There are several ways to connect a microphone to your computer. Your method of choice depends on what you intend to use the microphone for. In this article, I introduce several viable methods for connecting a mic to your computer.
1. The Microphone Port on Your Computer
Most computers have a pink microphone port. You can connect a microphone to this port using a microphone that has a 1/8″ TRS jack.
Keep in mind that most studio and live performance grade microphones require that you use an XLR cable, and most computers do not have an XLR port, so you will need to use a converter if you want to connect with XLR or 1/4″ TRS jacks.
Though this is a very direct way of connecting a microphone to a computer, the sound quality will be subpar.
If you’re trying to figure out what microphone to get, you’ll be interested in Best Microphone Features – 25 Experts Share Their Tips.
2. The USB Port on Your Computer
Of course! It doesn’t get much easier than this. Find yourself a nice USB microphone and away you go. The Blue Microphones Snowball is a popular and reliable choice for voice (it isn’t necessarily the best option for instruments or vocals though).
You can also use external devices such as the M-Audio M-Track Portable USB Interface. These are known as “audio interfaces.” Audio interfaces connect to your computer via the USB port, and your microphone connects to the device itself using an XLR cable. This is generally a good option if you want to get better quality audio.
3. The FireWire Port on Your Computer
Much like USB, there are FireWire devices that can be used to connect microphones to your computer. These devices are usually found in recording studios, but you can nevertheless find relatively affordable products for home use too.
Unless you’re looking to record eight tracks simultaneously, you don’t need anything too fancy or expensive. Something like the Apogee Duet FireWire Audio Interface Breakout Box should do the trick. One of the advantages of the Apogee Duet is that it also allows you to connect instruments with its two 1/4″ inputs.
Be forewarned; some computers do not have a FireWire port. Check to make sure that your computer does before making any hasty purchase decisions.
4. Other Solutions
This shouldn’t be considered an exhaustive list, but there are many other ways of connecting a microphone to your computer.
For example, you could use an M-Audio Black Box – which is essentially a USB device, but was built specifically for guitar – to connect a microphone to your computer. The Black Box has a built-in XLR mic input, and a mic pre(amp) that can be used to record via a microphone.
I’ve personally used this method, and it works decently. You won’t get the best sound quality, but if you’re a guitarist, it’s easy to figure out how to use.