Saturday, February 15, 2014

Exploring USB Microphones

I just put part eleven of my Audio Recording tutorial series online (and I have some additional study notes further down in this post). This series as a whole is more related to home studio work than it is to DJ'ing, covering the very basics of audio engineering and production work. The series is eventually going to expand into about thirty different videos about simple recording and audio engineering, everything from the basics of recording instruments and vocals, to the use of MIDI, to the theory of sound and audio, and eventually a number of advanced editing and recording techniques. Of course, many of those techniques will also be important for people who are producing EDM.

Audio Recording Tutorial #11: Working with USB Microphones

In this video, we examine the basic characteristics and features that you might find on many USB microphones, and the advantages and disadvantages that they have compared to traditional studio microphones.

Here are some of the pros and cons of using a USB microphone as compared to a traditional mic routed in through a sound card (I'll start with advantages for the USB microphones):
- Excellent quality is available at very competitive costs.
- USB mics are suitable for most podcasters, home musicians, music students, voiceover talent, and pretty much anyone not wanting to use the internal microphone of your laptop. USB mics even have a place in some professional studios.
- No need for a mic pre-amp.
- Condenser microphones normally need a source of phantom power. This is supplied on the USB line for a USB mic.
- Some USB mics allow for direct headphone monitoring with no latency.
- Many USB microphones have a gain control knob to adjust signal going into your computer.
- Many USB microphones offer the choice between multiple pickup patterns.
- Some of the higher-end USB mics also allow for XLR output into a traditional system.
- Some USB microphones offer variable sampling rates onboard.
- Some USB microphones have a built-in pop filter.

There are a few potential disadvantages to consider too:
- Although some USB mics will work immediately as plug-and-play devices, you may need to install drivers for others (this is the case on both PC's and Macs).
- Many DAW's will only allow for input from a single device at a time. So for instance, if you've got a USB mic plugged into your computer and you also have a sound card hooked up, with other instruments connected to your sound card, you may not be able to record through your USB mic and sound card simultaneously! This is certainly not a problem if you're working on multi-track sessions where each type of audio data is recorded individually. However, if you wanted to, for example, bring in a vocal through the USB mic at the same time as a guitar track through your soundcard, you might be out of luck!

Links relating to USB microphones:

Here are links to a number of microphone manufacturers:

I also have quite a few other tutorial videos relating to DJ'ing, audio editing software, and studio equipment. I've got an organized list of those videos in the index of my "videos" page on my main website. If you're interested in any of those topics, you should bookmark this page right now:

Thanks for your interest in this series, and thanks for sharing this post or links to any of the videos.

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