Recording equipment and Audacity

I volunteer as a broadcaster at our local community radio station ( Most of the time, I record at the studio in Audacity, save the files to my Macbook Pro, bring it home and edit. Works fine and I appreciate the changes made to version 2.0.
I would like to setup some basic home recording equipment, using my MacBook Pro 2.66Ghz with 8GB RAM so I can do some of the voice work in my office. No music recording, only voice and mostly my own. I successfully do some work with my CAD USB Headset w/ mic. It’s pretty good and I use it a lot for recording Skype calls with CallRecorder. I would like to, however, be able to monitor through a headset when I’m recording and I cannot do that with this setup. I assume I need to add a digital audio convertor and a mic. There are lots of choices so I’m hoping someone in this forum has some advise.
So, any suggestions out there?
Thanks in advance.


The problem with listening to yourself on headphones is that you cannot use Audacity’s “Software Playthrough” option, as that introduces a delay (as you’ve probably found). What you need is some way to monitor your voice before it gets into the computer. There are several options (none of which I’ve tried), which are outlined in this tutorial in the manual:

While those are about overdubbing, the need to listen to yourself without a delay is common to both situations.

– Bill

I have tried them. I wrote the three tutorials. The trick is to listen to the sound before the computer gets to it. Once the computer tries to “chew” on the sound and process it, you’re dead. The sound is always going to be “one computer late.” A computer is not a Digital Audio Workstation. Koz

In the tutorial you say
Generally, purpose-built hardware is needed to hear your live recording without unacceptable playthrough latency - without that hardware you will hear what you are recording too late. Failing that, a method for overdubbing using your computer’s on-board sound card is given too.
Can you give me an example of what that Purpose-Built Hardware is. I’m assuming that would solve my problem


I think Koz is referring to the three devices he mentions in the tutorial - the Samson mic, the Shure USB adapter and the Behringer USB adapter (which requires a mic preamp or mixer).

– Bill

I’m making progress of sorts. I plugged my Zoom H2 into my Macbook and use that as a mic. When I plug the headset I can monitor my recording although it’s not very loud and I’ve turned the volume all the way up. Playback is much louder. This is a step in the right direction and the quality seems Ok. Two things, is there a way to get the sound louder while monitoring? And, how do I create a system where I can have two mics for when I interview someone.
Thanks again for your courtesy and help.


Oh, I forgot to say: there was no latency using the Zoom H2 and I didn’t make any setting adjustments to Audacity.

So you’re plugging the headphones into the Zoom?

– Bill

Yup. I plug the headphones directly into the Zoom and that allows me to monitor while I’m recording. The volume is too low though and I would like to be able to work with two mics and two headsets.

Bill and Koz,
I have a basic question: what is the difference between a Mixer and a Audio Digital Interface?
I see a mixer like this one, and wonder if I can plug that into my Mac USB and hook up some mics and do my interviews but does that make sense?

Thanks again for all of your help.


If you’re on Macbook Pro like I am, you can use the Peavey PV6 like I do and plug it into the Stereo Line-In with a plain adapter cable like this.

The Analog to Digital converter inside the Mac works very well and I’ve been known to do some serious work with that combination.

The Mac is on the right.

If you have a 13" machine you may need to mess around inside your System Setups to switch your one and only connection between Stereo-In and Stereo-Out (headphones).

You can also spend a few more dollars/shekels/pounds/euros and get the USB version of the mixer. That will plug into either your Mac or a Windows PC.

I have never used this mixer.

You can also get an analog to digital interface and use that with any computer and any analog mixer. This is the Behringer UCA202.


So it sound like the Peavey PV6 will do the job. However, it has only on headset output but couldn’t I put a splitter in and listen with two headsets?


See my reply in your other thread Mixer vs Digital Audio Interface about the Behringer headphone amp with 4 outputs. The advantage is each user has their own headphone volume. A passive headphone splitter will work if a) the headphones have the same impedance and b) both users like the same volume.

– Bill

I have a basic question: what is the difference between a Mixer and a Audio Digital Interface?

A digital Audio Interface just gets you back and forth between analog audio and computer digital bitstreams. You can’t hear a bitstream and a computer has no idea how a microphone works. You need to put something in the middle.

This is a very simple Digital Audio Interface, our favorite UCA-202.

That’s stereo audio on one side (the mixer or the cassette machine) and a simple computer on the other. Note there’s no microphones anywhere. In the case of the mixer, you plug the microphones into the mixer, the mixer amplifies the voices so the Digital Audio Interface can deal with them.

In the case of many Macs, there’s a terrific Stereo Digital Audio Interface build in. It’s the circle with two black arrows.

So in that case, all you need is a mixer, microphones, an audio cable…

and Mac and you’re good to go. That’s exactly what’s going on here…

There are many variations. You can get a Peavey PV6 with a Digital Audio Interface built in. That’s the PV6-USB.

That connects to the computer with a digital USB cable instead of an analog audio cable and it will connect to a computer with no soundcard at all. Almost any computer. Doesn’t have to be a Mac with the fancy audio connections.

You don’t need the mixer at all. You can get a USB microphone and that converts directly from sound to digital.

Everything is built in, plug directly into the computer. However, you are warned that while that sounds terrific, in actual use you can run into problems because it’s very difficult to set sound levels and you can’t apply mixer filters, faders, etc. etc. Many shortcuts were taken to get these things to work. You only get one microphone. If you need two or more independent microphones, have a happy day. You can’t do that.

For field interviews, you may not need any of that. A portable capture device such as the Zoom series or the Marantz devices may be called for. I believe NPR uses the Marantz units for their interviews.

For “studio” interviews, then yes, by all means a nice mixer (I use the Peaveys at home and work, so I know how they operate. Others work, too.) Pick the number of microphones that you couldn’t possibly use in a million years. Mixers come 4, 6, 8, and up. Then, the next week after you bought it, you’ll run out.

The worst problem doing field interviews is getting a voice to work in challenging conditions. Try to do an interview in a small, busy airport or a construction site. At home, your worst problem is you don’t have a studio and you can’t do them in your echoey, reverberant kitchen.

I have a really good bad example of this that I didn’t post yet. Rain check.


I’m trying to do this and eat my oatmeal at the same time. I’ll have to hose off the keyboard later.

You can totally connect two headphones to the headphone connection on the Peavey. Radio Shack makes some nice two and three way splitters.
They also have Radio Shack brand units for cheaper.

Please note that you get only one volume setting. If one person needs it louder, that’s life. You can’t split the settings without adding more equipment. People make headphone splitter/amplifiers for this, but most people don’t need them. Also, splitting isn’t free. The volume will not go as high with both headsets connected.


Never produce work in your house that sounds like this.

A lot easier to do than you think.

I like to picture this announcer maximizing her production efficiency by announcing the work in the bathroom. Probably not, but that’s what it sounds like. This show cannot be fixed. It will always sound like she recorded it in her mom’s basement.