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Old Dec 2, 2008, 09:18 AM   #1
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Really good USB Mic?

Can someone recommend a really good USB mic?

I'm wanting to voice-over some videos I'm putting on YouTube amd my lousy RadioShack highball sounds terrible. Here is a link to my video on YouTube of my terrible voice-over. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=perM62V-XZE. Don't judge me by this video... Watch instead something else I did, like Shafter Ghost Town (please.) You'll see some time-lapse footage I captured on my Apple PowerBook using iStopMotion software.

I have about $150 budget and in looking at some mics on ZZounds, there seems to be some good ones, but I've found these guys are kind of expensive when checking their competition. The guys at Twister.co seem to have really good prices and I'm looking at their AudioTechnica USB mic. They have them for $50 less than ZZounds, but I just don't know enough about good USB mics for podcasting style on my Mac.

I'm just an old codger using 3 Macs and I just discovered GarageBand a couple of days ago for tweaking my audio, but the RadioShack mic is a pile of junk and I need something better. Check out my lousy audio on a video I put on YouTube by going to my moniker, "TUUTUTANGO" and look for my Ford van having a new engine put into it. Please don't judge me by this video! I actually have an Emmy Nomination for my work in TV years ago, and these days now that I am an old-codger, I just like poking around with camcorders and not making a fuss about much.


Last edited by 22Tango; Dec 2, 2008 at 10:26 AM. Reason: added detail
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Old Dec 2, 2008, 03:00 PM   #2
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Audio Technica At2020usb


Anybody have experience with this? They are $101.00 at Buy.Com.
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Old Dec 2, 2008, 03:57 PM   #3
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For $100, I'm sure it will be fine. Otherwise, you can always return it.
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Old Dec 3, 2008, 10:15 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by 22Tango View Post
my lousy RadioShack highball sounds terrible.
does it?

granted, the audio in the first few lines of that video is distorted, but then it changes (sounds like you recorded different parts at different times) and the next set of lines sounds decent.

i would hazard a guess that, initially, you had the record level set too high and you were distorting.

if the problems you're hearing are indeed issues with how the mic is used, and not the mic itself, i wouldn't expect much improvement from a new mic.

also, i could hear artifacts from the room (like the boxiness of the room and the sound of the computer), plus mic handling noise, and a new mic won't fix those things either.


that said, i've not used any USB mic, but i do rather like the AT 2020 "regular" mic. if i were forced to use a USB mic, that would be the first i'd try.
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Old Dec 4, 2008, 08:21 PM   #5
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Really good USB Mic

Thanks to all who replied, and yes, the first few seconds are different. I had an even worse Sony mic then switched to the Radio Shack mic for my video. The acoustics in my room are terrible and I'll make some adjustments to that. I shot machine guns in Vietnam and my hearing is bad, so I don't pick-up on the subtle things the average ear hears.

My new Audiotechnica USB mic will be here in a few days and I'll re-cut my audio with some dampening in my room.

BTW... My first Apple was an LISA way back in 1983, then Macs since then. I even have an old 1 gHz dual processor with 2 large cinema displays in my travel trailer, and a 12 inch PowerBook in my van, an iPhone 3G in my shirt-pocket...Just can't leave home without a Mac!
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Old Dec 6, 2008, 06:03 PM   #6
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USB mics

Maybe a bit late... but here's my experience with USB mics:

It all depends what you want to do with it: simple calls, voice for podcasting, instruments or vocals. It's fair to say that for more "serious" recording work, any USB mic get to be quite limited in the middle run.

For skype and VOIP I use a Logitech USB desktop mic. It's quite simple, with good sound quality and good background noise rejection, and a on/off switch- very useful. I did some company podcasts with it and did a decent work for a starter.

My first "bigger" USB mic, a Samson C03U, nice response and sound but VERY sensitive to background noise and an awful proximity effect - as all larger capsule condenser mics (the p's explode if you are too close). The -10db pad takes a lot of the noise off, but also kills much of the sound. It's good to record in very quiet places, and has selectable patterns - cardioid, omni and bidirectional - for different recording situations (1person, interview, round table). The lack of direct monitoring becomes a problem for voice over work.

Quick note: After I got tired of the sound limitations of USB mics (and some extra money) I got regular mics, a firewire interfase and other more expensive stuff. I guess lots of people would tell you NOT to go the USB road, and I would partially agree. USB mics are limited, but if you are aware of such limitations, it's still a practical solution for simple purposes. With your $150 you could buy a $40 usb mixer/interfase and a $90 Shure SM58 mic, which is one of the greatest mics ever. This would be a more flexible solution for future needs. This will also help you with direct monitoring, which is crucial in voice over work.

Now, if you do go the USB road, one I purchased this year for "on the road" voice (spoken word) recordings, is the Rode Podcaster. It's not as sensitive as the Samson, has a flatter response - the great advantage it has is cero latency monitoring right from the mic itself, as it has a headphone output in it- something the samson and AT2020 lacks. This is very usefull to moderate your speech and position towards the mic as you talk without the delay you get when you monitor from the computer, that, even a very small one, throws you off balance. Great sounding mic and great customer service from Rode. The cons: a "flatter" mic (for some people) and a bit more expensive than $150 (but it's totally worth it).

Hope this helps. Let me stress out the importance of good direct monitoring. I donīt know the AT2020 USB... I was once tempted to buy it - I like how it looks - but the fact of it being a large condenser (thus being very sensitive) AND the lack of direct monitoring stopped me. In general, I've heard good things of AT mics though, but they're not always the most favorites among podcasters or pro-audio people (as Shure, Electrovoice, Heil, etc or the expensive german ones).

Anyways, just my 2 cents...

Cheers and have fun!
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Old Dec 7, 2008, 12:42 AM   #7
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surprised nobody mentioned the snowball mic by Blue...picked mine up on ebay for about $50 after live.com cash back
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Old Dec 16, 2008, 12:40 AM   #8
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I'll mention the snowball. I like mine with caveats.

- decent sounding on a variety of sources (primarily voice, but also small instrumental ensemble -- guitar, banjo, etc.)
- fairly inexpensive
- switchable pickup pattern allows for some creative recording opportunities. (I've used the omni pattern to record both sides of an interview by placing the mic between us and sliding it to find the right balance between voices).
- easy to set up and use (pretty much true for any USB mic)
- durable construction
- stylish. it looks cool (counts for something)

- bulky. It's awkward to travel with compared to a more traditional mic shape.
- no no-latency monitoring output
- same limitations as pretty much any other USB mic

that's not an exhaustive list, but may help someone. overall, I'm quite satisfied with it.

Recently Blue has put out the icicle which is worth considering, which takes an XLR in and puts out USB to the computer. It provides phantom power, but doesn't have a headphone out for monitoring. It's small and less expensive if you already have a preferred mic. There's the micport pro which overcomes the monitoring/latency issue, but costs 3x as much.
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