A technical question...

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fmantac27
Posts: 51
Joined: Fri Oct 02, 2009 8:26 am

A technical question...

Post by fmantac27 » Mon Jan 16, 2012 4:51 pm

Howdy, all. I've been doing an internet radio show and running my mic through the sound card on my computer. The sound is crap. Should I get a pre-amp to solve the problem, or do I need a mixer? Keep in mind that I'm going live (it's not a podcast). Also, I don't really know much about the tech side of things. The guy at Guitar Center was very knowledgable and he said I'd need the mixer. I was thinking about going with an Allen & Heath 10FX or mackie PRO-FX8.

Any help would be appreciated.

spokesgoddess
Posts: 44
Joined: Mon Oct 05, 2009 7:42 am

Re: A technical question...

Post by spokesgoddess » Tue Jan 17, 2012 8:34 am

Depends on your mic. These days, there are quite a few USB mics that sound pretty decent, just plug in and go. I have a mic that requires phantom power and have been using the audio interface from M-Audio for years. Love it. I have a DBX pre amp, but don't really need it. And a mixer just really isn't necessary unless you want to add a bunch of auxiilliary stuff, like a guitar or MIDI. Hope this helps.

thecheese
Posts: 91
Joined: Wed Feb 02, 2011 4:03 am

Re: A technical question...

Post by thecheese » Tue Jan 17, 2012 5:36 pm

Running a mic directly into a stock sound card sounds like ass because your garden variety PC sound card is designed to accommodate the kind of mic you normally would find with an 1/8" plug on the end of the cord: the cheap crappy kind.

Spending $30 or more on adapters at your friendly neighborhood RadioShack store to get your SM58 to plug into an 1/8" jack on the back of your Dell generally ends in dead sounding thin audio.

If you're serious about doing recording or 'live' sound with a PC, get yourself one of the following:

A: A USB Mic (if you just need one mic. Samson sells a nice condenser mic in the $100 range)
B: A USB Audio Interface w/ phantom power (If you already have a good quality mic and just need one)
C: A Mixer with USB Interface built in if you want to use multiple mics simultaneously, or like to mix in a third or fourth audio source with your mic signal

Now it's not impossible to run a mixers line/REC out into the microphone input of your soundcard and get decent sound. Just depends on the quality of the onboard soundcard, and making sure you match your levels both on the board and on the input settings of your particular OS and software.

Several good mixer options available at Guitar Center in the $150 range.. I like the Alesis FX8 board for a relatively inexpensive board with Phantom Power, onboard FX, and built in USB interface, that sells regularly for $149

KaseyKruz
Posts: 29
Joined: Sat Oct 03, 2009 6:31 am

Re: A technical question...

Post by KaseyKruz » Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:10 am

thecheese wrote:
Now it's not impossible to run a mixers line/REC out into the microphone input of your soundcard and get decent sound. Just depends on the quality of the onboard soundcard, and making sure you match your levels both on the board and on the input settings of your particular OS and software.
Nope, that's bad info. NEVER run an amplified signal into a mic input on an onboard soundcard. That input has an amplifier that will distort the audio and will sound horrible. If you have an amplified signal coming from an audio mixer line out or record out, to sound at all half way decent, you'll need to go in to the "line in" on the onboard soundcard. If you have the budget and the podcast is daily with advertisers, then I recommend a quality soundcard and mixer setup. Many USB mixers on the market are pretty good nowadays and can be had for 100 to 150 bucks and you wont need to add a pro-sumer soundcard. A decent soundcard like an Echo Mia or M Audio are good, inexpensive choices if you choose to go with an analog input. Remember - Crap In/ Crap Out. Start with better equipment and get better results.
Point 2) "level matching" is not an issue. What you want to make sure of is that you dont over-modulate one device or the other. If you have a mixer, and that mixer has LED level indicators, make sure not to "peak out" in the red zone. It's best to stay in the green zone with minimal peaks in the yellow. Once that is set, adjust the record levels of your desired input's software whether it be the onboard soundcard or a different device with it's own software. Most times in Windows 7 you can go to the sound properties and adjust each soundcard device from that interface.

I've had my home studio setup for 4 years now and have had excellent results with numerous compliments on my "studio quality" audio. I've never had a complaint about the quality of my audio.
If you have any questions at all fmantac27, please feel free to email me at kkruz at michiganheadlinenews dot com. I've helped several colleagues set up home studios.

thecheese
Posts: 91
Joined: Wed Feb 02, 2011 4:03 am

Re: A technical question...

Post by thecheese » Wed Jan 18, 2012 9:36 am

Well, I hate to burst your bubble bud, but i'm running the REC OUT of a mixer right into my 1/8" input and have been running it that way for years.

Again.. Just depends on the quality of the onboard soundcard, and making sure you match your levels both on the board and on the input settings of your particular OS and software.

Naturally, if you have a LINE IN jack on your computer you'd want to select that instead of the MIC IN, but i've been running in the only input i've got on the back of my Mac and have ZERO distortion, and I, too, am complemented on the 'studio quality' of my sound.

*shrug*

KaseyKruz
Posts: 29
Joined: Sat Oct 03, 2009 6:31 am

Re: A technical question...

Post by KaseyKruz » Wed Jan 18, 2012 10:10 am

Ask any audio engineer if it's a good idea to use "mic in" for a powered signal and he or she will tell you "No".
I hate to burst YOUR bubble, but Macs have a "line in" NOT a "mic in" and that's why you get the results you do ...for reference (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6NFOJAdD_M) As most people don't use macs, it's not a suggested practice to put an amplified signal into the mic input.
And, once again, "level matching" has nothing to do with the equation. It may work for your situation, but not all situations are similar to yours. In theory, you would actually want to run a test tone through the chain to determine the zero setting on the mixer then adjust the PC audio recording accordingly. You'll seldom have "matching" levels from several devices plugged into a mixing board, that's why the better boards have trim pots as well as level pots. Once the trim is set for a mic and the output is set at zero, then you adjust the recording level without trying to "match" anything. The goal is to record undistorted audio from each source, and each source's output needs to be adjusted as to not overmodulate, that's where the level pots come in. Adjusting each pot to a desired level so as to not overload the recording is the whole purpose of a mixing board.

thecheese
Posts: 91
Joined: Wed Feb 02, 2011 4:03 am

Re: A technical question...

Post by thecheese » Wed Jan 18, 2012 11:39 am

I hate to burst YOUR bubble, but Macs have a "line in" NOT a "mic in" and that's why you get the results you do
The input on my Mac is suitable for both LINE IN and MIC applications, as evidenced by my ability to use a Logitech headset mic in the very same 1/8" jack.

Provided one adjusts the levels to match the input signal.

Perhaps "match" isn't the right word.

You don't want the gain of the input to be cranked when supplying a amplified signal.

But i've got a nice doorstop Dell I can dust off and hook up just to illustrate that a very usable audio signal can be captured from a mixer using the mic in jack.

Again, not ADVOCATING you run the signal into the microphone jack, naturally you'd want to go with a USB interface or the line in. But to say it's impossible to run that way in a pinch, is less than accurate.

KaseyKruz
Posts: 29
Joined: Sat Oct 03, 2009 6:31 am

Re: A technical question...

Post by KaseyKruz » Wed Jan 18, 2012 4:26 pm

thecheese wrote:Again, not ADVOCATING you run the signal into the microphone jack, naturally you'd want to go with a USB interface or the line in. But to say it's impossible to run that way in a pinch, is less than accurate.
I never indicated that it was impossible so my response can not be categorized as "less than accurate". I had said it's not good advice, or, to quote myself, "bad info" and will produce less than stellar quality. Any engineer worth his salt will tell you to never run an amplified signal into a mic in. You create more problems than you solve by just plugging in, like burning out equipment and frying soundcards just to name a couple.

As for your "matching", now your talking sense. A mic needs the boost whereas a powered signal does not and to "switch" between the two in your situation, as well as in Windows 7, will prevent overloading the signal. Most PC sound cards have line in so it's not a problem, but with macs, such as your case, it is a line in and needs a boost to work with a dynamic mic that's not powered on it's own.

spokesgoddess
Posts: 44
Joined: Mon Oct 05, 2009 7:42 am

Re: A technical question...

Post by spokesgoddess » Thu Jan 19, 2012 8:08 am

Just buy the M-Audio interface for $70 and call it a day....you'll be very happy with the results, I promise.

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