Question Dynamic XLR Microphone connect to PC

Sep 17, 2020
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Hi guys,
I always used some cheap mic or my laptop's built-in one but lately had a lot of problem with the volume, background noises and stuff. I use my mic only for voice chat with friends, especially nowdays when everybody is home but i am always too quiet or have problem with the background noises (family and street). So I decided i wanna buy a bit more expensive stuff (Just a bit :D). I have to say i am not well versed in this question. I am learning for software engineer at uni so i am not completely idiot in this particular matter but i have never dealt with this audio thing. So my knowledge is from a lot of googling.
After a bit of google search i managed to find out i want a dynamic microphone with a cardioid pattern cause with it it's easier to deal with the background noise so i choose a Behringer SL75C mic but it has XLR connection.( I tried to find USB mics too and i found a Behringer C1U but it's a condesner microphone so dropped the idea. )
I want to deal with this problem in a budget so i don't want to buy an audio interface tho there is the Behringer U-Phoria UM2 with a fairly cheap price.
In the end I want to use an XLR to 1/8" balanced cable and a USB sound card with mic in cause I have a laptop with a combo jack.
My main problem is that i don't know the normal microphone in connector support balanced audio or not. I know it handle TRS connector and it's mono but didn't find any concrete answer...
Plus i don't know if this would work, a cheap sound card would justify the hassle with the balanced audio thing or the sound quality would be much worse than with an audio interface tho it's not much more expensive.
 

chetmaster12

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Jan 19, 2015
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An XLR to 1/8" cable will work provided that it's wired correctly... double-check what it's designed for (manufacturer should list it), but there's a good chance it'll work just fine.

To know if the mic input on your laptop is balanced, you'll have to look up the datasheet for that sound card (or the laptop). Oftentimes it isn't on consumer products. It will still work, but it may be very noisy. It won't support phantom power, so you're limited to dynamic microphones.

One thing that you need to know about dynamic microphones is that they tend to have a very small output amplitude- they need quite a bit of gain in the microphone preamplifier, and the preamps in most laptops will be very noisy and may not have enough gain, so keep that in mind. Again, this depends on the laptop and the microphone.

So the moral of the story is... it depends, and unfortunately for you we're out of the software engineering world and into the analog electronics world. Try it and see how it works. I've seen cases where it worked adequately, other times when it was unacceptably noisy.

Out of curiosity, why did you reject the idea of a condenser microphone? Condenser microphones can (and often do) have a cardioid polar pattern and are often an excellent choice for speech. I use an AT4041 for most Zoom calls now, and I prefer it over the Shure SM57 (you absolutely need a pop filter with the AT4041 though!).

I highly, highly recommend getting an audio interface, however. It will serve as an adequate headphone amp and it has reasonably usable microphone preamplifiers. It will also have a pair of line outputs that can be used to drive active monitors or an amplifier (for use with passive monitors / speakers.) or headphone amp. It's a big step above the built-in sound card in just about every way. The Behringer is a decent little interface for what it costs.

I don't recommend USB microphones. Their performance tends to be pretty lackluster in comparison to a decent analog microphone. The reason is that microphones like the Shure SM57 (probably the most popular dynamic microphone of all time) are designed and marketed at and industry that will not accept garbage the way consumers will.
 
Sep 17, 2020
3
0
10
0
An XLR to 1/8" cable will work provided that it's wired correctly... double-check what it's designed for (manufacturer should list it), but there's a good chance it'll work just fine.

To know if the mic input on your laptop is balanced, you'll have to look up the datasheet for that sound card (or the laptop). Oftentimes it isn't on consumer products. It will still work, but it may be very noisy. It won't support phantom power, so you're limited to dynamic microphones.

One thing that you need to know about dynamic microphones is that they tend to have a very small output amplitude- they need quite a bit of gain in the microphone preamplifier, and the preamps in most laptops will be very noisy and may not have enough gain, so keep that in mind. Again, this depends on the laptop and the microphone.

So the moral of the story is... it depends, and unfortunately for you we're out of the software engineering world and into the analog electronics world. Try it and see how it works. I've seen cases where it worked adequately, other times when it was unacceptably noisy.

Out of curiosity, why did you reject the idea of a condenser microphone? Condenser microphones can (and often do) have a cardioid polar pattern and are often an excellent choice for speech. I use an AT4041 for most Zoom calls now, and I prefer it over the Shure SM57 (you absolutely need a pop filter with the AT4041 though!).

I highly, highly recommend getting an audio interface, however. It will serve as an adequate headphone amp and it has reasonably usable microphone preamplifiers. It will also have a pair of line outputs that can be used to drive active monitors or an amplifier (for use with passive monitors / speakers.) or headphone amp. It's a big step above the built-in sound card in just about every way. The Behringer is a decent little interface for what it costs.

I don't recommend USB microphones. Their performance tends to be pretty lackluster in comparison to a decent analog microphone. The reason is that microphones like the Shure SM57 (probably the most popular dynamic microphone of all time) are designed and marketed at and industry that will not accept garbage the way consumers will.
I have a clicky tactile mechanical keyboard and i love it so i won't replace it with a quieter one but my friend complained about it a few times (Tho he got one too now. since then he not :D) plus i live with my family and they can be noisy sometimes. In addition i will move to an other room soon that's closer to the street. So i thought a dynamic one would be better cause not that sensible.
Since the creation of the post i already like better the idea of the audio interface than the previous one.
Tbh i don't know what to do cause i am afraid the dynamic microphone would be too uncomfortable cause i should sit too close to it.
 

hang-the-9

Titan
Moderator
Cheap XLR interfaces are not really good (especially those that are just a cable to USB), most of the time they have too much noise or simply don't work.

The Blue Snowball mic is good at the lower end of "good" quality and you can set the pickup pattern on it. It will work with a standard arm so you can keep it further from the keyboard. USB mics do have a lower quality, but that is really only an issue when you are doing high level recording not chatting with friends, or even doing streaming/recording. You would need an A/B comparison to tell the difference between a good USB mic and a same quality range XLR one.

You can also use a headset with a mic on it, or a mod mic attached to your headphones to keep the mic closer to your mouth and help with outside noise.
 

chetmaster12

Honorable
Jan 19, 2015
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Depends on the microphone. Some condenser microphones, for example, have a really hot and very low impedance output and can work fine with that cable (so long as the microphone is self-powered).

I do agree that most of the time, an XLR-to-1/8" cable won't work well, especially since the mic pres in a laptop are usually hot garbage.

I wouldn't agree that an A/B comparison is needed to pick out the differences between a typical upper-end USB microphone and a halfway decent XLR microphone, at least if you're used to dealing with this equipment on a regular basis. I was pretty unimpressed with the Snowball for speech usage, but that said I have fairly high standards.
 

hang-the-9

Titan
Moderator
Depends on the microphone. Some condenser microphones, for example, have a really hot and very low impedance output and can work fine with that cable (so long as the microphone is self-powered).

I do agree that most of the time, an XLR-to-1/8" cable won't work well, especially since the mic pres in a laptop are usually hot garbage.

I wouldn't agree that an A/B comparison is needed to pick out the differences between a typical upper-end USB microphone and a halfway decent XLR microphone, at least if you're used to dealing with this equipment on a regular basis. I was pretty unimpressed with the Snowball for speech usage, but that said I have fairly high standards.
Not doing an A/B comparison with someone experienced in the mics would only work because they have that comparison stored in their brains as memory of what things sound like. For people that don't swap mics and test equipment, you need several setups to know what is actually better, and equally important what is better enough to be worth extra cost or setup hassle.

For someone that uses cheap mics or a laptop mic for talking online in games, Zoom, etc... any decent mic will be good. I would take a $50 or so USB mic over an XLR one that would be connected to some cheap adapter cable or interface. Maybe if this was an opera star that needed a mic for recording or a pro podcaster or streamer then higher end things should be looked at, for just chatting online without noise or much cost there is no need to spend over $100 and even that is pushing the upper limits. I get no complaints in my meetings through Zoom using a $30 pair of headphones. Even the mics we use for our A/V setups in the offices and auditorium are nothing super fancy, just no need for it past a base quality level.
 
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chetmaster12

Honorable
Jan 19, 2015
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Yes, I should have clarified that an analog microphone will never be competent against than a mid-range USB microphone if you're using a competent preamp with it, and the preamp built into a laptop won't cut it. Surprisingly, even the cheap $50 or $100 interfaces are largely quite usable.
 

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