Choosing A USB Microphone

If you’re using your computer to record, you need to figure out how to get sound into it. Basically, there are two options: using the “mic input” jack or using a USB microphone. A USB microphone has a built in “audio interface” (think of it like a mini sound card) that takes the signal from the microphone and converts it to a digital signal that the computer can accept. For the best quality, what you’re looking for is a “large diaphragm condenser microphone”, which is the same kind of mic that is used in recording studios. This kind of microphone is appropriate for a quiet recording environment, but probably would not be suitable for a live environment like a seminar. The other thing that’s important to specify is that you want a “unidirectional” mic (as opposed to an “omnidirectional” mic). What this means is that the mic will only pick up sound from directly in front of it, rather than from all directions at once. This is important because you don’t want to be recording your computer’s fan noise and other extraneous noises coming from within the room.

When using a USB mic, you have to tell the computer what input to “listen to”. Most software has somewhere to set the “input settings”, where you make sure the USB mic is selected. If you forget to do this, either no sound will get into the computer or the sound input will be something else. Where do you find a USB microphone? Most computer or electronics stores will sell them, as well as the professional audio department of most music stores.

Samson “Go”

One of the most clever mics I’ve seen recently is the Samson “Go” mic, which has been really well thought out. It’s relatively compact, portable, comes with its own travel case and even has a piece of plastic attached to it that can be clipped to your laptop or attached to a mic stand. It features a built-in headphone jack and lists for about $90, although it’s currently selling on Amazon for around $50. In my opinion, it’s the perfect mic for creating info products on the go.

A headset mic is also an option, although generally speaking, the quality won’t be as good as a mic that has a larger “diaphragm”.

When you’re using a professional microphone, you’ll need to be aware of “plosives”. What’s a plosive? It’s a strong burst of air that is expelled when saying words that contain a “p” or a “b” – and they can really ruin a recording when your mouth is close to the mic. To counteract this, you need to use something called a “pop screen” or “windscreen”, which creates a barrier between your mouth and the microphone that will absorb this burst of air every time you say a word with a “p” or “b” in it. A pop screen is also called a “pop shield” or a “pop filter”. They are usually circular in shape, made of nylon or metal and mounted on a flexible “gooseneck” with a clamp on it that can be attached to a microphone stand.

Finally, a “tripod-type” mini tabletop mic stand will allow you to set up the mic in front of your computer and still be able to see the screen when you’re recording.

So a quick recap of what you’ll need for a good quality audio recording when using a laptop as your recording device: a USB mic, a USB cable, a pop screen and a tripod-type tabletop mic stand. If you use these items properly, you can create very professional sounding audio for a fraction of the cost of what you would have had to pay in the past. Happy recording!

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