If you’re like most PC users, then you do a lot of listening on your computer- to movies, podcasts, and of course, music. But you probably also do plenty of talking, and maybe even a little singing, in the form of skype calls, Instagram videos, Facebook voice chats, online gaming, and video conferencing.
The real challenge comes with capturing the best sound for those podcasts or vocal tracks. The tiny mic that’s built into your PC’s webcam is very limited in quality, so there are some affordably priced USB mics you can try for these purposes.
Quality can be especially important if you want a pro sounding podcast or if you’re giving a presentation via a video conferencing program. In these cases, your PC’s built-in mic just won’t do. So, how can you achieve pro results if you’re on a tight budget?
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to improve how to record voice on your computer.
Choosing the Right Mic
If you want great audio quality, you should consider using a separate mic. For PC use, the most popular option is the USB mic, which will connect to your laptop or PC via a USB connection. There are many good quality USB mics out there and most of them are designed for video conferencing, recording vocal tracks, and podcasting. You can choose a condenser mic, which will create a better live sound but will also require the use of phantom power, or you can go with a dynamic mic which tends to do a better job as far as reducing background noise and isolating vocals. Both types of USB mics are fine for home studio use, although the condenser microphone is a better choice for voiceover work. For louder work such as recording instruments, you’ll want to go with a dynamic microphone.
We also recommend considering the mic’s pickup pattern. The pickup pattern involves where the mic will pick up the most sound. Omnidirectional mics will pick up sound from all around the microphone, which is fine if you’re recording more than one vocalist or a group. Cardioid microphones will pick up more sound from directly in front of the microphone and will mute the sound that comes from the rear and the sides. The cardioid is a good choice if you want to isolate a single vocalist or speaker. There are also some types of mics out there that can switch between cardioid and omnidirectional patterns.
You can expect to spend anywhere from fifty dollars up to two hundred dollars for a good USB microphone. Obviously, the higher priced models will offer the better sound.
You can also try using a traditional mic, but then you’ll have to deal with how it connects. Most pro mics feature an XLR connection, which you can’t find on most laptops and PCs. However, you can find XLR connectors on outboard audio interfaces.
Recording Using a USB Microphone
Most computers these days are equipped with a microphone port that’s usually combined with the headphone port. So setting up a mic should be pretty easy.
Even if you end up purchasing a lower priced USB microphone, you can make it sound better if you have the right type of accessories. You’ll need to get a floor boom or a desktop boom stand, and some sort of microphone stand. A pop filter can help to reduce breathing noise and sibilance, and a shock mount can work to isolate the microphone from any vibrations nearby. USB mics aren’t usually recommended for studio-quality vocal recordings, but they can be fun to use if you’re experimenting with recording tracks on your PC, or you’re recording a podcast. However, the USB mic can also be the perfect solution for musicians on the go and they also work well on tablets and iPads. Due to their rise in popularity, every major microphone manufacturer produces at least one or two models, so you’ll find plenty of variety if you’re shopping around online.
Other important accessories for vocal recording on your PC include a USB mixer and mixing software.
There are several desktop USB mixers to choose from that will work well if you want more variety in terms of what type of mic you want to use for vocal recording. Mixers that feature USB outputs work as the analog to digital interfaces. This means that you’ll be able to use any type of traditional analog connecting mic. This type of mixer allows more recording freedom, at least in terms of what type of mic you can use, but then you’ll also have to factor in the cost of the microphone. Most pros recommend a large diaphragm condenser mic for this purpose.
Mixing software programs will be another expense, but they can take your recordings to the next level. A software program will use the digital signals from the USB device or mic and record them to your hard drive. You can use the same application to combine a variety of audio signals into different tracks. Pay close attention to how these programs rate with other artists. Often, many of the better quality programs will not only cost quite a bit, but they can be very difficult to use. Shoot for a program that’s very beginner-friendly and one that comes with a simple user interface that’s easy to navigate.
If you have a pro quality mic that’s equipped with an XLR connection, it won’t be able to directly connect to your computer. Like we mentioned earlier, you’ll need to use some type of external audio interface. This device will connect your computer using either a FireWire or USB connection, and it can basically replace the PC’s built-in soundcard. Most interfaces will feature multiple inputs for XLR. But a good audio interface can be hard to find, especially if you don’t know what features to look for. If you want to learn more about how an audio interface works, you can find in-depth information here.