XLR Microphone or USB Microphone?
Let’s get on to Microphone. So, people don’t like to touch audio and I totally get it. It’s one of those things that you just want to work with. You want to plug in your mic and you want it to sound good. You like tweaking with other stuff you like tweaking with your designs like tweaking with your alerts like tweaking with your camera stuff that’s tangible stuff that you can see nobody, nobody likes to deal with the garbage of adjusting.
Well, nobody likes to deal with garbage like this where one knob is turned a little bit too far and suddenly your voice starts peaking and you have no idea why.
Well, luckily for you I’m the guy who studied this studied audio for five years never got my degree. How annoying is that I know a lot of people say this but I didn’t I didn’t actually learn all that much in college most of the stuff I learned about audio I learned from well spending time and audio applications and mixing my own music for YouTube videos and then watching youtube videos.
So, here’s what we’re gonna do. I’m going to explain to you every single thing you need to know about microphones as a streamer. Seriously, five years of my life and a hundred thousand dollars in tuition and here it is in a free YouTube video. You’re welcome.
Pros and Cons of USB Mic and XLR Mic
We’ll talk about the pros and the cons of the XLR s and the USB mics and why you might lean towards one or the other then we’ll do a sound quality check a solid USB mic against a solid XLR mic so you can actually hear the difference yourself. Cool! let’s do it.
So, let’s talk about the the three main devices of every single audio setup every if you are a streamer or whatever you’re doing. If you have a microphone, capturing audio these three devices are part of it first you have a microphone second thing is a pre-amp third thing is an analog to digital converter or an A to D converter and I know you’re probably saying, “oh no I only have a microphone” no somewhere in your setup is all three of those things all three of those things are necessary and all three of those things need to be good and let me explain what those three things are.
The microphone is the most obvious one. It’s a device that has a capsule in it. It picks up your voice or your signal whatever it’s miking and it converts it into an electronic signal that can travel through a cable now here’s something you may not have known microphones output a signal that’s practically inaudible, the signal is very very quiet. It’s called mic level a mic level signal which is why the next device is a preamp. That mic level signal goes into the preamp. The preamp is specifically designed for taking those really quiet mic level signals and boosting them into an audible signal that we can hear called a line level signal. This is whenever you have a device that has a line in or a line out. It’s basically saying here’s a signal that is line level. You can’t plug a mic directly into a line in because it’s expecting a line level signal and you’re giving it a mic level signal. So, you get your microphone capturing your signal you got your preamp boosting it to an audible or a line level but eventually it needs to get transferred into a digital signal which is what your analog to digital converter does. It takes that smooth analog waves and it converts it into ones and zeros of a digital signal. If any one of those three devices is cheap, it doesn’t matter how fancy the other ones are a $2,000 microphone going into a $50 preamp is going to sound like a $50 preamp. Whichever one is the cheapest or the crappiest is the bottleneck you need all three to be generally about the same quality.
So, here’s a typical setup to get your microphone going into a mixer like the Yamaha mg 10x you hear directly after the signal goes into your input here there is a preamp built into the mixer then right before it sends it out the USB out it converts it to a digital signal. So, you have your microphone your preamp and your analog to digital converter in here here’s all three if you’re confused and you’re saying no no no I only have a microphone and then it’s going directly into my PC, into the mic input.
Yeah! you have your microphone your preamp and your converter are built into the sound card of your motherboard and I can guarantee you they’re not good if if you’re building motherboards I promise you the preamp and converter are not the top priority of the motherboard maker. So, if you’re plugging a fancy microphone directly into your PC it’s it’s not it’s not gonna be worth the money of the microphone which brings us to USB mics.
So, you’ll notice that USB mics themselves have a digital outdoor a USB out which means that all three of those are built into one device. I’ve never actually opened this before this thing it’s smaller than I thought it would be. So, you have a USB device similar to this blue Yeti Nano here built into this single device, single hundred dollar device is a microphone a and an analog-to-digital converter and considering this is a hundred dollar package which is usually that’s a typical price for a USB mic and this thing is made of this.
This is a beautiful microphone and not Spadina this video is not sponsored by blue this is a nice metal housing I would say I mean you’re probably looking at a $20 mic, a $20 preamp and a $20 converter. The purpose and the strengths of a USB mic is to be simple all in one package plug and play and plug that thing into your PC you just the volume and your all set. You don’t have to worry about mixers you don’t have to worry about knobs but compare that $100 for all three device to $100 for a singular device.
Now, this is $100 microphone and it’s just the microphone and if you were to plug that into a $200 mixer that has the preamp and the converter built-in. Well now you’re getting a $300 signal maybe a little bit less because this actually has four preamps built into it you get the picture you’re looking at a much higher quality signal chain it’s just gonna take a little bit of learning to figure out what all these knobs do . However anytime something is more complicated and you have more control like this you’re always going to get a more quality signal this thing has built into it hardware compressors and hardware EQ which you learn just enough to tweak it right you’re gonna make your audio sound amazing
So, now that you’ve kind of gotten the basics of what really defines a USB mic versus an XLR mic. There is one big thing that having an all-in-one device really affects. You see I know it sounds cost-efficient to get a cheap all-in-one device versus something where you have to buy a hundred dollar mic and then a couple hundred more dollars for for the the preamp and the converter but there’s a reason that’s not always true you see let’s say you start off with an XLR and you get this $100 blue amber which I highly recommend and you get a cheaper interface like this behringer Q 802 USB interface.
Now this is not as expensive as the mg 10x. This is about $80 so the preamps and converters in it are going to be a little bit cheaper not as high quality. There’s actually a noticeable difference in quality going, this to the Yamaha but the great thing is you’ve gone with a little bit of a cheaper model like this you save up a little bit of money. You want to upgrade this to either the Yamaha or the supreme device like you know a go XLR he tossed us out the window you keep your current mic and you upgrade the preamp and the converters separately but you pick up a USB device like this the moment you’re ready to upgrade which will be soon since you’re getting much cheaper components.
You got to start from scratch. you got to throw this entire thing out. I know you can use this with like a go XLR a go XLR does have a auxilary mic input and this has a headphone output so you can go from the headphone jack into the go XLR but the problem with that is since this isn’t all in one device you’re already using this devices microphone and preamp you actually by-passing the preamp on the go XLR because you are using this one by default you can’t turn this one off so they’re just in general they’re really not upgradeable if you want to upgrade your mic you got to start from scratch again and you are now officially the smartest one in your group of friends when it comes to audio which leaves us with one more thing to do.
If you have money and want to keep upgrading your microphone setup then go for XLR Microphones.
If you’re on a budget and don’t mind a decent audio quality for streaming and podcasting then go for USB Microphones. As they make much more sense and are budget friendly.