Improving audio quality through hardware

I’m at the point where google can’t help and need to ask instead of searching for an already existing answer.

I’m quite confused as in what I should be looking for in terms of improving audio quality, right now my motherboard is using the default factory sound card it came with instead of 3rd party one. Now my question is, in order to improve the audio on my recordings should I purchase an external audio mixer like this

or should I get a soundcard like this:

It’s not so much what brand/type of upgrade I should be investing in it’s just that I don’t know what to buy. Also I’m using the h1 zoom usb mic, should I get an xlr converter to change the usb into an xlr connection for the mixer? I’m just very muddled up on it all, the purpose for it all is to make a podcast. Any advice is appreciated stuff like:
what cables I should use
mixer types
sound cards vs mixer

A brief timeline:

— The low lend of the microphone family is the built-in from your laptop and a possible side trip into the personal recorder in your cellphone. You may recoil in horror, but I have produced temporary vocal tracks for a show that way. But yes, those are pretty restrictive and usually noisy from being too close to the computer or being hand-held. You can only ever have one, although there is a technique where you sprinkle recorders around a gathering to get many different sound performances.

— Next up the food chain are the many USB microphones such as the Yeti and Snowball and your Zoom. I assume you can switch your Zoom into Live Microphone mode like I can my H4. Those can be an end-of-the-road point for many people. If all you’re going to do is a simple podcast or voice production, you can stop right here.

They do have their problems. You can never get away from a noisy computer due to the 6 foot (2M) limit of the USB cable, and some computers produce higher than is good electrical background noises. Many USB microphones do not allow you to adjust the volume because they’re “all in one” devices. “This is how we’re going to record your voice, full stop.” Most important, they’re aggressively non-expandable. You “upgrade” a USB microphone by putting it in a box in the garage, not buying two. There are techniques for forcing a computer to work with two USB microphones, but that can produce timing/echo errors and you’re limited to two.

— At the top of the food chain are the XLR analog microphones, sound mixer and digitizer. Those eight-foot long professional recording consoles in studios are just grown up versions of that mixer in your illustration. Those require XLR or other analog microphones. I know of no way to “convert” an USB microphone for use with an analog mixer. Even if there was a way, you wouldn’t want to. That gives you the bad features of both.

The mixer will accept almost all types of analog microphones, so if you get sick of your microphone, you can upgrade without changing the whole world. Just unplug it and get something else. Or many something elses. You aren’t restricted to one or two microphones. You can plug as many in as the mixer will handle. When you run out, you get a wider mixer without changing anything else.

The advantages go on for pages, but all that is usually only important to someone wanting to expand. If you’re happy with a single voice podcast and you have a quiet computer and room, you may never need to get further up the chain than a USB microphone.

— However —

Most people don’t need a new microphone, or mixer or digitizer. They need a new room.

This person will always sound like she’s recording in her mum’s kitchen and it’s permanent. We can’t filter that out.

A recent posting from Ian is now the longest posting on the forum. All he’s doing is recording his voice on a Snowball. Not kidding. Ian and a Snowball. That’s it. He ended up recording his voice pieces in a soundproofed closet to avoid apartment, traffic and room echo noises.

So post a sample of your voice into the H1, either as a live microphone or stand-alone recorder. You can use a very high quality MP3 rather than a WAV. We just have to listen to it, not rip it apart. Do some voice and then hold your breath and stop moving for a couple of seconds.


alright so my equipment doesn’t necessarily have to be the problem it’s the computer, well I’m running it from desktop so changing location is going to be a problem unless I get a mic with a longer cables in the future.

Here’s a sample of the raw audio I recorded quickly off the mic to give you example of my room noise with no editing. (WAV File)

also here’s a recording I did with a mate, I recorded through Pamela because I knew of no way to do skype recordings so I just bought it to save time tell me if that’s an alright recording in your guys opinion and if Pamela may be causing some of the audio issues due to skype loving to mess with my audio.

but back to hardware if I get a mixer do I need to get an internal sound card or does the mixer act as one, like does it improve the audio quality if I get one or is the mixer’s only improvement being that it’s a flexible piece of tech to own?

On that Skype conversation there is nothing above 5kHz , and inevitably has plenty of digital artefacts which cannot be removed. Dynamic-Range-Compression helps intelligibility a bit …

Once sound has been put through the bottle-neck of Skype, which sacrifices quality, it’s not going to sound like an H1 recording any-more, and there is no way to reverse that degradation.

so the skype plugin destroys the audio quality, alright what other alternative would there be to getting the audio from skype without it being destroyed either a hardware or software wise solution, would getting the mixer solve this by doing a mix-minus or is there ultimately no work around with skype conversations at all.

so the skype plugin destroys the audio quality,

Nope. Pamela does an excellent job capturing the conversation. Skype is destroying the quality.

If your goal is broadcast quality conversations, many people use split recording. Each person at each location uses a very high quality (but simple) recorder to record their voice. At the end of the show, each person sends the high quality voice recording to one person “in the middle” for editing into a final high quality show. The people talk to each other on Skype or telephone or cellphone or whatever. That voice quality can be trashy since it never makes it into the show.

I shot a split broadcast at our company that way.

This looks way too complicated because we double recorded it for safety. So that’s actually two sound shoots. Our interviewee called the station with that phone on the desk and they chatted for a half-hour. I recorded everything with that Audacity computer to the left and used our FTP service to ship the sound file out. We could have used DropBox. The station said they did little or no corrections to my shoot and it went to air like that. It sounded like the two people were sitting in the living room talking to each other.

That’s similar to how this musical piece was done. This was not a live shoot.


I have also created a very high quality Skype capture with two computers and a mixer.

In this case both parties (at opposite ends of the US) had headphones and good quality microphones so Skype didn’t have to do echo cancellation or volume management. Echo cancellation can cause all sorts of problems. The machine on the right did all the Skype heavy lifting and the one on the left played theme, bumper and interstitial music and recorded the show in Audacity.

Both of those computers have Stereo Line-In, so they interfaced perfectly with just connection cables.

It helped a lot that both ends of the call had good to excellent internet service. Low or intermittent internet will kill you on shoots like this. If you start having connection troubles, drop the video.

I have a sample of that shoot here somewhere…


And yes, I did use Mix-Minus from the mixer so New Jersey’s voice didn’t go back to New Jersey. I’m in California. Most of the problems with shoots like this is people try to smash everything into one computer and the balance fails.

Some people do make that work. They’re celebrities. I can’t find it right this second, but one poster had a very minor sound problem which we fixed and then he called on Skype and did a very nice show. Just like that. He looked at us funny wondering what the problem was. The problem was most people aren’t that lucky.


Here it is.

The show is “Reel Life Show.” The production values are just so-so, but the sound quality works OK.

If I had more time I can find the Audacity forum thread.


thank you for all the different methods

doing individual recordings may be easier but I doubt my co-hosts are up for it since they’re extremely lazy but great conversationalists.

Mixer sounds like a great solution and I can do it if I use a small laptop I have somewhere around the house as the skype machine and my desktop as the recorder with audacity.

I know mega64 do it quite well with their stream they do where they answer calls from fans and viewers through skype and also have a sound board, ipad, cameras

Although using one computer would solve my problems even more so if you get the thread that does that please link. Are their any other solutions that are plausible to do and if I had to get a mixer how many channels would it need for a podcast setup running mix minus through skype along with an ipad for sound board effects.

thanks so far for your help it’s been really helping me

Apparently Skype do offer different quality services : one designed for musical performance , which would be best quality … [ I think all parties in the conversation would have to have fast broadband connections to exploit the best quality VOIP services ].

the skype codec sounds good but overly complicated plus when it comes to Australian internet our average down is 1mb per second unlike the states which is significantly higher. So what else could be done in order to improve the quality mixer sounds like it’s becoming the option but I don’t really know yet.

If your internet speed is slow, Skype will never sound any better than a bad, bubbly AM radio. Remember the UP speed is frequently much worse than your DOWN speed. The Split Recording may be your only option.

I half-did one experiment with USB Stick Recorders such as this.|2518493893

Each side of the show gets one and either hangs it around their neck or sticky-tapes it to their collar. Each side starts their recorder (it has a startup delay) and holds the conversation over Skype or phone. Again, the Skype voice isn’t part of the show.

Then each side turns their recorder off. You can physically send each recorder to the person doing the editing, or copy the file to a computer and upload it to Drop-Box or other on-line service. At show internet speeds, this could take the rest of your life. Royal Post or UPS would work much better.

I never finished the experiment because the recorders are noisy. There is a constant fffffffffff behind voices and it’s almost impossible to remove.

But it was an interesting idea. “Talk into this thumb drive and drop it in the mail.”


The people in that gaming video were not doing that over slow internet. They’re sharing gaming data and a live video connection.

The slow internet problem is very serious. It limits what you can do because no matter what kind of recorders you have, the show still has to squeeze down the soda straw connected to your house.

One item with the mixer. Both of the computers in that illustration on my desk have Stereo Line-In connections. Your desktop is likely to have a blue stereo Line-In, but not your laptop. You should look at the laptop connections before you spend any bucks. You can’t easily send a mix-minus to this computer:

No blue line-in. The pink Mic-In is designed for microphones only.

I’ll look for that other posting. I remember he used an oddball username.

I did note several times that I could listen to Ben talk all day…


It’s six forum chapters.

His username is Chaseisfdr.


Sorry I haven’t been able to reply to the thread I haven’t been ignoring it I just haven’t had internet for about a week.
So I finally read through that massive 6 page thread and man he went through a lot to get that setup right, I think mixer seems to be the way to go about it at this point, and if that’s the case can someone please give me a shopping list of what I’ll need in order to do that guys one computer setup or stuff I’d need in order to get a mixer running for podcasting
Type of mixer and what outputs/inputs it needs
Any help would be appreciated sorry for the lack of communication

If the podcast includes a conversation over the internet , and you want to improve the sound quality, then you have to use a better-quality VOIP service, which may require a faster broadband connection than you currently have. A mixer won’t undo the damage that basic Skype does to sound, nothing can undo it.

The method Koz has described is a way around the poor quality audio of a basic Skype connection, but will require post-production, ( so no use for a live show ) , and requires that the OP is capable of making a good quality recording of their side of the conversation and sending it to you.

Further reading …