Headphone output for USB mic (to avoid echo)?

dawindmg08

macrumors regular
Original poster
Sep 25, 2008
115
17
Los Angeles
Hi all,

I occasionally help my wife record VO demos and jobs in our home and I'm looking for advice on a particular bit of gear:

I use a USB mic and Adobe Audition to record the VO. The mic is pretty good but it doesn't have it's own headphone jack; when I patch the output from Audition through the headphone jack on my MacBook Pro there's a distinct echo because of the slight delay between the mic input and the output (this is not in the recording, just the headphones). I know a mixer would solve this but most of those are geared towards analog mic inputs; is there a device that will take a USB mic and split off into an audio out port as well as a USB pass-through to the computer? Essentially adding a monitoring option in the chain BEFORE the mic audio enters the computer.
TIA,
D
 

BrianBaughn

macrumors 603
Feb 13, 2011
6,351
934
Baltimore, Maryland
I've never used a USB mic or Adobe Audition so this will probably be worthless suggestions.

You're using the USB mic for input and "Built-In" for output, I assume. Are your AA settings for I/O Buffer as low as they will go? There's the possibility that using those different devices for in and out causes a problem for AA.

Have you tried the same thing with Garageband?
 

dawindmg08

macrumors regular
Original poster
Sep 25, 2008
115
17
Los Angeles
I've never used a USB mic or Adobe Audition so this will probably be worthless suggestions.

You're using the USB mic for input and "Built-In" for output, I assume. Are your AA settings for I/O Buffer as low as they will go? There's the possibility that using those different devices for in and out causes a problem for AA.

Have you tried the same thing with Garageband?
The I/O Buffer in Audition is set to 512 samples, can go as low as 16. I'll try a test on that; what's the downside to reducing the buffer size?

Will try Garageband, though I'm more comfortable with AA. I think any USB audio mic that has to loop through to the computer's output jack is probably going to have some small delay no matter the software...
 

BrianBaughn

macrumors 603
Feb 13, 2011
6,351
934
Baltimore, Maryland
The delay is directly proportional to the buffer size. Lower buffer settings increase CPU usage which can overload the system if the project has a lot of “stuff” going on (many tracks and plugins in use). The lowest setting shouldn’t be an issue with the type of project you’re doing.

What heavy users usually do is use the lowest setting possible when recording and then high settings for mixing.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
17,194
5,543
OP:

The "echo" you're hearing is latency due to USB.

To overcome this you'll need either a mixer, or, you need to get a USB mic that has a headphone jack right on the mic. These are designed so that you can hear the mic input WITHOUT the latency.

Actually, I'd suggest a better solution:
Get something like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2:
https://focusrite.com/usb-audio-interface/scarlett/scarlett-2i2
(USB audio interface).

Then, pick out a good condenser mic with a medium or large capsule (with XLR connectors, NOT USB).

It will solve the latency problems and I'll bet your wife will be VERY pleased with the resulting sound quality.
 

dawindmg08

macrumors regular
Original poster
Sep 25, 2008
115
17
Los Angeles
OP:

The "echo" you're hearing is latency due to USB.

To overcome this you'll need either a mixer, or, you need to get a USB mic that has a headphone jack right on the mic. These are designed so that you can hear the mic input WITHOUT the latency.

Actually, I'd suggest a better solution:
Get something like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2:
https://focusrite.com/usb-audio-interface/scarlett/scarlett-2i2
(USB audio interface).

Then, pick out a good condenser mic with a medium or large capsule (with XLR connectors, NOT USB).

It will solve the latency problems and I'll bet your wife will be VERY pleased with the resulting sound quality.
Yeah I realize that trying to find a USB headphone output solution for this is a tall order, but i was hoping to find a solution that didn't involve a ton of new gear or chucking the mic completely. But I also realize that's the best path forward at this point.

BTW I was just at a film school and every computer station in the Edit lab had those Scarlett boxes on them. They really are super popular....
 

dawindmg08

macrumors regular
Original poster
Sep 25, 2008
115
17
Los Angeles
**UPDATE**

Lowering the latency in Adobe Audition did the trick. It defaults to 512 and after some experimentation I settled on a setting of 64, which seemed to eliminate almost all the echo (I could have dropped it all the way down but was worried that would tax the computer too much). Recording went much more smoothly this time and I was able to monitor without distraction as well as split the headphone jack so that my wife could hear herself during recording.
 

ChrisA

macrumors G4
Jan 5, 2006
11,598
380
Redondo Beach, California
Some echo is unavoidable with a USB microphone.

Inside the microphone is some processing logic goes like this: Record some audio samples into a buffer, when the buffer has enough data send it via the USB cable. Buffer up more audio data, send it out and so on. This buffering is unavoidable and happens inside the microphone where you have no control over it.

The only potion of truly zero-latency audio monitoring is to use an analog microphone and a good external audio interface. If you are doing professional quality works you should be using this. Get the best mic and the best preamp you can afford.

Follow this link and press the "buy" button and don't wast a lot of time thinking about it. Save the "thinking" for which microphone you need. Basically, you want a large diaphragm condenser of some kind, and areally flat andquiet place to make the recordings. This is hard to decide on but the elections is easy
https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Scarlet2i2G2--focusrite-scarlett-2i2

If 24-bits and 192 SPS sounds like overkill, it's not. It means you can leave the levels low and you can apply a compressor and eq and still have good sound

They also sell a kit that includes the Rode NT1A microphone. This is really a good mic for VO work. Get the factory shock mount and pop filter

Look around at used mics too. I have an older version of the AT2050 I got for about $80. very much like the NT1A. but "taste" may vary
 
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BrianBaughn

macrumors 603
Feb 13, 2011
6,351
934
Baltimore, Maryland
Some echo is unavoidable with a USB microphone.

Inside the microphone is some processing logic goes like this: Record some audio samples into a buffer, when the buffer has enough data send it via the USB cable. Buffer up more audio data, send it out and so on. This buffering is unavoidable and happens inside the microphone where you have no control over it.

The only potion of truly zero-latency audio monitoring is to use an analog microphone and a good external audio interface. If you are doing professional quality works you should be using this. Get the best mic and the best preamp you can afford.

Follow this link and press the "buy" button and don't wast a lot of time thinking about it. Save the "thinking" for which microphone you need. Basically, you want a large diaphragm condenser of some kind, and areally flat andquiet place to make the recordings. This is hard to decide on but the elections is easy
https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Scarlet2i2G2--focusrite-scarlett-2i2

If 24-bits and 192 SPS sounds like overkill, it's not. It means you can leave the levels low and you can apply a compressor and eq and still have good sound

They also sell a kit that includes the Rode NT1A microphone. This is really a good mic for VO work. Get the factory shock mount and pop filter

Look around at used mics too. I have an older version of the AT2050 I got for about $80. very much like the NT1A. but "taste" may vary
You should probably do a little research on audio buffering and latency. The buffering doesn't occur in the USB device!

The reason you can get "zero latency" through some audio interfaces (USB or otherwise) is that they have a built-in mixer that allows the user to mix the input (vocal mic, guitar or whatever) with the output of the DAW. The downside is that the input you're monitoring in this case is completely unprocessed and, with most lower-end interfaces, will be in mono on either the left or the right.