Re: usb mics for podcasting vs. a usb interface and an analog mic
- From: "Arny Krueger" <arnyk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2011 08:30:42 -0400
"joe h" <ytgf3000@xxxxxxxxx> wrote in message
I'm trying to create a vocal narration outboard setup that has good
sound quality, a small amount of components, and reasonable cost.
I have a usb mic/headset right now. While the convenience is
unbeatable, I notice that there is a perceptible amount of distortion
in the audio capture (it's a Microsoft Lifechat LX-3000). This has
nothing to do with level setting or mic placement. Believe me, I went
through the options on this. It's not that the distortion is
terrible, but it's not like a super clean Millennia setup.
It is also not like any halfways competent mic/converter setup. As you
subsequently allude to, the presence of some kind of analog volume control
and adequate dynamic range in the microphone itself are key factors. We
usually take that for granted.
For example, my standard laptop/field mic setup is composed of a Rolls MP13
mic preamp and a Behringer UCA 202 USB interface. Nets out for less than
$100. When used with a mic with adequate dynamic range for general purposes
(of which I have several dozen) it meets all reasonable requirements.
I can't even seem to find the specs as to whether it is recording at
44.1 or 16bit/22.5, etc.
If the product doesn't come with a driver disc or download, its depending on
the standard USB drivers for Windows or Mac, which are 16/44. That's more
than enough for a first rate result.
The consumer stuff out there doesn't seem to
publish many of the specs that matter.
Ditto for much of the alleged "pro" suff including the Blue Icicle and the
AT 2020 USB. Both vendors should know better.
I've been looking at some basic ($300 and under) usb mics for
podcasting. This has brought me to three mics:
Rode Podcaster, Blue Yeti, Audio Technica 2020usb. There is also the
sE Electronics USB2200a at a higher price point of $400.
If I was going to pick one blind, I'd go with the AT 2020 because I already
have a couple of them and IME they are really good general purpose mics.
The Yeti is the only one of the four that has anything resembling gain-
staging: it has an analog input attenuator knob.
Your apparent presumption that no physical knob = no analog gain control
could but not necessrily is a rush to judgement. If you further assumed
that no physical knob *and* no special driver = no analog gain control, then
that would be very reasonable.
I know you typically
want a strong clear analog signal that hits the converter.
Well, the problems you are experiencing my be due to too much signal hitting
the converter. Or, the cheap electret element that your current mic using
could be running out of dynamic range all by itself. This begs the question
of what you've been doing with the microphone wand of the Lifechat to move
it away from your mouth. If its wand isn't bendable enough as it is, you do
have access to a heat source to soften the plastic, right?
For these mics, if you are speaking at normal volume, you might not be
anywhere near fully through the A-D ladder before it gets converter to
the digital USB signal.
Rule of thumb is that the greatest source of noise is ambient. I seriously
hope that you understand that the problem that you are complaining about,
which appears to be distortion, has nothing to do with lack of a robust
signal coming into its ADC, right? In fact, the problem is the exact
opposite of what you are talking about at this point.
The Yeti Pro also has 24/192khz specs. It
seems like most of these budget usb mics are 16 bit, if they bother to
publish the specs at all.
The sonic consequences of 24/192 versus 16/44 in this application is
basically zero. The web seems to foster obsessing over irrelevant technical
factoids involving simple numbers, but I like to get the job done clean,
quick and with nominal expense. That takes attention to the right details,
not every sales pitch that rolls down the internet. ;-)
The other idea is to get a small usb converter box and run a good mic
like a Shure SM7b. But then the cost and complexity rises.
They tell me that SM7s are great VO mics and I have no reason to doubt that.
I've done a certain amount of VO work with far less expensive stuff, such
as SM 57s, CAD 95s, $39 MXLs, and the like and nobody seems to complain.
The results are generally clear and lifelike. One reason is that I pay
attention to another factor that has come up on this thread, which is
recording in an appropriate acoustic environment. My first choice is sitting
around a picnic table on my patio. My second is usually a bedroom at the
artist's house, you know the one with nothing but bed(s) and stuffed
furnature and deep rugs. Common thread - very low reverb.
Bottom line is that you don't need to spend the big bucks to get unclipped
The alternatives that provide you with a headphone jack for monitoring may
not be everything that you want. Usually, the talent wants to hear any
background music or other sounds that they are working with through the
headphones. A zero-latency analog monitoring facility built into the mic or
its cable can't do that. The only way I know to get that is with a mixer,
and not necessarily the simplest one.
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