Need help getting Mic , etc. for voice recording

Hi. New to this forum - read through abunch of threads - great info! I learned quite a bit reading here but I still have questions and would like specific recommendations for what to buy and how to proceed.

I am a financial advisor and I want to make audio and video clips for my website, also make an audio business card (on CD). In addition, I do a weekly radio show that I usually am at the studio for but occasionally want to be able to prerecord on my PC and send (prefer by email so need to keep size reasonable) to the station to play when I can’t be there. Basically, just voice recording - I’d add any background music in the editing step. So, a few needs, hopefully one set-up can take care of it.

I have a PC with whatever basic sound card came with it and quite a bit of RAM and hard drive space. I have Movie Edit Pro 15 for video editing, but I’m not sure I’d use it for voice recording which is why I think Audacity is a part of my solution. We are considering getting a Nikon D3100 DSLR camera that I read takes good HD video but has only the internal mic with no external maic jack. I’d maybe get a more expensive camera with external jack if itis a good solution, but I think maybe having a decent mic into PC using Audacity would be the better way to go.

Microphone : So… could some folks recommend a mic for my use. I read that the usb mics may lack in top-quality applications. I do want to sound professional so I don’t know if these are what I need. I also don’t want to break the bank but really I don’t have a specific budget set in stone - just the lowest cost that meets my need for pretty good quality. Specific recommendations are appreciated.

Sound card : Is this a big part of the quality or would most do the job? I could find out what I have it it matters - it’s a basic mid-level HP computer that’s maybe 2 years old.

Any other advice would be greatly appreciated. Thx.

What kills most home recordings isn’t something you can easily fix or buy. It’s room noise and echoes. You can instantly tell when somebody made a YouTube recording at home because they all sound like they were recorded in a bathroom or garage, regardless of what it looks like.

I made a credible recording using the built-in microphone on my computer, but I did it in the dead quiet of the company’s Executive Conference Room. Not my kitchen.

You can sometimes get away by using a headset type of microphone which tends to pick up a lot less room interference, but it does tend to sound “close” and not entirely natural.

What does the station use?

USB microphones are not universally terrible, but they do have their restrictions. The microphone, amplifiers, and sound mixer are all inside that one metal case and if any of them doesn’t meet your requirements, you’re dead.

You can’t ever get very far from the computer, and you can’t have two or more microphones, etc.

“Real” microphone, small mixer, and recorder are usually the smallest you can do and still have elbow room, control of the sound, and the ability to expand.
The lower orders of sound system are fixed. You buy it and it either works or it doesn’t.


Built-in soundcards that come with most desktop computers or laptops usually suck (mostly because they lack proper shielding and they get all sort of electromagnetic interference from the other computer components). So buying a “jack type” of mic is usually a not very interesting option… Even if the mic is good, it will still suck when you connect it to the computer’s built-in soundcard.

If you’re going to buy a dedicated soundcard, then an external one will often be the preferred choice… First because it stays outside of the computer case and that by itself avoids a lot of troubles… Second because it gives you the option to take it anywhere and easily hook it up to another computer.

Like Koz said, USB mics aren’t necessarily bad, but like he says it’s all inside of the same box so if one component isn’t up to the job, the rest will suffer too…

I also agree that the recording environment is as much or more important than the recording equipment… Echoes can kill the show… Clap your hands in the room you’re going to record, if you can hear the clap sound echoing/reverberating through the room, the show will probably be ruined by echoes. If it’s going to sit near the computer then it’s probably going to catch a lot of noise from the computer fans too. Are there any other sources of noise? Air conditioning fans? The sound of cars passing by in the road outside? Neighbours yelling? Our brain can filter that and ignore it, the mic doesn’t, so it all goes in the recording.

You can get a very decent usb mic preamp for less than $100, such as the ART USB Dual Pre, which I own. There are others.

You can probably get a decent mic to connect to that for another $100. I have a very decent T-Bone (SC1100 I think), they have good quality for the price. It’s a large diaphragm mic, XLR connection, you can’t connect it directly to the computer, needs a preamp with phantom power. They ship from germany, might not be the best option if you’re outside europe.

You can also get a Logitech Desktop USB Mic for $20, it might be just enough for your needs :slight_smile:

This is not a dreadful microphone.

Note in the sound test the slight hiss in the background. You’re stuck with that. You can try to do Noise Reduction on it, but you should probably leave it alone. Hiss is hard and some USB microphones are a lot worse than others. Also, I was some distance away from it. If you do voice work closer, you can juggle levels and suppress the hiss. That and it’s directional and helps with room noises.


OK, thanks for the help so far. I sort of get it but I still have questions. If I get a preamp what exactly does that do? Is that instead of an external sound card? The Logitch mic for $20 or so - is it a good chioce for speach recordng? I’m fine with $100 mic if it make a noticable difference, remember, I want to make an audio business card so I need good sound.

I have pretty good control over my environment sounds - good room without echos, only my computer sound which is quite low (I can turn off printer, etc.) and back room so limited road noise.

I did read the link to the other thread on the various microphones, but it really never gets very specific - good background info on genberal issues with various options. Any other specific recommendations for my use - recording a talk show/audio business card ?


I’d probably go for the logitech first and see if it works… It should be easy to find. Have a try at it and see if you’re happy with the result… If not, well you have not spent a big fortune on it, you can keep it for skype calls, or see if you can return it and get your money back.
Sound quality is subjective… what is good enough for someone, might not be for another one…

Maybe Koz can record a new sample on the logitech mic, just speech.

A mic preamp can be somewhat compared to a sound card (external). Some mics need to be fed with phantom power (typically 48V), a normal soundcard won’t do that. Most preamps (not all) will have that feature. A mic preamp is specifically designed to get a mic signal and to amplify that signal, usually has a physical button to adjust the gain. Might have some other features. It’s designed specifically for that job, so should be good at it. A soundcard is designed as a multi-purpose device… mostly for playback. The mic input is just a small part of its duties and often badly neglected… A mic preamp will most likely be cheaper than a full sound card with equivalent mic input stage.

Some mic preamps can be used as external sound cards for playback, the ART USB Dual Pre can do that, it has a monitoring headphones socket and I can send the audio from the computer to there. It’s not what it excels at, but it can do it. I have a dedicated internal soundcard for high quality audio playback on high-end headphones.

There is no “good” microphone. You only have microphones with better or worse specifications – and reputation.

Everybody Knows that these microphones work very well with human voices…

…but they cost thousands, so multiple manufacturer’s brought out “professional, studio, large-capsule condenser microphones” that were cheap.

$99 USD.

They left out the expensive step, that each microphone is carefully hand-adjusted for perfect specifications, but the manufacturer’s used all the buzz words in the commercials, so the mics are really popular.

And I can hear you building up to a very common question. No, there is no such thing as a “professional announcer” filter in Audacity – or anywhere else.

Bruno was right. Start with the Logitech ($20 USD on-line) and see how it goes. Most people greatly overestimate the quality of their “studio,” and in some cases, their voice.


We forgot one important aspect affecting “quality”, which is “playback”.

It’s important to know where and how the target audience is going to listen to it and the delivery format.

If it’s going to be for a 24kbps mp3 embedded on a webpage it doesn’t a top-of-the-line mic to achieve that…

Most people listen to audio on a laptop’s crappy speakers won’t notice a difference between a $20 mic and a $2000 mic :slight_smile:

I’ve bought a fairly good mic and mic preamp an year ago, but I haven’t done any serious recording with it, because I am yet to “build” a fairly decent “recording studio”.

OK, thanks again. I did list my playback uses, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat. I’ll make some podcast type recordingd to link to my website so playback on computer. I also want to be able to make good sounding audio CDs as an audio business card and maybe for topic specific info. Playback might be computer, car CD player, home CD player. I may also have a SD card or USB Flashdrive with multiple topics, not sure. Also, I’d like to be able to pre-record my over-the-air (AM) radio show and not go to the radio studio to do it (doesn’t have to be studio quality, that would be a waste of money for me as I am sure they have $1,000’s in equipment.

Now, I did remember that I have a mic that came with my Sony camcorder a while back. Checked it out and it’s a Sony ECM-MS907 model. It seems to get good general reviews. The specs say it’s a condenser mic so I assume I could try that with the ART USB DUAL PRE maybe? I’d use Audacity as my software I think. Comments on this idea? Is this likely to be a decent quality set-up? Again, not looking for highest end (and cost), juts “quite good” however one might interpret that.

Thanks. Any ideas welcome.

Sorry if I gave the wrong idea, I wasn’t asking for the playback specs again, just reinforcing Koz comment that the perceived quality is quite dependent on the playback system of the listener… and the listener’s ear by itself… “quality” is always a bit subjective… and not fully measurable.

Not sure about that… The ART preamp has two mono inputs (balanced). That’s not what you got there… That’s a stereo mic, apparently from the pictures looks like a stereo jack for the output. You can split that to two mono signals, but it would still be unbalanced…

I couldn’t find much info about what kind of signal does that mic outputs… It only speaks about compatibility with other sony equipment… Sony equipment is known for using their own proprietary formats and does like to play with others…

Without knowing exactly what kind of signal does it outputs and how it’s wired it’s hard to say what you can do with it…

Sony ECM-MS907 is a special purpose microphone designed for custom connection to a stereo camcorder or personal recorder. I don’t think it will plug into anything else. Most microphones are mono.

It will not plug into an ART USB DUAL PRE .

You may find the Logitech microphone all you need for all those jobs.


OK, thanks - sounds like my Sony mic is really for my Sony Camcorder (mini DV style). So, I’ll pick another one. I still am not clear as to whether I can expect better quality from a mic/preamp setup or a USB Mic like the Logitech or Snownball I’ve read about. If I use the preamp setup, giving me the option of two inputs (if I understand correctly) what type of jack would the mic cord have? Can the USB mic be used with the Pre-amp to improve quality or is it an entirely different set of Mics I need with a different connection?

I’m getting there - be patient with me!

USB mics already have a preamp built inside, and you have to stick to it, unless you know something about electronics and feel like opening the mic and hacking it :wink:

Preamps are meant to be used with more “professional” kind of mics… these usually come with a XLR connector (which usually don’t include the cable).

The Art preamp for example has hybrid input sockects which accept either a XLR connector or a TRS connector. TRS male connector is a stereo jack connector but the wiring is not the typical stereo wiring (unbalanced) instead of a left and right channel it has the same signal on both wires but inverted on one of them. Usually all professional mics have this kind of connection. The idea of a balanced audio connection is to eliminate the noise on the cable, so you can have very long cables (like on stage mics in a concert) with barely any loss in quality due to the cabling.

If you’re curious about a more detailed explanation of balanced audio connections here’s an article about it:

Forgot to say that the preamps built in the usb mics are usually of a lower quality than a dedicated external mic preamp.

Thanks much for the info. I think I’m getting close to knowing what I’ll want. Sounds like I have a few ways to go on the microphone so I’ll do a bit more checking on that.

Now, the soundcard. As I said, I have a HP mid-level desktop. It has an integrated sound card (Realtek I think). Being that I am not concerned with high-quality playback on my PC, just recording, would I want a different card? Some mentioned an external card - needed? Any ideas on this?

The sound card is used to create a digital signal from your microphone or other show. USB microphones go around all that because they have all the electronics inside them They deliver a good quality digital signal to the computer – whether or not you have a sound card installed.

We keep dancing around the “best microphone” because it’s too easy to get burned. There’s no shortage of complaints about the Samson U01 microphone and its cousins because some tradeoffs are needed to push all that electronics processing inside that one little microphone.

The microphone element, the preamplifier, the processor and digitizer are all smashed inside a USB microphone. The more expensive microphones split things up and you can choose the quality much more accurately.

Take this for one example…

The microphone is a very high quality analog unit and presents its tiny, low level show on an XLR connector.

This plugs into a sound mixer…

… which amplifies and mixes the show with as many as three other microphones. It produces a very healthy, powerful analog signal which I plug into my Mac which has a very high quality analog to digital converter. The whole thing is recorded by Audacity.

So that’s one product line. The mixer can be split up into the Preamp (typical – the Arts unit) and you may or may not need the rest of the mixer knobs and controls at all. That mixer can be bought with a digitizer inside and it will make the digital bitstream all built-in. That’s the USB version.

USB microphones pack all that into one microphone, the disadvantage being you can’t change anything – you can’t reach over and turn up the volume a little. Setting microphone volume is impossible on some models.

Our company, on the other hand, has two Blue Snowballs and they work pretty well. I will shortly do a voice test into the Logitech unit. That works OK, too. USB microphones are very simple, cheap, dead easy to use and are indicated if they fit your tasks.

For good versatility and top quality, you need the individual pieces model where you can choose each piece.

I love this microphone for my voice, that preamp is really quite and well behaved, I need to mix four microphones into a show and since I have a Mac, I don’t worry about the digitizer at all. Your mileage may vary, void where prohibited, licensed drivers only.


And no, it didn’t escape me that he’s doing this commercial with a tie-tack microphone on his chest for voice and not the product.


The Art preamp can be used as an external sound card for playback too… It has a headphones output and there’s knob to select if the sound you hear on it is coming from the mics or from the computer (or both).

I still think that if you’re going to record speech only you should probably start with the $20 logitech mic.