low volume and hum using mic

I have Audacity 2.0.3, Windows 7 Professional, Shure SM58 mic

I’ve followed directions for settings and the mic will record on Audacity.

However, with the input volume as high as it goes in Audacity and in settings, the input level meter shows a wavering -24 when all I’m doing is holding the mic in silence, but I need to yell at close range to get my voice to register any higher than that. What am I doing wrong?

The Shure SM58 is a “proper” microphone, commonly used for live (on stage) use. They are not designed for plugging directly into a standard computer sound card. The Shure SM58 is designed to be used with 3 pin XLR connectors, so you should be using either a USB microphone preamp with an XLR mic input, or a mixing desk connected via USB to the computer.

Even with a proper XLR input, you may find the output from the Shure SM58 is a little low. These microphones have excellent power handling, they can handle the loudest yelling without distorting, but they do not give a high output from quiet sounds - that’s why you need a good (low noise, high gain) microphone preamp.

Thank you, Steve. I originally thought I’d order a Rode Podcaster, but the Shure was available locally at lower cost. Where I bought it, I was told that all it needed was a USB adapter cord and it would be fine.

My use of the mic would be primarily to record talk which would be acceptable on radio, on a low budget. If I get what you suggest, would that produce a desirable result? If so, would the items you mentioned cost so much that I’d be better off getting a different mic? Between the preamp and the mixing desk, what are the considerations? Would the Rode require either of these?

There are pros and cons to all microphones.

The Shure SM58 is a good microphone, and extremely robust. It’s a very old design, but is still very widely used, particularly for live stage use.
If you have a quiet voice, it is probably not the best choice, but with a reasonable preamp it should work well.
One thing to note about the SM58 is that it is designed for close up use. Typically an SM58 will be very close to the mouth. As with other mics of this type, there will be an increase in bass the closer your mouth is to the microphone. That is a “feature” rather than a “fault”, but it does mean that you will probably need to reduce low frequencies, either at the preamp (if it has a bass roll-off switch) or with a “high pass filter” after recording.

One of the main disadvantages of USB microphones is that you can’t get far from the computer (hence fan noise). With a conventional microphone (non-usb) and a suitable preamp you could be 10 meters or more away from the computer.

A USB mic preamp (for example the “ART USB Dual Pre”) is likely to cost around $80 US upward.

“XLR to USB cables” generally don’t provide any amplification so are not suitable for voice recording.

I was told that all it needed was a USB adapter cord and it would be fine.

What “adapter” did you get? A [u]Blue Icicle[/u] or [u]Shure X2u[/u] should work.

You may have the wrong adapter cable. The quiet noise is much too high and your voice is much too low. I’m betting they sold you a straight XLR to stereo 1/8" adapter cable (attached-bottom). It’s a lovely cable and very common, but completely wrong for a soundcard. The real adapter cable has one less black band on the 1/8" connector like this:

Those are much less common (I built that one), but they do work. I was able to use my Shure SM58 with my plain soundcard with no trouble. Here’s one made by Hosa.


If you have a guitar amplifier type microphone cable (available at any music store) you can get there with a simple adapter, although that’s more fuss.



That’s if you want to use your soundcard, not a bad starting point. But the quality is not the best and the next steps beyond that are the USB microphone cable, external soundcard or full-on sound mixer. Each one is a step above the last. Once you get to the small mixer, better is usually just bigger. Sound quality doesn’t improve.

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 7.28.21.png

Low end microphone adapters are not without their problems. Most of them have low volume (I have a Shure X2U) and some of them have digital noise. That’s our “frying mosquitoes” problem several people have complained about.

The X2U is lovely, but I have never used it at anything but full up volume to do anything. So if one of your jobs is recording a sensuous acoustic guitar solo, you may not get a very good recording.

So, yes, you’re in the Shadow Zone bumping up against systems that are too low quality for anything other than home recording, and worse, some of the systems depend on the quality of your computer.


I found my example of Frying Mosquitoes. Turn it up a little after I stop talking.


That’s a cheap, inexpensive ICUSBAUDIO adapter, and it doesn’t do that with every computer. That’s very difficult to get rid of in post production filtering.



Near as I can tell, the only problem with the Podcaster isn’t the microphone. It’s USB service, which means the farthest you can get away from your noisy computer is 6 feet.

Once you get past the microphone quality problems, the room/environment comes up immediately. You can’t record in a bare room.


We can’t correct that. This woman will always sound like she was recording in her mum’s kitchen.

We were horrified at the modern fashion of bare wood floors and hard walls and ceiling. Those rooms are impossible to record in.

The longest message thread in forum history was Ian who just wanted to record his voice for audiobooks. He ended up converting a broom closet into a mini-studio to get rid of Los Angeles traffic noises and room echoes.

Oh, and the podcaster will have trouble with music should you ever need that. It has a built-in pop and rumble filtering which is grand for voices, but not so much for instruments.

This isn’t as easy as it seems.


Photography is half about cameras and half about seeing the world that’s around you. Recording is all about hearing the sounds and noises that surround you all day — and trying not to record them.

This American Life radio show gets good field recordings and interviews under some extreme conditions by using an expensive microphone wrong. They use a distance shotgun microphone up close with a wind screen.

Between that microphone and the portable recorder (Tascam, if memory serves) that man is holding many hundred dollars of equipment.


Thanks for the replies.

To DVDdoug: The adapter they sold me was Hosa Technology, TrackLink Microphone to USB Interface, XLR3F to USB Type A

To Koz: Is using the small mic plug as desirable as the USB? Is it really advisable to use an adapter at all, rather than an actual USB mic?

To Steve: It does sound like the Shure is problematical for my use. What about the Rode Podcaster? If I wanted to use a USB mic farther from the computer, would an extension cord work okay?

To all: Although I’m willing to learn as I go along, I am non-tech oriented and need things simple for now. I want to be able to record my voice with reasonable quality at low cost. I can edit with Audacity. That is all I need right now. Mixer may come later.

Also, they sold me Yamaha RH3C Professional Stereo Headphones. It has a large jack, no such outlet on my computer. Will an adapter cord work for this? If so, is USB or other outlet best?

I’ve tried twice to post this, won’t submit. Trying once more.

To Koz:

Yes, the sample you offered is not what I want. But this room is far from bare, darn full! My walls are still uncovered rock wool insulation.

Considering the point about USB mic audio issues, does this mean I may be better off keeping the Shure and getting a preamp?

I found my Shure X2U pix.

That’s misleading because all I did was jam the SM58 into the X2U. You can put a nice XLR cable between the two and that cable can be very long.


Short cables are still better. Use the longest cable required for the job.

The only thing I have against that Microphone Preamplifier is volume. I’m used to using a full-on sound mixer with all the controls and adjustments.

It’s probably fine for what you’re doing.

You might want a windscreen and shock mount.

The windscreen is the round thing between her and the microphone.

And this is a shockmount I made from parts around the house.


Yes, those are US Mail rubber bands and that is my SM58.


But this room is far from bare, darn full!

I found by accident that my overly stuffed garage is not dreadful for recording sound. There are no plain bare walls, irregular boxes everywhere and I can put furniture moving pads on the floor.

I know you fell instantly in love with fancy equipment, but you don’t have to do that.


I have an H4 and would have no trouble recording sound tracks with that. It’s missing all the problems of connecting to a computer, it makes no noise, it’s completely portable and it will create very high quality WAV files suitable for dropping directly into Audacity for cutting.

That’s an older H2 on the rock there.


It says so in the notes.


One of the most common technical mistakes when making a podcast is to “talk into the microphone”. What you should do is ignore the microphone and talk to your imaginary friend sat on the other side of the table. When talking to a microphone, people tend to either whisper or shout, both of which sound bad on the poscast - you need to talk normally.

How loud is your normal talking voice?

And one other quick note. Your first experiences with the microphone cable were completely bogus. I’m betting you were recording your laptop built-in microphone rather than your SM58. You do have a laptop, right? We never established that.


Varies, normal. Your point is a good one, I will try that.

To Koz: All great info. The Zoom H2 looks interesting, may consider in future. Right now I do want to try a mic on USB, simple as possible. The rest will take time. I don’t expect perfection, and the radio station is not a fancy outfit. What do you think: get a USB mic, or keep the Shure and get a preamp? What about the headset?

No, I have a standing computer, under two years old, quite good. No mic on it, I was definitely using the Shure. Also no outlet for the headset, wondering whether an adapter will be suitable with that.

As you already have the Shure, I’d stick with that for now and get a USB mic preamp. If you find that you really get into this podcast stuff, you can always upgrade the SM58. Other mics (for example the “Rode NT1”) are better for low level sound than the SM58, but they still need a preamp. I would expect a Rode NT1 + a reasonable USB preamp to work much better than any USB mic. Even if you upgrade your mic, the SM58 is a great mic to have as a spare.

He has one.

The adapter they sold me was Hosa Technology, TrackLink Microphone to USB Interface, XLR3F to USB Type A

That can work. Let me go back and figure out why your original configuration failed.

Why do you already have a Shure SM58? That’s a very rock band microphone, not a casual purchase.

You know the scratch trick? Scratch the windscreen of the microphone with your fingernail. Tapping also works. The scratching sound should be explosively loud in the recording. I’m betting yours isn’t going to do that.