Could my audio setup be better or just tweaked a bit?

Dear Experts,

I’ve done a small local Elgin, IL, radio show with a co-host for five years, and recently decided to go Net only on my own. To that end, I bought an MXL 990 microphone and some decent XLR cables for my wife years ago, so I thought I’d use those. I picked up an inexpensive Neewer 48v phantom power supply on Amazon and an XLR to 3.5 cable to go from the Neewer directly into my Dell desktop (Windows 7 pro) microphone input.

I had to do battle to get everything to work as I didn’t realize Dell had their own audio software installed and the microphone had to be turned on there too. Then, when I finally started recording with audacity today, despite turning the mic input all the way up, the levels were very low and the sound was pretty muffled. I finally found the Windows microphone settings and turned the boost up to +24 db which made a huge difference and I watched a few Youtube tutorials on equalizing your voice etc. which made it even better.

But my music major wife was surprised that, with an excellent microphone, decent cables, a more than reasonable PC, and a decent boom with shock mount, the recordings were so quiet and muffled.

Is it the nature of connecting the mic directly to a reasonable, but not bleeding edge soundboard? Should I have put more money into a power supply that had some audio controls? Am I missing something completely or, having been on the radio, am I expecting way too much from this equipment?

I appreciate any and all feedback!


There’s a possibility you’re actually recording via the computer’s built-in mic , rather than your external mic.
Try tapping the external mic then tapping the computer case to check which mic is live.

BTW you can attach a few seconds of audio to posts in this forum , see how here …

and an XLR to 3.5 cable to go from the Neewer directly into my Dell desktop (Windows 7 pro) microphone input.

A stage/studio mic has a balanced (3-wire) low impedance connection. Computers have an unbalanced (2-wire) high impedance connection. Plus, the mic preamp built into a soundcard or laptop is usually poor quality. So… The mic input on a soundcard/laptop is generally worthless for high-quality recording.

The best solution is a [u]USB Interface[/u] with an XLR input.

A lower cost alternative is a [u]Microphone Transformer[/u]. The transformer will convert the balanced connection to unbalanced and match the impedance. But, you’re still stuck with the laptop’s preamp. (Most of these have 1/4-inch phone plugs so you’d need an additional adapter.)


Thank you for the reply. I did think of the built-in microphone possibility, but quickly discovered (and remembered) my Dell Optiplex desktop has no built in mic. What did help the sound immensely is switching to mono recording.


Dear DVDdoug,

Thank you for your reply. I guess I was expecting too much of the equipment, though switching to mono recording made a huge difference in the Audacity sound quality. The fact that I already had the condenser mic and the cables made it an interesting and inexpensive experiment.

If I did purchase a USB interface, would that replace the phantom power supply or would I still need both.

I also ordered a reasonably priced used Blue Yeti from Amazon. Is that a better bet than the MXL 990 setup? Thank you again!


Most USB microphone pre-amps that have XLR inputs also have phantom power (but check the specifications to be sure).

Although USB can supply power to run USB audio devices, it is not idea for several reasons (noise, stability, adequate voltage / current, …), so in choosing a USB audio device it is generally better to go for one that can be powered from mains / wallwart / batteries rather than relying on USB power, though this adds a bit to the cost.

I’ve not tested either myself, but I would expect that the MXL 990 with a reasonable USB mic pre-amp would be significantly better than a Blue Yeti.
Inexpensive USB mic pre-amps are available from Behringer, ART and others. Price wise, you’d be looking at ‘from’ about $40 for a USB pre-amp (USB powered) or from around $90 for one that has its own power supply.


Thank you for another great reply. Is there a particular USB audio interface that you or any other expert here would recommend - especially with potential expansion in mind?


How much expansion?


With all of your help, I realized I should finally get the Presonus Firepod out of the box after all these years and, with a firewire card from Amazon, I’m good to go.

Thanks again!