like I had before, so it may be better to get the XLR + interface option. I'll do a little more investigation, then decide. Thanks for the advice guys!
    I can provide you with a little bit of advice as a guy who has pretty extensive experience with both. My day job is media director for a church. I am in charge of all aspects of audio and video in pre, live and post production settings. By night, I change hats and run a semi-pro recording studio.

    At our church, we have two USB mics which see almost daily use. We have a Rode Podcaster and an AT 2020USB. Both are easy to use plug and play devices. Our senior pastor uses one to record a daily 15 minute radio broadcast for a local Christian radio station. It is a typical talking head teaching program...14 minutes long with a 30 second bumper at each end. Our youth pastor does a one minute 'God moment' type show which runs six times a day on a big FM rock station in a neighboring large city. Before we started using the USB mics, we produced in the usual fashion. Meaning that I would record their shows in our isolation booth (right behind our sound board) with me engineering and them in the booth talking. However, this was time consuming and unwieldy for everyone involved. So I hit upon the idea of using USB mics. After a short learning curve, both were extremely happy with the results. It allowed them to record in their offices and on their own schedule. MUCH better for all concerned. The sound quality? Surprisingly good, at least for what we use them for...which is typical VO work. The Podcaster does a great job at rejecting room noise. The AT is much more sensitive to room noise. But we covered the ceiling of the youth pastor's office with acoustic cotton and the room went away.

    As I said they are great mics for what we use them for. That said, would I use them in critical music recording? No. Not so much because of how they sound. For what they were designed for, they sound great. But music production is where you will quickly discover their inherent limitations.

    Take the Rode mic for example. It has a maximum SPL of 115dB @ 1kHz...and I do mean maximum. Anything above that, and the mic will splat in a most unpleasant manner. Now, notice how the spec is measured...at 1kHz. That means that with anything remotely approaching a broadband signal, the spec is much worse...probably around 110dB if I had to guess. How many voices or instruments do you think produce sound only in the 1kHz band? That's right, none. Which is why someone once famously quoted "there is a world of lies in statistics". That stat is almost meaningless as a measure of real world SPL performance. Need proof? Take a Podcaster and stick it up against the grill of a reasonably loud guitar amp. You'll figure it out pretty quickly.

    Another area where USB mics typically don't perform as well as their XLR brethren is their noise floor spec. Why? Well once again, it is an inherent limitation of the technology being used. The microphone preamp is built into the mic body itself. Which means there is not a lot of space in there. Which means that the mic pre is going to consist of op amps soldered to the circuit board. Which translates into low powered devices in a noisy environment. Which in turn means a higher noise floor. Is this something you will notice? It depends. Will you be overdubbing? How many tracks will you be overdubbing. At five overdubs or less, you are unlikely to be effected. Anything more than that, and the noise floor will start to become a noticeable problem. Trust me. Been there, done that.

    So, in short, can you use a USB mic in a studio environment? Yes. Can you get good results with it? Yes, if you can work within it's limitations. Will it be as good as a separate mic and preamp/interface? No. It will not. Only you can decide if it will work in your specific application.
    Last edited by Hoosierdaddy; 07-13-2015 at 16:19.

  7. #107
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    Good post...and I pretty much agree with you.

    In the interest of fairness, it should be said that the low maximum SPL of the Podcaster doesn't occur in every USB mic--the name "Podcaster" should give an idea of what their target audience is and why they don't cater for loud sources.

    Similarly, the noisy pre amp issue also isn't universal--there are some okay mics in that area but they're not the cheapest entry level ones.

    However, as I've said several times in this thread, unless your needs are very simple and unlikely to ever change, I'd find it difficult to recommend a USB mic. Uses such as your church radio recordings are the sort of thing I'd consider "simple and unchanging" but, as soon as music is mentioned, spend the extra few dollars and don't start on a deadend.
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    Hey RichRain. I'm not sure if you are still following this thread. But in the interest of fairness, I thought I would throw together a quick recording demonstrating what can be done with a USB microphone alone. So this morning, I grabbed our Rode Podcaster and took it to my office.

    My office is a large rectangular room filled with A/V gear. In addition to my desk and some office furniture, there is a long counter space which occupies two walls. There are a total of six computers in the room. All of them except for my desktop are used for video editing, video broadcasting and network monitoring. All are on 24/7. There are also two 60 inch Samsung AV monitors. In one corner is a tall 6 foot + rack containing switches which route computer networking for the entire church, a wireless router, three Black Magic video production switchers, three Furman power strip/APC's and a Crown 1160a. The room itself has NO acoustic treatment. Just sheet rock on studs. I said all of that so that you would know this is anything BUT a whisper quiet studio environment.

    The recording chain was as follows: Rode Podcaster into my desktop PC into Reaper. My desktop PC is a modest Core i3 based system. Nothing fancy. Just a typical desktop workhorse. In Reaper, I used no EQ. I did process post recording using some vocal limiting and reverb...all VST based. I recorded it in three quick takes. It took all of about 10 minutes start to finish.

    It's not the fanciest recording in the world. Nor is it a very long clip. But it does give you some idea of how a USB mic can perform when used for music recording.
    Attached Files Attached Files

  9. #109
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    I debated whether or not to respond because I don't want to sound like I'm unreasonable down on USB mics...I just want people to understand the limitations before they spend their money.

    With respect, a single voice (even with overdubbing and reverb) isn't much more than a pod cast with harmony. It's not exactly a typical example of "music recording".

    To be fair, now add a guitar or piano or organ. Add a real choir, not a single close miked voice. Work in a situation where the mic has to be more than 3 or 5 metres from the computer...or where you want a stereo recording or an instrument or second voice done live. All these are places where a single USB mic will struggle.

    I'll repeat for the umpteenth time: it's not quality that's normally the big issue with USB mics. Yes, they tend to be aimed at the low end of the market but there's not that much difference between, for example the USB version of the AT2020 and the XLR one with a cheap interface.

    Where you DO have to consider things about going USB is the myriad of operational aspects--everything from wanting to add a second mic or sound source, to cable length to monitoring issues. As I've said many a time, if you KNOW your needs and a USB mic fits the bill. However, if there's any chance you may want to grow in the hobby, with more/different mics or extra instruments for example, then you need to seriously consider whether the extra few dollars will be money well spent to avoid purchasing a technical dead end.
    That's what I do. I drink and I know things.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bobbsy View Post
    With respect, a single voice (even with overdubbing and reverb) isn't much more than a pod cast with harmony. It's not exactly a typical example of "music recording". To be fair, now add a guitar or piano or organ. Add a real choir, not a single close miked voice. Work in a situation where the mic has to be more than 3 or 5 metres from the computer...or where you want a stereo recording or an instrument or second voice done live. All these are places where a single USB mic will struggle.
    Respect? If I didn't know better, I'd swear you have some sort of issue with me. I made no claim that this was a 'typical example' of music recording. I gave every caveat possible. I explained that the room is poor for recording and that the clip was just a quick and dirty example. Nothing more. Sorry that I didn't have any musicians hanging around my office at 10 am on a Thursday morning to throw in a little guitar or piano in order to satisfy your critical expectations. I'm fully aware of the technical limitations of using a single USB microphone. In my prior post, I made a reasonable case AGAINST using a USB mic for music recording.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobbsy View Post
    I'll repeat for the umpteenth time: it's not quality that's normally the big issue with USB mics.
    And no one has asked you to repeat even once...much less for the umpteenth time. Sorry if it's tiring you out.

    Me? I wouldn't use USB mics in critical music recording. For all of the reasons I stated above, as well as the many 'technical' reasons you have stated so repeatedly.
    Last edited by Hoosierdaddy; 07-17-2015 at 12:57.

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