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Old Jan 27, 2010, 06:50 PM   #1
NeedsMoney
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Mic quality depends on...

http://www.macworld.com/article/5276...crophones.html

I have been reading forums and reviews like this and the conclusion for USB mics is generally "not very good", I was wondering why these mics under perform compared with regular XLR with a preamp connected to PC.

I am a noob starting to record and have a few questions, if you can please number your answers so I can understand

1) what part of the XLR mic to PC set up determines the mic quality the most? (Is it preamp/interface?, if so... next question would be..)
2) is it that these all-in-one USB mic have bad preamp in them that they underperform?
3) is it true that for a single USB mic it might sound like a good deal because you are spending less money, but if you want to add more mics in the future, it actually gets more expensive because you have to purchase anothe USB mic which includes the cost of the (crappy) preamp etc again.?
4) if I actually spend more money purchase a good interface, will a normal XLR mic outperform a good USB mic such as, Samson G-track, Blue Yeti etc?
5) please give a package of normal XLR mic components that outperforms G-Track or Yeti.

Thank you!!
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Old Jan 27, 2010, 08:08 PM   #2
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the conclusion for USB mics is generally "not very good", I was wondering why these mics under perform compared with regular XLR with a preamp connected to PC.
Because the USB mics are designed so they can be sold for a low price.

You ask for a recommendation for a good set-up. But for what? to sound good the equipment has to be matched to the task. Ar you recording a grand piano, vocals, guiar. And what is the environment, a sound proof studio, your bathroom or live performance on stage.
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Old Jan 27, 2010, 08:20 PM   #3
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@Chrisa, even though most USB mics are cheap if judged on professional grounds, but a 300 dollars G-Track is at the same price range with many many regular XLR mics, so my question was why do these USB mics underperform those XLR mics in the same price range.

also, since im noob at recording, you can assume that i don't have anything fancy like a sound proof studio or anything of that sort.

I am recording vocals and some instruments like piano and guitar.

btw I asked if the set up outperforms blue Yeti or G-track i am happy, doesn't necessarily have to be "good" as I know it will cost too much, however i asked for the set up just for the comparison reasons.

thanks a lot
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Old Jan 27, 2010, 08:20 PM   #4
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with few exceptions, you generally get what you pay for in the audio world.

a USB mic has 3 components: the mic, the preamp, and the a/d converter. at $100, that's about $17 in parts. compare that to $100 for just the mic, a $500 pre, and a $500 converter... well, you get the idea.

it's not that these mics are necessarily bad, it's that they're targeted to the podcaster and small-rig amateur recordist and are made to a price point.

to be fair, i don't have direct experience with any USB mic. i have heard efforts made with them, and like anything else, if the person knows what they're doing, they can be useful tools.

i've found that with budget gear, i generally have to work harder to get good results. but it is possible, especially with a good source, a good room, and some audio know-how.
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Old Jan 27, 2010, 08:31 PM   #5
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1)The sound quality will only be as good as the worse part of the signal chain. But quite commonly the preamps are the downfall of cheaper setups. I think most of the analog to digital conversion chips are similar and have a similar price unless they are very high end, where as pre amps can have many different designs at different price points that do affect the sound quality.
2)As I just mentionned preamps are quite possibly not too good.
3)Yes, that's pretty obvious. You're paying for the pre amp and the analog conversion in the price of the mic. And those can't be used with any other mic.
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Old Jan 27, 2010, 08:40 PM   #6
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1)The sound quality will only be as good as the worse part of the signal chain. But quite commonly the preamps are the downfall of cheaper setups. I think most of the analog to digital conversion chips are similar and have a similar price unless they are very high end, where as pre amps can have many different designs at different price points that do affect the sound quality.
thanks for those answers paolo, can you give an example of a conversion chip in the similar price range, because i think most conversion chips are in the low price range like the Blue Icicle and simple stuff like that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by zimv20 View Post
with few exceptions, you generally get what you pay for in the audio world.

a USB mic has 3 components: the mic, the preamp, and the a/d converter. at $100, that's about $17 in parts. compare that to $100 for just the mic, a $500 pre, and a $500 converter... well, you get the idea.
how did u get $17?

Last edited by NeedsMoney; Jan 27, 2010 at 08:46 PM.
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Old Jan 27, 2010, 09:06 PM   #7
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how did u get $17?
rule of thumb: retail price is 6x parts cost.
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Old Jan 27, 2010, 09:44 PM   #8
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ahh I see, mind explain briefly? like $17 in mic and the rest of $83 is on?
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Old Jan 27, 2010, 09:52 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by NeedsMoney View Post
1) what part of the XLR mic to PC set up determines the mic quality the most? (Is it preamp/interface?, if so... next question would be..)
Ultimately, every stage contributes to the sound quality. The construction of the mic itself gives your directional and frequency response, but if you feed that into a preamp with a lousy signal to noise ratio then it'll still sound rubbish.

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Originally Posted by NeedsMoney View Post
2) is it that these all-in-one USB mic have bad preamp in them that they underperform?
I can't comment on whether they underperform or not, the samples of the Yeti and G-track seemed surprisingly good for the price, but if you sell it for a hundred dollars then it figures that the components have to be fairly economical.
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Originally Posted by NeedsMoney View Post
3) is it true that for a single USB mic it might sound like a good deal because you are spending less money, but if you want to add more mics in the future, it actually gets more expensive because you have to purchase anothe USB mic which includes the cost of the (crappy) preamp etc again.?
Scalability will definitely be a factor. If you intend to record drum rig, bass, two guitars and vocallist you're soon going to run out of USB ports apart from anything else and you'd be way better off with a firewire mixer/interface. If it's going to be you and your guitar then one mic will do nicely.
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Originally Posted by NeedsMoney View Post
4) if I actually spend more money purchase a good interface, will a normal XLR mic outperform a good USB mic such as, Samson G-track, Blue Yeti etc?
I'd never heard of either mic until I saw this post, but I just listened to a sample of both and thought they'd done a good job for the price, and in the case of the Blue Yeti, THX do protect their brand by discriminating about what they certify. From what I hear on my computer (not the greatest speakers it's true) they both do a pretty good job.
If you're really interested in recording lots of sources simultaneously then you definitely want a good interface. Like everything, you get what you pay for, but you can always upgrade your mics later if you want to.
The Edirol FA-66 is well respected.
http://www.roland.com/products/en/FA-66/
Or you can go for a mixer format (we've got one of these and it's great)
http://geartronix.amazonwebstore.com...B000EVZQ22.htm

The quality of the preamps these days is pretty amazing even on cheap products. My dad was a senior BBC sound engineer and he was really very impressed at the SNR and general performance of our Phonic firewire mixer that was only a few hundred quid.
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5) please give a package of normal XLR mic components that outperforms G-Track or Yeti.
Thank you!!
I really can't answer that question. Whether you go for condenser mics or dynamic mics depends on what you're intending to record. For live rock, dynamic is generally good as it is more tolerant to high sound pressure levels whereas for classical or studio recording condenser mics are better as they have a much flatter frequency response in general. But you can go on forever about microphones.
Ultimately what microphone is best for you depends on what you intend to do with it and that's a question better suited to a sound-recording forum IMO.

If your main objective is to record yourself in your room then I'd go for the Yeti.
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Old Jan 27, 2010, 10:09 PM   #10
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ahh I see, mind explain briefly? like $17 in mic and the rest of $83 is on?
i reckon that would be running the business, sales/marketing, manufacturing, salaries/benefits and profits.

it's not the absolute amount that's so important, it's the relative cost when comparing items. you ask about a $300 USB mic. try it, it may suit your needs fine.

but you can't really compare a $300 USB mic to a $300 non-USB mic, due to the missing components. rather, compare the $300 USB mic to a $300 package with a mic, mic pre and a/d converter.

all these components are important. but none moreso than 1) the talent being recorded, 2) the room and 3) the skills of the engineer.
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Old Jan 27, 2010, 10:52 PM   #11
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you are right, I gave it a thought and figured I asked pretty stupid questions, but due to massive internet lag here I couldnt edit my reply on time.

I looked at the 2 interfaces as linked above, is there a big difference between firewire and USB?
the Mixer is a bit too expensive for my need and ability, but the Edirol looks real good.
If i can get the Edirol + a mic (condenser since I won't be using it live) thats as good as a G-Track, even if I spend 100 dollars more, I will be fine with it considering the upgradability and the 24bit quality. Now it comes down to what Mic?

Last edited by NeedsMoney; Jan 28, 2010 at 11:11 AM.
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Old Jan 28, 2010, 12:04 AM   #12
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I looked at the 2 interfaces as linked above, is there a big difference between firewire and USB?
the Mixer is a bit too expensive for my need and ability, but the Edirol looks real good.
If i can get the Edirol + a mic (condenser since I won't be using it live) thats as good as a G-Track, even if I spend 100 dollars more, I will be fine with it considering the upgradability and the 24bit quality. Now it comes down to what Mic?
Firewire has a reputation for being more stable, does well for sustained data transfer and tends to be much better for multi-track recording.

What is the microphone intended for?
This one's a side address condenser that does different patterns and is flat down to 40Hz, which is pretty decent. http://recordinghacks.com/microphones/CAD/M179

If, however, you have a need to do stereo pair recording you need to think about cardioid pencil mics in which case Samson CL2s are well regarded for the money.
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Old Jan 28, 2010, 01:09 AM   #13
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just some acoustic stuff, I don't know when would i need the stereo pair recording
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Old Jan 28, 2010, 05:07 AM   #14
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just some acoustic stuff, I don't know when would i need the stereo pair recording
Then the CAD M179 looks to be a good option: I've seen a lot of warm comments about it.

I saw an FA-66 on ebay at a buy it now of $210 and CAD M179s seem to go for between 150 and 200, so the pair aren't much over the other two anyway.
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Old Jan 28, 2010, 07:03 AM   #15
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by "the other two" you mean the G-track or Samson CL2(Samson CL2 seems to have 2 mics, is that what you meant by stereo pair)?
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Old Jan 28, 2010, 07:12 AM   #16
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by "the other two" you mean the G-track or Samson CL2(Samson CL2 seems to have 2 mics, is that what you meant by stereo pair)?
Yup to both. A stereo pair is done by putting two cardioid mics in a > configuration with the mics pointing towards the point. The directionality of the microphones means that the the two channels record a good live stereo reproduction of what happens.
Here's a stereo pair properly set up.
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Last edited by Denarius; Jan 28, 2010 at 07:21 AM. Reason: a
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Old Jan 28, 2010, 08:37 AM   #17
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just some acoustic stuff
acoustic guitar and voice? tracked at same time?
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Old Jan 28, 2010, 10:30 AM   #18
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"just some acoustic stuff, I don't know when would i need the stereo pair recording"

Before too long, you are going to want that.

You also asked about USB vs. Firewire. If your Mac has a firewire port, DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT USB (shouting intentional). Firewire is superior - get it and be done with it.

If you're serious about recording, don't bother with "USB mics", either. They work, and some work quite well, but you will find them limited, particulary when you decide you want to multi-track. Latency problems could bounce up and hit you in the face. Get a "real" firewire-based audio interface, and get some halfway decent condenser mics with XLR connectors.

There are many decent interfaces out there, and they're getting better all the time. I'm using an Echo AudioFire8, and it's very nice. The AudioFire4 also looks to be near the top of its class/price range.

Denarius wrote:
"Then the CAD M179 looks to be a good option: I've seen a lot of warm comments about it."

I'll concur. I have an M179 and it's a very nice mic, especially "for the money". I'd also suggest checking out the CAD e100 and e3002 (squared) mics. Sometimes you can find good deals on them.

Here's a web page with some interesting mic comparisons, FYI:
http://www.vocalimpactmedia.com/Soun...ml#MCASP1stock
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Old Jan 28, 2010, 11:10 AM   #19
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acoustic guitar and voice? tracked at same time?
yup
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Old Jan 28, 2010, 11:27 AM   #20
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yup
cool. i like two mics for this, and not as a stereo pair. you'll likely want two condensers, can be the same model or not. ideally, you'll want to audition mics to suit your voice.

a 2-channel interface (USB or firewire, i don't have the same issues w/ USB that others do) will suffice. choose it based on what s/w you want to run, and then on features.

the toughest thing about all this is mic placement. do lots of experimenting. also treat your record space as best you can, i like realtraps.com and gikacoustics.com. The latter is effective but much cheaper. Kit out your space with a couple GIK 244 panels and it will be hugely effective.

when recording, try to isolate the two mics as best you can. there are lots of online resources for setup recommendations. again, experiment.
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Old Jan 28, 2010, 12:31 PM   #21
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@Chrisa, even though most USB mics are cheap if judged on professional grounds, but a 300 dollars G-Track is at the same price range with many many regular XLR mics, so my question was why do these USB mics underperform those XLR mics in the same price range.

also, since im noob at recording, you can assume that i don't have anything fancy like a sound proof studio or anything of that sort.

I am recording vocals and some instruments like piano and guitar.

btw I asked if the set up outperforms blue Yeti or G-track i am happy, doesn't necessarily have to be "good" as I know it will cost too much, however i asked for the set up just for the comparison reasons.

thanks a lot
1) When you buy a $300 USB mic you get the mic AND a mic preamp and an A/D converts and a USB interface all for $300. when you buy a $300 mic you get a $300 mic. but you have to also buy the rest of the gear for another $200.

2) For best results you will need mre then one microphone. Start with a $300 USB mic if you like but if you intend to build up a good kit over the years then start with a decent USB or Firewire audio interface a good mic and cable and mic stand. Then when you need a different mic buy one and over time you have a collection
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