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Thread: How should I connect an instrument mic to my PC?

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    How should I connect an instrument mic to my PC?

    hey,
    wonder if you could help me...I am trying to record myself playing drums.
    At the moment, I've got one single mic over my kit with a lead with a mic connection at one end, and a 1/4inch jack at the other end. I then have a little converter from 1/4inch jack to 1/8inch jack going into the 'mic in' port at the back of my PC. (this is on board sound on the motherboard rather than a physical sound card)
    I have found the record quality is very poor doing this...is there a better way to connect the mic to the PC?

    I have a guitar amp, would it be better to connect the mic to the amp then have the PC connect to the amp's output so that the amp works as a pre-amp? or would that not work?

    Or would it be be more worth getting a PCI sound card with a 1/4inch jack port on?

    Or perhaps a totally different method to increase record quality?

    By the way, my mic is a cheapo instrument mic I picked up for about £20 so part of the problem is probably that.

    Cheers,
    Tom

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    The late but legendary peterb - Onward and Upward peterb's Avatar
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    Re: How should I connect an instrument mic to my PC?

    If you are talking about using the speaker output from your guitar amp to feed the PC - don't! The output is designed for a low impedance (probably 8 Ohm) load, the ,ic input on the PC is designed for a higher impedance source, so there will be a mismatch. Furthermore, evenn with that mismatch, there is a real risk of damaging the input ccts to the pc sound input.

    However I suspect that the mismatch is part of the problem, and if you have a pre-amp you can use, yopu might get better results. Have a look at www.maplin.co.uk.

    Drums (I believe) are difficult to mike up because they are low frequency high amplitude signals, so there is a risk of distrortion at the mic itself, which should have good low frequency and transient responses. If this is for derious music production, you may want to seek the advice of a specialist music shop. If you are just tinkering, try moving the mic further away (to reduce the sound pressure on the mic) and using the pre-amp to compenste - however you will be more susceptable to background noise,

    (Knoxville may be able to help you - might be worth a PM)
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    HEXUS.Metal Knoxville's Avatar
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    Re: How should I connect an instrument mic to my PC?

    First off peterb's right mate, please don't connect the speaker out from your a guitar amp straight into the onboard sound it'll be an 8 or 16 ohm output almost certainly and you risk damaging your computer.

    Ideally if you're looking to record drums you need a mixing desk with at least four xlr inputs (kick, snare and a couple of overheads) and a couple of condenser mic's for the beating surfaces (kick and snare) vocal/instrument mic's should work ok for overheads but it's worth remembering if you're going to use condensers many of them require phantom power so you need to make sure your desk has +48v phantom power for the xlr's but most of them have that these days anyway.

    If you're not too serious about getting an awe inspiring drum sound and want to stick with an overhead mic or two then something as simple as this would make a good interface - http://www.guitarampkeyboard.com/options.php?id=77688

    Hope that helps mate, if you have any other questions feel free to ask
    Last edited by Knoxville; 11-07-2009 at 12:04 PM. Reason: broken link

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    Re: How should I connect an instrument mic to my PC?

    What you need is a decent sound card, not an onbard one for a soundblast type card but a PRO card, these are usually very expensive and come with XLR break out leads.

    A cheaper alternitive that is actually quite good is an M-audio box called a mobile PreUSB, the mobile PRE is around £100 and has XLR inputs, phamtom power and 1/4" jacks

    They also do a higher range at a higher price, but these units have good enough noise figures for recording and broadcasting on the radio.

    Using one of these would allow you to plug you mic in and record it on your PC sounding far better than you would ever achieve with a cheap onboard sound card. If you need to audio editing software you can pick up a similar box, made my m-audio and pro tools for about £250, most people in the audio industry use or have seen pro-tools somewhere are its very common, good package but expensive.

    Would post links to the maudio site and one for protools with an mbox but I'm not allowed yet

    Hope this helps.

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    Not a good person scaryjim's Avatar
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    Re: How should I connect an instrument mic to my PC?

    Getting decent quality recording from drums without spending a packet is pretty hard - and here speaks someone who's invested several hundred in mics and recording equipment (tbf they were for guitar / vocals so it's not surprising they weren't entirely suited to recording drums ).

    So, a number of questions:

    Why are you trying to record yourself playing drums? (as in, what do you intend to do with the recording once you've got it!)

    What is the exact quality problem with the recording? Is it fuzzy / distorted / too quiet?

    What software are you using to record? What quality settings are there for your software, and have you got them set appropriately?

    What hardware settings are you using for recording? Most computers will be set up for recording voice and the drums may need different settings.

    I'd play with settings first before you invest in any more equipment, tbh...

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    Va Va Voom Lowe's Avatar
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    Re: How should I connect an instrument mic to my PC?

    As an audio engineer myself scaryjim is going along the sort of path I'd be looking at myself.

    We need to know what the purpose of the recording is - i.e scratch pad type recording just to listen back to technique or full on close mic'd effort for semi/pro purposes?

    To be honest if you're just doing a scratch pad recording then a simple pair of mics a lot like what you're already doing will be fine - however the mics in question are the important part. In the same way as a hifi is only as good as the final output stage (speakers) a recording is only as good as the microphones used.

    When close mic'd a drum kit will sound better when used with specific 'kit' mics since they are durable enough to work under the extreme sound pressure levels (SPL) that a kit produces. Many mics are simply overloaded by the acoustic power and break up. However if you back the actual mic to kit distance off a little bit and go for a more 'room' or 'ambient' type recording then even cheaper mics will survive the aural onslaught.

    Let us know what the purpose is, then we'll talk mics and other gear.

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