In the past, microphones had limited use, usually by musicians, or for public service announcements, speeches, and even calling for a clean-up in aisle 3. These are usually connected directly to a PA or audio system or used in professional studios.
However, in this digital age, what was once reserved for a high-end studio can now be recreated in a bedroom. Whether you’re doing voice-overs, a podcast, recording music, or just want to upgrade your sound quality; there’s a mic for everything.
But how do you connect a mic to your computer correctly? Well, that’s why I put together this guide on How to Connect a Microphone to a Computer to help explain…
When you want to connect a microphone to a computer, you need an interface to convert the analog signal to a digital one. An audio interface allows microphones, instruments, speakers, and monitors to communicate with a computer.
An analog signal is the sound itself. It might be your voice, an instrument, or any other noise you wish to capture. However, for your computer to understand those sounds, it needs to be converted into digital.
Audio interface functions…
Within the audio interface, you will find several functions and features. These include an analog to digital converter, digital to analog converter, 3.5 mm inputs and outputs, USB ports, Thunderbolt ports, and usually a phantom power supply.
Types of Audio Interfaces
There are different types of audio interfaces, depending on what your needs are, all with different capabilities and connectivity options. There are three main audio interface designs. Internal microphone, standalone, and internal computer.
I will cover each of these three types of audio interfaces. And explain the differences between them. Each interface is defined by where the signal is converted rather than the function it provides.
Internal Microphone Audio Interface
Commonly found in USB and digital microphones. As the name suggests, the microphone converts the analog signal to digital within the microphone itself. The microphone captures an analog sound source just like any other microphone.
That analog signal is then passed through the interface within the microphone and converted into digital. A digital audio signal is then passed through the USB cable directly into the computer’s USB port.
Advantages and disadvantages of digital USB microphones…
Using a digital USB microphone is incredibly simple and convenient. They are known as “plug and play microphones.” This means that by simply plugging the microphone into your computer, everything is ready to go instantly.
It’s why they have become an extremely popular choice when adding a microphone to your computer. Many offer built-in headphone amplifiers with zero-latency monitoring of the microphone signal when used with recording software.
One disadvantage of using a digital USB microphone is that you can’t use multiple microphones simultaneously. Usually, it is only possible to connect a single microphone to your computer.
MAONO’s digital USB microphone is a great example of an all-around product that I highly recommend. It can perform a range of different functions to a high standard while including the simplicity of plug-and-play performance.
Simply plug the microphone into your computer’s USB port, and enjoy 192kHz/24-bit sampling rates. Great for gaming, singing, and recording YouTube videos offering clear, high-quality audio.
Included in the package is everything you could need. There is a condenser microphone, adjustable scissor arm stand, and a metal shock mount, along with a pop filter, foam mic windshield, a table mounting clamp, and a USB-B to USB-A cable.
Standalone Audio Interfaces
This is what most people would think of when referring to an audio interface. If you want to know How to Connect a Microphone to a Computer, these interfaces offer the best option. It can be something as simple as an analog to digital converter or adapter. But, a standalone audio interface can also have an array of inputs and outputs similar to a professional studio.
The microphone captures the analog signal and sends it to the input on the standalone audio interface. Then that signal is converted to digital and sent to the device’s output port. There are two main types of standalone audio interfaces.
Adapter-style standalone audio interfaces
The adapter style is the simplest of the two interfaces. It usually consists of an analog microphone input and either a USB or RCA digital output. As a result, there are the same limitations as a digital USB microphone, in that you can not usually connect multiple microphones at the same time.
Furthermore, there are types of audio interface adapters for connecting analog microphones to a computer. The first is a device placed between the connections, and the second is built into the cable itself. I will give my recommendation for both adapter types.
This 10-foot (3 meters) USB to XLR cable from HOSONGIN can convert an analog microphone signal to digital via USB. Simply plug the XLR end into the microphone and the USB end into your PC.
A strong and sturdy cable using high-quality wire and heavy-duty metal alloy connectors. This allows for high-quality audio with the added convenience and simplicity of plug-and-play connectivity.
The Pyle inline adapter easily plugs into the end of your analog microphone. At the bottom of the adapter, you can then plug the included Micro-USB to USB cable from the microphone to your computer for plug-and-play functionality.
It also includes a 3.5 mm audio port for using headphones for monitoring. Along with dials for controlling both the microphone and monitor levels. The adapter is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems.
Hub-style standalone audio interfaces…
A hub-style standalone audio interface is capable of connecting multiple microphones to a computer. There is a wide variation in both quality and capabilities for hub-style interfaces.
You can find affordable interfaces for home project use. As well as professional studio-grade equipment. No matter which interface you use, they will all at least one digital output in combination with multiple analog inputs and outputs.
Hub-style interfaces often allow you to connect musical instruments along with analog microphones. Furthermore, they are often omnidirectional. Meaning they can convert an analog input to a digital signal and then convert a digital output to an analog signal for use with external speakers.
This is one of the most popular hub-style standalone audio interfaces available, and with good reason. The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 offers two combination microphone/line/instrument inputs, a USB output, and two monitor output ports.
Additionally, this interface comes with the highly respected industry-standard Pro Tools software package. As a result, it’s possible to record and mix studio-quality sound in your bedroom. Plus, the Scarlett 2i2 can also provide phantom power to any condenser microphones, if you have any.
For more info, check out my in-depth Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Gen 3 Review. Or, take a look at our reviews of the Best USB Audio Interfaces, the Best Audio Interface, the Best iPad Audio Interfaces, or the Best Portable Audio Recorders on the market right now.
Internal Computer Audio Interfaces
The final type of audio interface is the internal sound card. These are found within most computers. Therefore, many cheaper consumer-grade microphones connect directly into the computer’s 3.5 mm audio port.
The most common connection type is a TRRS 3.5 mm audio cable, just like the one you’ll find on the end of your headphones that came with your phone. Of course, this will result in very low audio quality.
There are always ways to ensure you’re getting the most out of what you have. The Rode SmartLav+ is an omnidirectional microphone that captures broadcast quality, professional-grade audio using a 3.5 mm TRRS plug.
Plug it directly into your computer or even your smartphone or tablet. After that, you can record your audio using your smart device and then transfer the files to your computer. Furthermore, the Kevlar-reinforced cable ensures that it can withstand regular use too.
Even though the microphone is capable of high-quality audio, if you’re soundcard is not of the same standard, you may not get the results you were expecting and might need to upgrade your computer’s soundcard.
Looking for a Great Microphone?
Also, take a look at our comprehensive reviews of the Best Microphones For Recording Electric Guitar, the Best Live Vocal Mics, the Best Microphones For Recording Vocals, the Best Interview Microphones, and the Best Wireless Microphones currently on the market.
How to Connect a Microphone to a Computer – Final Thoughts
As you can see, there are multiple ways of connecting a microphone to a computer. Depending on what you wish to achieve with your audio, there are many affordable options available.
You might even have an old analog microphone sitting around in a draw. One you never even knew could connect to your computer.
Also, remember back to the last time you watched a YouTube video; was the audio good? Probably not. That’s how important good quality audio can be. In fact, most people are more likely to keep watching a video with low video quality than one with low audio quality. So don’t skimp on your audio; it makes much more of a difference than most people realize.
But that shouldn’t be a problem anymore, because you now know how to connect almost any microphone and keep everyone’s ears happy.
So, until next time, speak your mind.