The X-Fi Xtreme is designed primarily as a playback device rather than for recording, but going on the reputation of other SB cards the recording quality should be ok, and certainly loads better than the average laptop mic in.
Anyone got experience of this sound card?
The X-Fi Xtreme has a combined mic./line/optical input via a mini-jack socket, which while not ideal, is much better than just a mic. socket.
Large diaphragm condenser mics are ideal for recording vocals + acoustic guitar, which is what I assume is what you want to do. However, condenser mics need to be powered, usually through the microphone lead from a mixing desk pre-amp which provides “phantom power”. Some condenser mics (notably the AKG C 1000 and numerous cheap “electret” mics) can be powered by batteries.
More recently USB condenser mics have appeared, which connect directly to your computer via a USB cable and are powered from the USB. You will see numerous posts in this forum of problems with USB mics, but there are also plenty of people that use them without any problems at all. Samson make a USB Studio Condenser mic that has received good reviews, and also the tbone SC440 USB and SC450 USB available from Thomann (which a friend of mine uses with Audacity and loves it).
If you choose a conventional condenser microphone (non USB) then you will need a pre-amp or mixing desk. A mixing desk will give you more flexibility as you can add additional mics, or plug in other sound sources and mix them before recording, which is great for live recording. You would also need a lead to connect the mixing desk to the input of your sound card. Most mixing desks use either XLR connectors or 1/4" Jacks for the main output - they may also have a pair of phono connectors for “tape out”.
For a little over £100 GBP you can get a Behringer XENYX 1204 FX
This has 4 mic inputs with 48V phantom power and 75Hz low cut, 24-bit FX processor, 2 stereo inputs with 3-band EQ, 2 aux sends (pre/post), USB PC connection, peak LED & mute per channel, 2-track in/out, XLR main out, alt. output 3&4, and an internal power supply. It also uses faders rather than just volume knobs, which is nice.
If you can go a little higher in price (about £150 GBP) there’s the BEHRINGER XENYX 1622 FX, which has “semi-parametric” mid eq on each of the mic channels (it means you can “tune” the mid range frequency and is a great advantage).
If these are a bit too pricey, Thomann do a “creative bundle” that includes a SC450 Large diaphragm condenser microphone + a valve pre-amp + pop filter and leads for under £100 GBP. (I have an SC450 and it’s fantastic for the price).
The cheapest options are the t.bone SC440 USB at about £40 GBP, the Samson C01U at about £50 GBP, or the t.bone SC450 USB at about £70 GBP.
I think you would have problems trying to run 2 USB mics at the same time with Audacity, so if you think you will need more than one microphone at a time, then go for a mixing desk option.