One of the first upgrades I made to my home studio audio recording setup was to upgrade to a large diaphragm condenser microphone. These are the sorts of microphones used by radio personalities and create nice rich recordings that make you sound like a pro. Back then, I invested in a Samson C01U Podcasting kit. This came with a USB microphone, a tabletop mic stand, and a shock mount to hook the microphone to the stand. It was great, until the mic mysteriously stopped working – one day it worked great, the next is was an expensive paper weight.
When it came time to replace the mic, I decided to move away from a USB system. Initially it seemed convenient to have the digital conversion of the audio signal happening in the microphone. No extra hardware needed – just plug into the USB port. But, when the computer stopped recognizing the microphone, there was no way to fix it. Also, I couldn’t use the microphone with any other sound equipment – it had to run through a computer first.
Microphones tend to be pretty robust (at least if you get a good one). Treat them decently and they practically last forever. The fact that my USB mic was able to die so easily (and for no apparent reason) made me think twice before getting another one. I ultimately decided to go with a traditional mic as a replacement.
A traditional condenser microphone uses an XLR connector (this is the professional standard for sound equipment) and requires something called ‘phantom power’ in order to boost the sound signal strength to the level required by the rest of your sound equipment. I purchased a small sound mixer that provides phantom power, has XLR inputs for connecting to the mic, and lets me adjust the tone and volume of the sound (and also has a built-in compressor) before sending it out to the sound card on my computer.
This is the basic setup I put together for my home office:
I’ve used this microphone setup for a number of projects now, and have been very happy with the results. If you’d like to hear a recording made with my gear, check out this page:
The voiceover for the video at the top of the page was recorded on the AKG Perception 420 running through my Yamaha MG102C mixer into the stock sound card on my PC. It’s not the best signal chain in the world, but the results are still very good.
The beauty of this setup is its versatility. I can feed the mic signal into a video camera and use this to record great audio for live videos. It makes an excellent vocal mike for recording singers too. I can plug other sound sources into the mixer and record them on the computer easily (all the connections are on the desktop.) I can also grab all the gear and use it for live events also (I used the mic in a kids program once to amplify the voices of some puppeteers.
This is not the cheapest sound recording option available, but the results are worth the investment to me. Sometimes it pays to invest in quality.