No mixer needed: USB mics

rode-podcasterI love USB. The Line6 Guitarport for example gives me joy: I simply connect it to my laptop, plug a guitar in and I can start playing and recording.

Lately also some microphones are using USB interfaces which is extremely cool: no need to use a mixer, a compressor and phantom-power. The Røde Podcaster mic (silly name!), although dynamic (condensor works better for vocals, percussion and accoustic guitars – the stuff I am doing most) mics are not my first choice, this mic might be just what I need.

I am planning to record some music in a mobile way: I will visit some musicians and record at their studios/houses. So all I need is a laptop and a mic. This mic maybe 🙂

But there are other options as well…
365994087_64db74c438_m-1The SE Electronics USB2200a mic for example is a condensor mic using nothing but one USB interface. It even includes phantom-power!

Condenser mics are less easy to handle though, because they are prone to dying young when you’re trowing water, dust or sand on them. A little less road-proof for my mobile trips maybe.

Although USB is a great and easy interface there are a couple serious concerns. The first one: latency. USB uses more latency than PCI and PCMCIA devices. Normally this is not a serious issue and even Guitarport (which is using like 6 ms minimum latency on guitars) works great. But things change when using vocals. With vocals you really need extremely short latency values, 2 ms at max! and even then it’s not perfect! So how are these mics compensating for this? Probably by using direct-monitoring. Both mics are using a headphone output on the mic which probably mixes the audio signals from your computer with the sound coming from the mic. I am very much interested if this work correctly. If so, I probably want both mics 🙂 I then can swap between them, plug them in when I want to, just like I would do when using a mixer – plug and play. That would really be something!

6 Responses to No mixer needed: USB mics

  1. gurdonark January 28, 2007 at 1:06 pm #

    good topic. I never am happy with my microphone set-up. This gives me more ideas to explore.

  2. Marco Raaphorst February 3, 2007 at 7:14 pm #

    In the Sound Of Sound this month there’s a review of both mics. The Rode seems to be a bit noisy and the SE good in general. Interesting!

  3. John Bartlett February 25, 2007 at 4:49 am #

    quick question for you… I want to do some podcasting with two USB mics. I’m on a Windows machine and it appears that I can only record on one mic at a time (Windows only allows me to use one input). Do you know of any software that would help me or do I have to buy a mixer? Thanks.

  4. Marco Raaphorst February 25, 2007 at 8:20 am #

    No it’s not Windows. Most software applications let you set only one source. Which kind of drivers are you using, ASIO? If so, only one source can be opened at once. Which mic and which software are you using?

  5. John Bartlett February 25, 2007 at 4:40 pm #

    I’m using 2 Logitech USB 350 headsets and Audacity for recording. As you can see, I’m on a low budget! When I look under the Device Manager for Sound, video, and game controllers, I see “Legacy Audio Drivers” and “SigmaTel High Def Audio CODEC”. Would those be the drivers?

  6. Marco Raaphorst February 26, 2007 at 2:45 pm #

    Yes, those are probably the drivers. Just try it. I am almost certain that in Audactiy you can only choose one driver at once. A limitation a lot of programs have.

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