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Thread: USB Microphone Versus Condenser Microphone & Others

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    Question USB Microphone Versus Condenser Microphone & Others

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    The past summer, I got myself a Behringer C-1 condenser microphone. It came along with a filter, desk stand and XLR cord. I had no idea I needed more equipment, (Such as output stereos, interface) so I wanted to convert that into USB. -Keeping in mind, I want to save as much money.

    1. What are the required equipment for a condenser microphone to work?
    2. What are the required equipment for a USB microphone to work?
    3. My laptop came with " Realtek HD Audio " , Is that considered my sound card?
    4. Is an audio interface a necessary equipment?
    5. What is the best kind of XLR to USB converter/connector?
    6. Which is a more beneficial decision, Buying a new USB microphone OR Buying a XLR to USB converter/connector?

    Please help answer.

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    You need an audio interface that will supply phantom power (48 volt) for the microphone. This audio interface will act as your 'soundcard' when you are recording. The Realtek thing in your laptop will give you inferior sound when recording (and you will still need something with phantom power for the mic anyway).

    Most beneficial, get an audio interface. Even a single-channel one, like the M Audio Fast Track will be preferable than any of the other options you are looking at.
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    +1 to the advice from mjbphotos.

    Just to expand a bit on what he said:

    Every microphone needs a pre-amp to raise the very low levels it generates to something useful. Once the signal has been amplified, for use in a computer it also needs a converter to change the analogue signal to digits that a computer can use. In addition to this, a condenser mic needs a source of power (known as phantom power) to operate.

    That's the three things that an audio interface will do for you--act as a microphone pre amp, an analogue to digital converter and a phantom power source.

    A USB mic is no different--except that all three functions are built into the mic. The trouble is, the electronics used are generally "built to a budget" and not anything like as good as a specialist interface. There are a couple of other drawbacks too. First, with a few exceptions, most USB mics are "one way" devices--they don't give you outputs for monitors or headphones, expecting you to use the built in device on your laptop for output. This can cause trouble in some audio software when they try to use two devices and two drivers at the same time. Finally, the drivers themselves (if provided at all) can often be flakey, full of bugs and lag.

    On top of all that, every time you buy a new USB mic, you're also buying a new built in pre amp, A to D and phantom source. However, with an interface, you can buy as many different mics as you want/need and keep using the same interface.

    Finally, to answer a couple of your specific questions not dealt with above:

    Yes, the Realtek is an interface but a very basic, low quality one. It's designed more for a cheap headset mic for Skype calls than any serious music recording. Even if you could plug your mic in using a phantom source and adaptor cables, the sound quality would be very noisy and unpleasant.

    Second, there's no "best" audio interface (or XLR to USB adaptor as you call it) but the M Audio Fast Track that mjbphotos mentioned is fine. However, your choice will also depend on what you need in terms of number of inputs, outputs for monitoring, etc. etc.

    But, to sum up: buy an external USB interface and use the mic you bought rather than messing with USB mics.
    That's what I do. I drink and I know things.
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    Thanks. So I see that my best decision is buying an interface. I have a microphone, XLR cord, desk stand, filter, phantom power, usb snake cord, & most likely, the M Audio Fast Track. What am I missing to make this home set up? Do I need stereos or any other cords? & Is it best to sing/rap standing up or sitting down?

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    It's up to the singer but most prefer to stand.

    Other things to consider:

    A pair of headphones (preferably closed cup ones) so you can listen to your music/beats while you sing.

    Possibly an extension cable for the above so you can move farther away from your computer and interface.

    Monitor speakers to use while mixing.

    Cabling for the speakers (exactly what will depend on your interface and the monitors.

    Finally, once you get going you may need to think about the acoustics of your room--but that'll come once you've recorded and listened to the result.
    That's what I do. I drink and I know things.
    -Tyrion Lannister (and Bobbsy)

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