USB to microphone jack

So, you’ve got a great microphone that was either given to you as a gift or simply too good of an offer to pass up. Unfortunately, the mic has an XLR or other analog plug that doesn’t appear to be readily compatible with your computer. You might be able to get away with plugging it in to the analog audio in on your PC, but the interference and lack of power can have an adverse effect on your overall sound quality.

Audio quality is extremely important, even with amateur productions. Conference calls, podcasts, screencasts, machinima, and full-fledged video productions require decent audio. In reality, many of your viewers will listen to the majority of the content in the background while getting other things done. Shouldn’t the one thing they can concentrate the most on be as clear as possible?

So, how do you convert virtually any microphone to USB? There are a number of different ways to go about it, and here are some of them.

USB Mic Converter

If you have an XLR microphone, you’re probably going to want to take a look at one of the simplest solutions out there. An XLR to USB signal converter plugs directly in to your microphone and provides a USB connection directly to the computer. From there, your system detects a USB microphone and your built-in system drivers take over from there.

The great thing about these adapters is that they often provide 48V phantom power to the microphone. Many XLR mics, especially large diaphragm condenser microphones, require phantom power to generate clean audio that comes across a sensitive capsule located within the frame. Sound waves don’t actually do a lot of pushing, so some microphones need a little extra energy to amplify that signal and send down audio. This is a good thing.

One option available to you is the Icicle from Blue. Blue makes an excellent line of microphones including the Yeti and Snowball. The Icicle is essentially a single piece that connects to the bottom of your XLR microphone and provides a USB port on the other end. No special drivers are required, and you can use it with Mac, PC, and Linux. A single analog volume knob on the device makes fine-tuning your volume levels easy. You can find the Icicle for around $40 fairly easily.

Audio Interface

A good audio interface will provide a clean, crisp signal from source to PC. Many of them feature multiple audio in ports including 1/4 in. TRS and XLR connections. In a sense, these interfaces act as very basic mixers that give you control over volume, sending audio to your PC in a single or split-track format.

This is a favorite among podcasters as it doesn’t come with the high cost of entry of a full-fledged mixer while delivering excellent sound from multiple sound sources. Any decent interface should also have a toggle that enables 48V phantom power delivered to the microphone.

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Samson Meteorite review | USB Microphone | TrustedReviews  — TrustedReviews
The Samson Meteorite is a cracking little portable USB microphone that will be perfect for those that want to take the first step towards higher quality audio recordings. It's incredibly portable, easy to use and provides good quality sound.

Popular Q&A

Microphone/Recording question!?

What is a good USB microphone for music recordings, and good recording software (that isn't audacity) that has a great reverb.

I'm not looking for anything die-hard or to pay through the nose!

Any suggestions?

With music software, you generally get what you pay for. It's either great (expensive) or free (similar to Audacity). Reaper is the only one that stands out and is somewhere in between.

Reverb effects...there are hundreds of great, free ones available online. You can take your pick.

The only problem is USB microphones. They're vastly expensive and they don't come close to the real thing.

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