Best Acoustic Instrument Recording for MacBook to Audacity?

I want to record single acoustic instruments in the highest possible quality to my MacBook using Audacity.

My macbook has the optical audio input 1/8" jack. I am currently running an inexpensive Tascam “Stereo condenser mic” into it and recording to Audacity.

My problem is that this Tascam mic seems to get only a faint sound unless it is pushed right up in front of the instrument (cello) like a dynamic vocal mic. The result after doing so is that I get the direct sound of the instrument but not so much any of the nice room ambience.

IS this the fault of the mic quality, or does a mic plugged into the optical audio input need some kind of amping or interface before it is strong enough to go to Audacity?

If it’s the Mic quality, can you recommend an affordable bang-for-buck setup to do this well?
Thanks in advance to you all!!

The Mac input is Optical Digital and stereo analog Line-In. Neither will directly support a microphone.

Your microphone is probably (without a model number) delivering a really tiny signal to a connection expecting a powerful robust stereo signal like the one from a mixer or a cassette player.

I need to continue this later.

I want to record single acoustic instruments in the highest possible quality to my MacBook using Audacity.

The highest possible quality for $30 usd. That’s what most people mean.

This is an area of recording fraught with problems. The obvious solution is a USB condenser professional, broadcast, etc. quality microphone.

Note in the illustration, he’s enthusiastically playing drums and not one double-piano violin on a foggy day.

Most broadcaster/professionals don’t use them because they have some serious shortcomings. In order to avoid fatal overload, they tend to record quiet and quiet usually translates to noisy and you can’t easily take microphone hiss out of a performance.

Past those, you can go straight analog and get a good quality analog microphone, mixer, USB adapter and computer of your choice.

Microphone $100
Mixer $100
USB Adapter $30

Those are fuzzy round numbers, but I actually have equipment that conforms to those values. You can get a nice USB mixer for $130, so that’s a wash. The advantage of separates is the USB adapter we recommend, the UCA202 has been tested as one of the devices that allows you to do perfect overdubbing/sound-on-sound.


This one’s applicable to what you’re doing.

We did an extensive guitar recording thread on the forum. This should shortcut all the questions you’re going to ask. Have a read through this. I believe it’s still the longest thread on the forum.


You are the greatest - thank you.
I will go read the guitar thread you suggest.

for the record, i guess I meant “highest possible VALUE” and so the Samson C01U sounds like a great deal. Are you saying that with a USB mic of this type I could go into the USB and record to Audacity without having to have a mixer and preamp?