XLR to USB conversion for streaming audio

Richard Monroe

Well-known member
Here's a blast from the past! I am an old-timer who hasn't posted in several years, but I'm looking for some advice. I have a pretty respectable mic cabinet, but my knowledge of PC's and social media applications is pretty poor. I have a buddy who wants to upgrade his audio quality for streaming, mostly voiceovers, not music, and is on a very limited budget. However, I'm quite willing to loan him whatever mics he needs, SM-7B, EV RE20, or whatever. My knowledge base is also pretty dated. Of course, I am aware that whatever solution is selected, at some point in the signal chain, there will be cheap A-D conversion and a cheap preamp, either in the external signal chain, or in the PC itself. So- Do y'all think it is more cost effective ($50-$100 max) to buy a cheap digital mixer/preamp/interface, just buy a dedicated USB mic, or use some kind of mic to go directly into a 3.5mm mic input? I have no idea what kind of sound card he has, but it's guaranteed to be generic. Feel free to suggest specific units. If you do recommend an interface, preamp, or mixer, phantom power would be a considerable plus. Thanks in advance for your help.


The preamps and A/D converters in even entry audio interfaces are more than good enough for streaming, and much cheaper than mixers with equivalent quality, *unless* he needs the EQ and FX like reverb that some mixers have. For voiceover, that says "recording" to me (which allows applying EQ and FX in post), vs. streaming, so maybe clarify what the actual use cases are.

The SM7b and RE20 are a couple of microphones which do require a bunch of gain, though, so it may be that a "basic" interface will be lacking in that, so an inline preamp, powered by phantom power, is sometimes used with those specific microphones. It depends on the interface, and that is one place where mixers usually have an advantage, though not that long ago USB mixers did not have great A/D converters, since many were just "tacked on" to existing mixer designs.


Hat STYLE. Not contents.
I'd go with the interface personally. If you shop around a bit and are willing to go used, you can get a decent 2 channel interface for <$100 (which allows them to expand to hosting a guest eventually).
That would also allow them to borrow and try out a number of your mics to see which works best.