I need recommendations on a soundcard to buy for my fiancee for Christmas.
My fiance is an amateur singer whose been trying to build a setup to record her work. She has a Rolls MP13 preamp, and a Samson R31S microphone that she plugged into her line in. It worked ok for a while (a sample of her recordings here), but now the soundcard seems to have died and she wants a new one. We can't afford to spend a lot, but I want to get her the best that I can on a budget.
Feel free to ask if there is more information that you need that I am not providing.
EDIT: My fiance wanted me to point out that she sings a wide range of stuff, not just operatic.
Last edited by hightechartist; 12-04-2011 at 06:01 PM.
I'd prefer to keep it under $100, but if there is nothing acceptable in that range I can probably pay up to $250.
This is right up mine & BT's alley since both of our mothers were Metropolitan Opera singers. Her preamp is of an adequate nature. The microphone choice however is that of a rock 'n roll PA microphone. While these are still effective, for her quality of voice, a condenser or even a Chinese ribbon microphone would be a better choice.
Now here is where her problem lies, while she may be setting the gain properly on her preamp, it is just blowing out the line level input of her computer. That frequently happens with crappy onboard computer soundcards which makes them quite prone to studio devices like her preamp overloading the line input. It does not matter if you have set the volume level correctly on the computer sound card. It just does not have the capability to deliver. Kids do not care about this nor does the average adult. But they are not trying to make fine recordings of the lovely singing voice like she has. So in this respect, you have a couple of important options to consider here.
Option 1: you take her microphone & preamp and put them in her dresser drawer with her panties. Then you obtain a reasonable quality condenser microphone with built-in USB output. There are many to choose from, from major manufacturers to slave children built Chinese versions. The most reasonable ones will come from companies like BLUE, Audio Technica, others of brand name's. Most of those will go between $100-200. It plugs directly into the USB port of the computer and so less cables, set up, etc.. And you will not be getting the kind of overload you are getting from the computer audio card. Some of these USB microphones actually even offer headphone outputs along with other useful features. Where the lesser expensive ones will force her to play back through the computer audio soundcard and also for general playback purposes. Not ideal playback but much more ideal recordings.
Option 2: you simply purchase her a reasonably priced inexpensive condenser microphone & external USB line level audio interface like a EdiRol, UA 1-EX for around $80 US. This device does not offer studio style XLR microphone inputs. You would not need that with her current preamp. However others for around $150 US will have 2 XLR microphone inputs negating the use of her outboard preamp. These external devices while still inexpensive are true studio devices intended for professional audio applications. And they all sound like professional audio devices because they are. Not the best audio devices but not the worst like she is currently using with the computer. While her current microphone may also sound better on these devices, the sound of her voice, it's sweet lightness begs for the sound of a ribbon or condenser microphone instead of a rock 'n roll PA microphone which she is currently using. And that is not even a good one to use. It is an imitation and a poor one of the Shure SM 58 which costs approximately $100 US. That is a quality microphone which would still record her well but is not necessarily the one to use for this kind of musical genre. Even though I too have used these in that application with operatic vocalists. Though it is not my first choice but if I do not have much of a selection, that is the one I would select if available. She will sound great on a condenser. Now I also mentioned ribbon microphones which I fully believe in on coloratura Sopranos. This microphone design actually goes back as one of the earliest coming from the late 1920s early 1930s. They have had a huge resurgence in popularity because of the cold harsh facts of digital recording. You want her to sound warm, sweet, inviting and that is what a ribbon will do even better than a condenser microphone. The unfortunate thing here is that ribbon microphones are extremely delicate and you cannot go..." testing, testing, 1-2-3..." and then blow into the microphone. Because if you blow into a ribbon microphone you have blown the ribbon microphone and quite literally. I utilize ribbon microphones that cost between $700-1500 and if some jerk blows into one of my microphones like that, they will end up with a black eye when I smash that microphone into their stupid face. The repair of which will then cost many hundreds of dollars. However, there are some wonderful affordable options such as the Cascades "Fathead" which are under $200 US. While these are still fragile, they are not quite as fragile as some of the older ones. Nevertheless, they can still be destroyed by mindless jerks that like to blow microphones. And that is another reason why the condenser ones are so much more rugged. So when they get a blow job, it just does not sound like a good blow job and people will still not appreciate it but the microphone does not give a damn.
(My Grammy nomination was for an operatic recording. And her sound output level from this Wagnerian soprano was approximately 1 hp or 750 W on a AKG 414 condenser microphone. Now I had not intended on utilizing this for 414 on her but rather my Beyer M-160 ribbon. But because I was making this recording in a cathedral in New Zealand in morning & afternoon sessions, a New Zealand label was also using the same cathedral in the late afternoon & evening hours, both over a period of a week, I had to make a serious compromise. I had intended to utilize my API 3124's on her. Instead, the New Zealand label utilized my microphones setup with their mixer. Their mixer was an AMEK-BC 1. That mixer did not quite have the level of articulation as my API's and so, I did not use the ribbon on her.)
I think from a cost standpoint, that sums it up with the pun completely intended.
Mx. Remy Ann David
If I just buy her a new soundcard, it will also probably have its line-in blown because of the equipment we are using. So instead I need to either buy her a new microphone that plugs into her USB, or a new condenser microphone and an audio interface? Either way I'm just circumventing the sound card altogether, I take it?
And thank you so much for all the information. I really appreciate the time you took to help us!
Based on Remy's input, I was considering this:Audio-Technica AT2020 USB Condenser Mic - Free Shipping, Lowest Prices on Condenser Microphones at Music & Arts
I noticed it says it needs phantom power though. I know this may seem like a stupid question, but is there some extra equipment I have to buy to provide phantom power to it?
My fiance wanted me to point out that she sings a wide range of genres, not just operatic. I don't know if that is relevant to anything.
Last edited by hightechartist; 12-04-2011 at 07:12 PM.
Based on Remy's input, I'm going to buy this microphone:Amazon.com: Audio-Technica ATR2500-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB Microphone: Musical Instruments
If anyone has any objections, speak now or forever hold your peace.
The AT2020 is a cool mic, and probably well suited to female operatic vocals, although I use mine on a wide range of stuff and it's waaaay more useable than the $100 price tag.
The mic does need phantom power, but if you get the USB version it will get its power from the computer through the USB line. It will work.
I usually recommend not getting USB mics simply because you can never plug it into anything but a USB jack. I guarantee that AT2020 would sound better plugged into a $3000 Neve preamp, and you could never do that with the USB one.
Maybe the best thing to do is get an interface now and save your pennies for a different/better mic another day. In your price range (or close) I'd say maybe a PreSonus AudioBox ($150) or a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 ($150). A slightly lesser machine would be the Lexicon Alpha ($60). Any of these will be way better than your old soundcard.