choose microphone for art project

Hi everybody - a newbie in search for help here…

I’m developing an art project, where I intend to build a sculpture housing inside it a small computer (Linux), constantly monitoring its surroundings, and recording any sound/music once it goes beyond a given threshold.
It should successively process the sounds and react to them in different ways.

What kind of microphone should I use? I mention that it does not need to be excessively hidden, I can have some kind of opening for it.

I heard about “conference microphones”, but I dont know if they’re the correct choice.
One last requirement - I’d like not to go bankrupt for this!

thanks for any help…


How many microphones do you need?
Are you intending to process the sound in any way before it gets to the computer, or only in the computer?
Do you need low latency? (as low as possible, or just reasonably low?)
How sensitive does the microphone need to be? (what sort of sounds are you trying to pick up?)
Any other details that might help give a clear picture of what you are wanting to do?

You are aware that Audacity does not do real time processing?

due to the sculpture dimensions & to my budget constraints, I’d say one

only in the computer, since I’m not an expert at all in sound processing. The computer should be a Fit-pc

not at all - the “response” of the sculpture should be very slow

as I said, any sound of normal level that a human would normally hear in a room - voices, music… I’m not planning a secret spy-recording machine!

not many, I’m still at the drawing board for now…

As I told you, I dont have issues with slow processing.
I’d like my software to constantly monitor the surroundings, and periodically record sound. Then I project to postprocess/mix/… and re-play it from the sculpture itself


Based on that, I think that a Logitech USB Desktop Microphone would be a good candidate (as recommended by Kozikowski)
If you look through this thread there are a couple of sound samples.

The microphone itself is most likely just a cheap electret capsule (similar to other little computer microphones), but it also has a microphone pre-amp and USB interface built in. The main limitation on microphone recording quality on most standard computers is the extremely poor quality microphone inputs on the sound card. Because this has it’s own pre-amp and USB interface built in, it bypasses the built in sound card, providing exceptionally clear audio for around $20 - $30.

What I meant was that Audacity does not even do slow “real-time” processing. To process sound with Audacity you need to record, then apply effects, then play. Each is a separate process and you cannot make Audacity run the steps 1,2,3 automatically - each step requires user input (press “record” - press “stop” - select audio - select effect - press “OK” - press “Play”). If you want something that can take input, add effects and output sound without keyboard/mouse input, Audacity is not the program to use, you will need something else (perhaps “Sox” )

thx for the hint - but I’m surprised: you think a desktop mic is a good choice? I thought this type to be able just to record sounds in the immediate surrounding…

you’re right of course - I’ll check sox


I think that desktop mic is a good choice. Have a listen to Kozikowski’s audio samples - to get anything appreciably better you will need a microphone pre-amp as well as a microphone, which will push the price up considerably. Also, the microphone seems to be fairly sensitive (which you need), compact (especially if you “adapt” it with a hacksaw :slight_smile: ), inexpensive, and the limited bandwidth (not much bass) and noise cancelling (not electronic noise cancelling) will give a clear sounding signal that will help to keep some definition to the sound that you are processing (rather than it just sounding like mush). If you find that you need better sound quality, you can always spend more money to upgrade later on, but I think one of these USB Logitech mics will do a good job.

what sort of sound/music do you expect ?
how loud how soft ??
all 4pi directions or only one

what is the sculpture like ?
what are teh reactions of the sculpture supposed to represent?

if the sculpture is animal like then use two mikes at the ears
else put them (one or two ) where they fit artistically

you need to be aware that
you cannot process the sounds and react to them with audacity

you can after the fact process the sounds and then
you can then play back the processed sound to do something
IF you can write the software or add hardware that will do the reacting

audacity is not a real time program, it is strictly batch.

You do need to pay attention with the Logitech microphone. It’s directional.


Could cannibalise the circuitry from this electronic parrot if you just want the sculpture to repeat what it “hears”

Pirate Pete the Repeat Parrot …£16.99

Pro- a lot cheaper than a laptop.
Con -It repeats at faster than normal speed, [replay speed probably not adjustable by user, nor the delay before repetitiion }.

[I think t would be possible to use a laptop to reguritate recorded sound at pre-determned/random internals, but not using Audacity].

If you want to capture from all angles an omnidirectional mic would be better…

You could place 2 logitech in opposite direction, the problem is that connecting 2 usb mics to one computer is known to be a source of problems… although in linux shouldn’t be so problematic, specially if you don’t have latency/synching concerns…

Hi, I am new to recording audio and was wondering if anyone can make a suggestion on which microphone would provide a quality recording for under $50. Am not looking for special effects like mentioned in this thread just something for general voice recording.

You would probably have more replies if you started a new topic, specially because you’re looking for something different than what was discussed here.

Also it would help if you could give more information about your setup (what are you connecting the mic to, how you will connect it, what kind of show do you want to record - singing? talking? etc…).

Without knowing any details I’d say you should get an usb mic. For under $50 don’t expect wonders… On very low budget Koz would probably recommend his usb logitech. Search the forum and you’ll probably find some more opinions about it.