Improving audio quality through hardware

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.