USB recording = good enough; everything else, different!!?

Hi, could really use some help here: I’ve got 50 hours voice recording to do: simple questions and answers for a language CD, with 2 people. So, firstly my friend and I used a simple single USB desk-top microphone, and the thing is the quality was good enough for what we need. But physically it was a real hassle sharing the mike, so I decided to go for a 2 mic set-up, for which I bought a mixer etc, as required by Audacity. The ease of recording was much, much better: we got so much more done, and that’s the only way I’ll finish the project by deadline. But, when I heard the recording the result, it’s a completely different type of sound from the USB recording: in comparison it’s like it’s been recorded in a cathedral or something. Yes, the USB, by comparison is a ‘thin’ ‘reedy’ sound, but it’s clear, and for what we’re doing it’s fine. With the non USB set-up, I had a store here in Budapest try every mic under the sun, change the sound card etc, but the sound quality was nowhere near as good as the USB. It’s just a different type of sound, but I was much happier with the USB type of sound! In a nutshell: is there anyway I can get the USB microphone quality, from a mixer, 2 microphone set-up. Intuitively, it seems it must be possible, but hey, with my Hungarian not being what it could/ should be, I’m getting nowhere, and I’ve got about 5 days left… Guys, if anyone can help me with this, I’d be really grateful. Thanks. -

Are you recording in the same place (the same room) as your original recording?
Is the microphone placement the same?
In short - is EVERYTHING else the same apart from the change of microphone?

Look in “Edit > Preferences > Audio I/O” is "software playthrough switched OFF?
In the “Windows Mixer” (loudspeaker icon near the system clock) what have you got selected as the Recording Input? (it should be “Mic” not “Stereo Mix”)
In the “Windows Mixer” Playback section, you may need to mute the microphone to avoid picking up echoes.

Hi, thanks for replying. Yes, all the room conditions are the same. But one thing I’ve noticed is that in the mixer window microphone was checked not stereo mix, but also CD player was checked aswell. When I get the opportunity, I’ll see if unchecking that makes a difference. The fact is the quality of the sound is so different, between USB, and other mics, that there must be something wrong in my setup. (Otherwise people would be saying that for simple quality recording go USB everytime. And they’re not saying that, are they??) I’ve thought I could probably set up another laptop, install Audacity on that, and then we could both use USB mics, and I could mix it together afterwards. Anyway, I’ll try when I can unchecking that box, and see if it does anything. But, hey, thanks a lot for your help, really appreciated.

You should be using “Line in” not the microphone in. This could be a problem if you are using a laptop because they do not usually have a “Line in” socket. The “Mic in” socket on PC’s are too sensitive, and usually too low quality to get decent recordings from a mixer. The solution for a laptop is to use a USB audio interface such as the Behringer UCA 202 (or similar) which are quite cheap and considerably better quality than the average mic in.

Thanks for your reply. As is probably clear, I’m a bit illiterate when it comes to this kind of thing, but buying that mixer could be my next step. But another option which I’d thought about is this: Get a good quality, voice specialist (eg podcasting) USB condensor mic, sit it between us, and then I guess that would solve the Audacity 1 USB mic restriction. So I’ll try that and see how it goes: that way it doesn’t matter about the quality of the laptop / soundcard / settings, because these mics have their own soundcard and it’s USB, so external anyway. Is that right? Thanks.

Proved my point with my last post: just realized you weren’t talking about a mixer, so thanks, that could be it, I’ll check it out.

That could be a possible solution. USB microphones do not use your sound card, sound is converted to digital data within the microphone, and that data is transferred to your computer through the USB cable. One thing that you need to be aware of if you are buying a USB microphone for this purpose is that some microphones are directional (“cardioid” response) and only pick up sounds correctly from the front. Other microphones pick up sounds from all directions (omni-directional) and so can be used in the manner you suggest.

Quick note on USB microphones. You can only get as far away from the computer as the longest USB cable–which isn’t all that long. No such thing as parking the noisy computer in the bedroom down the hall from your “studio.”