Sound File Formats
Windows Sound Recorder
Ideas and Applications
Microphones and Mixers
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Recording directly to computers requires a mix-match of two worlds - the analog
(sound and the electronics of sound amplification and reproduction) and the
digital (sound broken down into numeric data). Unfortunately, the analog
world has a certain set of standards that the digital world must acknowledge -
if you want to cross over, you'll have to pay homage! Here we discuss the
analog end: Microphones, mixers, transformers, and other analog sound
Microphones - the first line of
The following list is by no means exhaustive, but gives you an idea about what
your buck will buy. Don't get hung up on model numbers - they change as
frequently as computer processor speeds! Prices are current (August 2001)
discount prices available at most on-line dealers, and local ones will usually
match if you have the price in hand. A word of warning: decent
microphones require special handling (so-called "low impedance"), so
you'll need to purchase a mixer or impedance transformer before you can record
Access ASX2 (around $70): This mike is as low a quality as you
would want to go for music recording. It's a good hand-held, but
will also do fine as a general recording mike.
SM58 (around $100): The SM58 is a standard for quality hand-helds
for 30 years. It will perform only marginally better than the ASX2
in terms of quality, but it's so ruggedly built that you can almost hammer
nails with it and it'll still
maintain that quality. The SM57 is cheaper at $80, but is a better
instrument mike. If you intend to use either for sound stage work,
better to spend another $20 and get a switched version so it can be turned
off on stage.
$200): The main difference between an ordinary dynamic mike like the
Shures above and a large-diaphragm condenser mike like the Audio-Technica
is that the latter can take more sound saturation (lots of
instruments/voices), but also will pick up distant sound better as
well. They have shock isolation mounts which prevents floor noise
from being picked up through the mike stand. Hence they are much
better-suited for ensemble recordings and live stage productions.
Bryan Station has a pair of AT3525's (slightly more expensive at $300),
and they have made all the difference in the world. If you decide to
purchase one or two of these, be sure to purchase a boom stand or two so
that they can be placed high, and resolve never to allow
them to be used for any other purpose than recording!
Sound Mixers - Control for your
Sound mixers do two things: they give some measure of control over the
output of your microphones, and they provide a matched electrical feed to your
computer sound card or other recording device. Although mixers are not
cheap, here is one area where the least expensive will be fine for almost every
MX602A (around $100): Bare minimum - only two mike inputs - but
just fine for a simple recording rig. And small! Behrenger
makes slightly larger models for a bit more money.
Studio 12R (around $350): A lot of flexibility, 8 mike inputs, a
total of 12 channels, and one of the smallest mixers on the market.
I own one, and the quality and durability are excellent. This is a
rack-mount mixer - the others on this page will sit on a table-top, but
this one won't.
(around $380): Mackie's quality is unmatched, making this a
popular brand. This mixer has less flexibility and larger size than
the Alesis, but most who have it are willing to pay for it.
Impedance-Matching without a
If you don't want to buy a mixer, you can purchase simple impedance-matching
transformers for the microphones above, making it possible to plug them straight
into sound cards or other recording devices. Transformers cost about $30,
and it's really not possible to use more than one mike by this method. It
doesn't take much to figure that a mixer is worth the trouble.
Of course, there are digital converters for computer that provide for elementary
mixing and impedance-matching - see "Recording
digitally" for details.