As is the case with microphones, they produce analog signals that needs to be converted into digital format for your PC to handle. To achieve this, we'll need a few extra things to ensure the microphone is able to connect to the PC and you (and others) will be able to hear recorded sound input. Here's a quick shopping list:
- XLR cables (opens in new tab).
- Pre-amp mixer.
- Analog-to-digital converter.
- Phantom power.
Audio interfaces are expensive solutions that handle everything we need for a microphone to PC connection to be established. They can also support more than one microphone and are an ideal investment if you're looking to setup a studio or have more than one person live at any given time. They're generally in rack format to allow for easy assembly in a server case.
If you have the money to splash out on an audio interface, it's recommended you do so for an optimal experience. It's also generally recommended to steer clear of cheap options. $150-200 is considered to be the minimum for good audio quality. Here are a few examples:
- BEHRINGER U-PHORIA UMC404HD (opens in new tab) - $99.99.
- Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 (opens in new tab) - $349.99.
- Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 (opens in new tab) - $229.99.
- Zoom UAC-8 USB (opens in new tab) - $599.99
Simply plug the microphone into the unit and then use your chosen interface to form a bridge to the PC.
If you don't have the cash to splash out on an expensive audio interface, or you simply don't require advanced features and capacity for what you wish to use the microphone for, it's possible to pick up a few items and hook everything up just fine with great results. We need a pre-amp, analog-to-digital conversion (which many pre-amps can handle), and phantom power.
Picking up a USB pre-amp mixer is a good choice for anyone looking to plug a single microphone in for podcasting, some gaming or to do some voice-overs. Most of them are compatible with the USB interface, and some even offer support for phantom power. A pre-amp's job is to amplify the signal that is received by the microphone to make it stronger for the PC to use.
Here are a few examples:
- Behringer XENYX 802 (opens in new tab) - $59.99.
- NOVIK NEO MIXER NVK 802FX (opens in new tab) - $149.99.
Phantom of the Mic
If your pre-amp doesn't support phantom power for the microphone, you'll need to add a small powered unit in-between the microphone and pre-amp to provide extra juice to the input device. Failing to do so will result in terribly low audio levels and quality. Luckily, these aren't expensive:
- InnoGear (opens in new tab) - $17.99.
- Neewer (opens in new tab) - $18.94.
- PYLE (opens in new tab) - $23.37.
It's worth noting that dynamic microphones do not require extra power, though condenser microphones do. Regardless of how you go bout connecting your studio microphone to your PC, it's a simple process once you have the necessary equipment.
An easy alternative to all this hassle is USB microphones, though their quality is rarely as good as traditional microphones.
Updated on July 12, 2018: We refreshed this guide with everything you need to connect studio microphones to your PC.
Rich Edmonds is Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.
That article is misleading at best and dangerous at worst. Phantom power makes no difference whatsoever to the mic level, condenser mics just won't work at all without it. Cue people adding phantom power to boost their levels and destroying the capsules in their dynamic mics..
Exactly what I was going to say, you're spot on.
I'm a musician and I record stuff, but for a typical advanced non musician PC user, something super simple like a Blue Yeti USB mic would be more than enough for podcasting and gaming. And heck, even musicians have used the Yeti and made some great tracks with it.
Yep. Get a Blue Yeti or Snowball. If you're a musician, you already know the PreSonus, Line 6 or Focusrite setup.
You're absolutely correct, Chris. Optimally, you have a board that allows you to toggle phantom power individually for each channel. Personally, I prefer to avoid condenser mics if at all possible. I do video netcast and also do some home music recording, so I have a Behringer Xenyx X1222USB board connected to my computer. The bidirectional USB capability is perfect for netcasting, and having that many channels gives me plenty of room for my keyboards, mics and any line inputs or outboard effects. The built-in per-channel compressor is okay, but you really need a dedicated one to get the best results. Currently, I'm running Heil PR-40 dynamic mics (I LOVE the sound of those mics). BTW, having a decent mixer alone can help with boosting levels.
Here's a detailed article on selecting recording hardware by a site planning a Windows UWP app for self-published books and audiobooks. It's really intended for audiobook recording or podcasting (partly written by author of Podcasting for Dummies), but it covers everything from selecting mic (USB or XLR), mixer, and other hardware to setting it up through tuning to optimize signal to noise levels with Audacity. It assumes you don't want to spend any more money than you have to to achieve quality results: https://scribl.com/guides/how-to-record-an-audiobook/choose-microphone-a...
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Heil pr-40 or Shure SM7 would be a good start. Get a decent AD/DA and download Cakewalk. Now free! from Bandlab.
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