Recording your own voice - equipment question

Started by N-drju, January 24, 2019, 07:47:48 am

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N-drju

Guys, I need some help in a completely different realm than CG...

I seriously consider making several silly videos and performing some voice-acting for all of the characters involved.

Currently I look for an affordable but good-quality microphone that could let me record my own voice in a decent quality instead of a smartphone-grade gobbledygook with hissing and cracking in between sentences.

I would like to ask if you can recommend any microphone in particular? The following conditions should be met:

1. Price within 60€ / $68 limit.
2. Clean voice recording (without "analogue warmth" like hissing, droning or roaring noises)
3. Plug-and-play ability (USB connection).
4. Ability to simply record mic input through e.g. "Audacity" rather than buying yet more software and equipment.

If anyone could recommend which hardware I could choose, or has some knowledge about these issues (Bobby hint, hint) please let me know. Any help other than countless YouTube reviews is welcome. ;)
"When dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right."

digitalguru

I was in the same position - I wanted a decent mic but didn't want to break the bank.

I got this, which was cheap, thinking I'll send it back if it was terrible:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0743BTD1Y/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o09__o00_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

But was pleasantly surprised! It's nowhere near the greatest mic (and I used to be a sound engineer, so I 've heard a lot of great mics), but it's pretty decent.

It has XLR cables if you have those connections (which help to reduce line noise) or an XLR to a standard jack.

It needs Phantom power but has a unit to provide that.

I use it with a Focusrite Scarlett Audio Interface which has very nice mic pre-amps and it sounds very clean.

Also comes with a boom arm and pop shield.

Top tip: Position the mic upside down, just above your eye level and about 6-8 inches from your face - is a good way to eliminate pops and plosives especially if you use the pop shield.

N-drju

Quote from: digitalguru on January 24, 2019, 03:06:29 pm
I got this, which was cheap, thinking I'll send it back if it was terrible:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0743BTD1Y/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o09__o00_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

But was pleasantly surprised! It's nowhere near the greatest mic (and I used to be a sound engineer, so I 've heard a lot of great mics), but it's pretty decent.


Looks quite professional actually. I just don't see any usb plugs...? You should excuse my ignorance, you know... I still don't even know what this Phantom power thing is... I feel like I have so much to learn in terms of all the cables and connections!

By the way, what would you say about these two suckers:

https://www.shure.co.uk/products/microphones/mv5
https://www.shure.co.uk/products/microphones/pga58

Motiv was actually my first thought as many people considered it an entry-level product, alas, at a far higher price margin.
"When dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right."

Oshyan

I don't know how much the "Blue" microphones cost in the UK (e.g. the "Yeti"), but those are pretty much the standard for "decent but affordable" USB mics among amateur podcasters, YouTubers, etc., and for good reason. Here's an example: https://smile.amazon.com/Blue-Yeti-USB-Microphone-Blackout/dp/B00N1YPXW2/
Note that some of the color options are cheaper than others. I have one of these and like it. I would not recommend getting a non-USB mic. Theoretical quality may be higher, but it then depends on what kind of sound input hardware you have on your computer, which unless you already have a dedicated and decent sound card is probably pretty crap (e.g. "line in"). The cost of a decent sound card will take you out of the "cheap" realm combined with the mic.

- Oshyan

digitalguru

I wouldn't go for the pga58 - it's a dynamic mic - good for recording drums and guitars and robust enough for vocalists to throw around on stage and only comes with either an xlr to xlr or xlr to quarter inch jack so you'd need to get a lead for it.

The other one is a condenser mic. Condensers are more sensitive and better for recording vocals and voice-overs. Condensers need 48v power to work - mixing desks provide that via the cable and that is what Phantom power is. Most sound cards don't output that via the mic input, so that is what the power unit does on the Neewer - you plug the mic into the box with the xlr to xlr, then use the xlr to 3.5 jack to plug into your mic input on your sound card.

I found a youtube video for the Shure
Quotehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-MhUGLGCVQ
and it sounds ok, though not up to the quality I'd expect from Shure.

Though as Oshyan mentions the mic is only part of the audio chain and good quality pre-amps can make a lot of difference. My Focusrite pre-amps probably make a big difference to the quality of the Neewer.

From a purely practical point of view, the little stand that comes with it looks useless - too small to position anywhere useful, and I'd strongly suggest only ever recording in "flat" mode - you can always EQ later in Audacity.

I'd get a couple and see which one works for you -

You can always send one back :)

N-drju

As far as my sound card is concerned I have two positions listed in my device manager:

1. NVIDIA Virtual Audio Device (Wave Extensible) (WDM)
2. Realtek High Definition Audio

How does it sound? (Pun not intended) I also have some "Nahimic Audio Enhancer", but have no clue what it is and how is it used.

Wait... so I don't really need a USB connection if I have a 3.5 jack socket? Damn, I don't know the first thing about this stuff... ???

What are pre-amps? :'(

As far as NW-700 is concerned, it is not available in my country and google-displayed prices indicate shipping costs 400% the cost of the product itself??!!
"When dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right."

Oshyan

I would look at it the other way around. If you have USB you don't need Line In/3.5mm. Your sound card appears to be pretty standard onboard audio for a motherboard, which does *not* have a good line-in amp or other audio handling hardware. It's designed to be cheap and "good enough". The beauty of USB input is you can avoid issues like line noise and amp noise on your (very electronically "noisy") motherboard. And USB inputs work just fine in Audacity and any other normal audio recording app.

Given your budget I would not worry about pre-amps or any of that (again, you don't need them with USB). An integrated, USB-based solution is almost certainly going to give you the best price/performance ratio, and as I mentioned the Blue series (particularly the "Yeti" and "Yeti Nano") are widely used and well regarded. They're about as low as you'd want to go on the price spectrum if audio quality is a concern for you, but they *will* get you good quality.

Honestly if getting good, clean audio is your goal, I would worry as much or more about your recording *environment* as your mic. Echo-ey rooms, or ones with equipment making noise, or even ones that are for example on the outside wall of a house and you have a lot of exterior noise coming in. And if you're recording to a computer, the computer itself can often be a big enough source of noise to be a problem (e.g. a low hum from fans), depending on what you want to do with the resulting audio. For example if you need to amplify the audio later in editing, you'll be amplifying noise too (there are lots of ways to deal with these issues, but there's no real substitute for a low noise recording environment!). Serious podcasters, etc. either use pro studios, or at least have a dedicated space they've setup in their homes that has *some* noise shielding, whether it's as simple as blankets they hang over the walls and other hard surfaces to dampen reflections, or something more involved like getting dedicated noise dampening foam.

All that may sound like overkill, but my point is that getting a good recording of the audio being produced is only half of the battle. The other half is producing audio that is clean and in a clean/low noise environment, because any good mic will pick up everything in the space, whether intended sound or unintended background noise.

- Oshyan

N-drju

I see. Hmm, I think I just start to understand this topic.

So USB mics have certain in-built components that save you trouble of arranging for phantom power and other such "add-ons", am I correct?

As far as the noise reduction is concerned, what would you say in regards to:

1. One-directional microphones vs. omnidirectional?
2. External sound card?

I just had a glance at external soundcards and I was pleasantly surprised actually! My preferred vendor has some interesting options from 20 to 50 GBP, so it is not that much combined with a mic price. I think I could probably sweat it... I expected these to cost no less than 600 GBP... ::)
"When dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right."

archonforest

I think the best if you watch some "Best budget Mic" videos. YouTube will help you on this. There you can see them and watch the test of them. There is always a good quality budget unit. Audio can be very very expensive especially Pro audio. And while Pro audio is really-really good most people cannot hear the difference at all.

As Oshyan pointed out correctly the recording environment is very important. If you have a correctly set-up environment then even a budget mic will give you good results. But if the recording environment is not good then even the most expensive mic will will let you down.

I worked and installed high-end pro audio equipment (speakers, amps...etc) and I built about 10 high end listening rooms with my own hands so I can testify to that how important is the environment.
Dell T5500 with Dual Hexa Xeon CPU 3Ghz, 32Gb ram
Amiga 1200 8Mb ram, 8Gb ssd

digitalguru

QuoteAs far as my sound card is concerned I have two positions listed in my device manager:

1. NVIDIA Virtual Audio Device (Wave Extensible) (WDM)
2. Realtek High Definition Audio


The Realtek is usually the driver for your onboard sound card and Nvidia installs audio drivers too. I don't install the Nvidia drivers with my graphics card as there can be conflicts.

If you got an external sound card then you wouldn't need the Realtek drivers also, so you can disable/delete those too, and you should disable the Realtek in the bios also.
Quote
1. One-directional microphones vs. omnidirectional?


One-directional microphones are Cardioid mics, they reject sound from the sides and rear. Omnidirectional pick up from all directions equally, so will pick up extraneous noise and room tone which is not what you want. Most mics are cardioid.



N-drju

Quote from: archonforest on January 27, 2019, 04:02:06 am
Audio can be very very expensive especially Pro audio. And while Pro audio is really-really good most people cannot hear the difference at all.



What do you have in mind when saying "audio" or "pro audio"? A sound card?

Quote from: archonforest on January 27, 2019, 04:02:06 am

As Oshyan pointed out correctly the recording environment is very important. If you have a correctly set-up environment then even a budget mic will give you good results. But if the recording environment is not good then even the most expensive mic will will let you down.

I worked and installed high-end pro audio equipment (speakers, amps...etc) and I built about 10 high end listening rooms with my own hands so I can testify to that how important is the environment.


Thanks for these tips Attila and Oshyan.

I'm not going to watch anymore YouTube videos though... My mind boils away already. Tips offered by you guys, are better, concise and topic-specific.

My recording environment is quite good from my amateur perspective. I have a pretty quiet room without any water pipes murmuring behind the wall, nor ticking and cracking heaters. In fact, I also have an excellent hearing (like in "1Db in middle frequencies" excellent) so I believe it should be a decent recording environment.

Unfortunately, like most of us, I only have windowed rooms all across my apartment but, when fully closed, these are also quite sound-tight.


Quote from: digitalguru on January 27, 2019, 08:32:45 am

If you got an external sound card then you wouldn't need the Realtek drivers also, so you can disable/delete those too, and you should disable the Realtek in the bios also.



Oh... But you see, the point is I would like to use an external card only for voice-acting and podcasting. :(

I'd prefer not to get rid or uninstall default drivers because, in any other situation like gaming or music listening, it is just enough for me. Is it absolutely necessary to disable Realtek when external sound card is present?
"When dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right."

archonforest

"Audio" meant to be audio in general. "Pro Audio" meant to be Professional grade audio equipment in general.
Dell T5500 with Dual Hexa Xeon CPU 3Ghz, 32Gb ram
Amiga 1200 8Mb ram, 8Gb ssd

Oshyan

Again, I suggest you just get the USB mic. Don't worry about external sound card, it only complicates your entire system. And ones that are that cheap are not necessarily going to be much higher quality. Pro audio cards are what you'd want for a notable difference, but honestly start with the USB, it's simple, it's pretty high quality, and it's pretty affordable. You can upgrade to a more complex and expensive setup later. The Blue Yeti series are basically a single device that does all you need, works straight away in Audacity, and won't mess up your audio settings, no conflicts, etc.

- Oshyan

digitalguru

QuoteIs it absolutely necessary to disable Realtek when external sound card is present?


Yes it is, because an external card would control all your audio functions.

But with your current setup, disable the Nvidia drivers, you should only need the Realtek.

Try it in stages and see how you go - get a USB mic and see how that works out, then if you feel the sound card isn't up to the job get one later.






Oshyan

The sound card won't affect the quality of a USB mic though...

- Oshyan