How to Make Your Computer’s Microphone Sound Better
Recording sound has been around for more than a century and recorded sound, whether voice or music, is something we as people tend to listen to daily, whether streams, broadcast media or music.
Home recordings are a different story, where professionals often are not there to help set everything up. Streams, YouTube videos as well as podcasts can all suffer if the microphone quality is poor, or rather, the end result of recording.
Following is a simple guide on how to improve microphone sound quality.
Two Sides of Improvement – Hardware and Software
When thinking about improving recordings, there are things that can be done on the side of the hardware, from purchasing a better microphone to getting a better interface/sound card, to simply adding a pop filter or windscreen, or on the side of the software, where you can mix and match your levels or install the proper drivers.
Let us examine in detail how to make mic sound better, from both sides of the coin.
Hardware – Microphone, Cables, Sound Cards and Accessories
If you want a pristine recording of your voice, a microphone embedded in a 10 dollar webcam cannot be compared to a standalone microphone which costs 10 times as much. For computers and voice recordings, the simplest approach is purchasing a USB condenser microphone. It plugs in directly into a USB port and makes use of the onboard sound card.
Headsets (headphones with a microphone) can have a good recording out of the box, but price should often be considered, but not blindly. Pricier headsets can have a worse voice recording compared to specialized ones, made for gaming and streaming.
One could also go the professional route by purchasing an XLR microphone which would also require an interface. They tend to have a better signal-to-noise ratio which is one of the important pieces of sound quality.
Sound Cards and Interfaces
Onboard sound cards have improved a lot since their inception and they have erased their bad reputation. But, onboard sound cards can also pick up noise because of their proximity to other devices in the computer which have electromagnetic interference (EMI), like a graphics card working under heavy load, such as a video game.
This is where external sound cards or interfaces come in handy because they are physically more distant to the source of EMI and have been purposely built to convert and process audio signals.
External sound cards and interfaces are a simple way of eliminating noise and a good answer to the question of how to make your mic sound better. They cost more but are essential in professional use.
Accessories – Windscreens and Pop Filters
Adding a pop filter will do wonders for the plosive sounds which we make, and the audience will be grateful for it, particularly headphone users. These plosives overload the diaphragm of the microphone, saturating it, also known as clipping.
Windscreens are not necessary indoors, but foam windscreens can be used if you have moving air in the room, like that from an AC or a fan.
How to Improve Mic Quality with Cables and Stands
If there is a loss of audio or interference in a recording, checking the cables is always a good place to start. A cable with dirty connectors can be a common problem and cleaning them is an easy way to get better sound quality. Broken cables have to be replaced and cheap cables with poor shielding can negatively impact sound quality.
A microphone stand is important because it can eliminate vibrations and one can set the optimal distance for the microphone. Extremely loud recordings with clipping can be related to the distance of the speaker to the microphone. Changing the distance, whether on a stand or on a headset microphone, can help with microphone sound quality.
How to Improve Microphone Quality with Software – Drivers, Input Level and Noise Gate
The software side of things has a large impact on sound quality because simply moving a slider up or down gives you extreme clipping or no sound at all. Some microphones, like gaming microphones, might not work well without drivers. Noise gates are useful, whether when working with high gain on guitar recordings, or when you have EMI from your graphics card.
How to Improve Mic Quality on Windows 10 – Or Linux or Mac with an Audio Equaliser
Audio equalizers are essential nowadays when people record multiple sound sources. Streamers have a streaming microphone as a source, maybe a headset with a microphone that needs to be muted, game sound and sometimes even special effects.
All of this needs to be organized in a simple way so downloading an audio equalizer like Boom 3D or VB-Audio Voicemeeter can help organize all of those inputs and find the optimal levels.
Noise Gates – Reducing Outside Noise
Noise gates are sometimes included with codecs and their software like the Realtek HD Sound Manager but one can also download a standalone noise gate. A noise gate quickly shuts down the input signal once a certain threshold is passed, for example, as soon as you stop talking. They need to be set up correctly in order for your voice not to be cut off too soon or too abruptly.
Drivers – They Can Still be an Issue
Drivers are not the problem they used to be, but your microphone might not get the full functionality if you do not download the right drivers. Windows 10 has basic drivers for almost any device, but additional features require the device’s designated drivers.
From a Better Microphone to Setting Up Audio Levels
While a new microphone might help improve sound quality, anything from a pop filter, to better cables, organizing audio levels or getting a dedicated sound card will do wonders for recorded sound quality.
Start from the software, because most of it can be downloaded for free, and if that does not help, move to the hardware. A better microphone and a good interface will drastically improve sound quality, but sometimes, new cables can do as much.
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