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Discussion in 'Microphones' started by MCruz, Dec 27, 2014.

  1. MCruz

    MCruz Member

    I am very new to recording and I have an MXL 990/991 microphone. I do not have a recording interface, so I was wondering if I used an XLR to USB cord, if either of these microphones would work by plugging directly into my computer. I have read a few forums and they said you need phantom power from an interface or else they would not work, so I am just trying to avoid spending $100 on one.
  2. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    You are going to have to bite the bullet - if you have a nice mic, then without an interface it was wasted money - If you only need one or two inputs then my current favourite is the Lexicon range - but they're still more than your budget. If you bought a non-phantom interface and added a power supply it would be even more. The only other option is one of those cheap mixers with phantom and a USB output? You just have to find the money or the mic is somewhat a white elephant.
  3. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Paul is spot on. The USB won't work on that MXL mic because it's a condenser microphone, which means that it requires 48v of power to work. This is what is known as "phantom power" and comes with most mic preamp/digital audio I/O's. The USB bus in your PC won't be able to supply enough of that required power in order for the mic to work, so you will need a mic preamp with this phantom power feature - and which also has a USB interface in which to get the mic's signal into your recording program.

    Here are a few models you may want to look at:



    Neither one would be considered "pro", but they are solid enough and would suit your needs at this time.
  4. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    I sell quite a few mics on ebay - I discovered long ago that you can't assume people know condensers need power - and I used to get quite a lot of dead on arrival emails, usually quite snotty ones - I asked them what their interface or recording devices were and when you google them, they don't supply power. I then added "Don't forget your recorder or interface must have 48V phantom power capability" - still didn't work. It is quite sad when people blow all their budget on a pretty nice mic only to discover they have to shell out even more to make the things work, but there's no way around it really that is cheap.
  5. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    In the grand scheme of things, $99 to $149 isn't really expensive at all for the hobbyist - or at least it shouldn't be considered to be expensive by hobbyists. I know people who drop more than that all the time on dinner for two at a decent restaurant, or, who may even spend triple that per month, if they happen to be smokers. How many women spend BIG money on something like a Coach purse? Or, some guys will spend 2, 3, maybe even 400 bucks on tennis shoes. I'll type that again, and fire for effect: $400 for TENNIS SHOES. ????? LOL... and yet, they complain about $99 for a mic pre - audio I/O.

    So, slap me silly and call me "Bob"... but I'll never be able to get that mindset.

    While pro's consider that price range to be miniscule... a drop in the drop of the bucket ... anyone who is the least bit serious about their hobby, and/or recording on a novice level, shouldn't be thwarted by a $100 purchase... I've spent more than that on just 4 nice XLR cables - but again, I say "shouldn't ".

    That doesn't mean that some people don't get it, and there are those who feel as if $100 bucks is some gynormous sum of money, or some grand investment for their home recording rigs.
    I know you mentioned your experience with people like that on eBay... I witness it all the time, too - when I do consulting work for home recording rooms. Absolutely zero problems with paying for a huge flat-screen, or the most current, up to the minute smart phone... but $100 for a pre? No way. Too expensive. ;)
  6. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member

    The simplest is something like this:


    From reading the "FAQs", it appears that it even comes shipped with Audacity recording program (which is no big deal, since it's easily downloaded as an entirely free program, anyway).

    How do I monitor the audio I am sending through my USB Phono Plus to my computer?

    A: In the Audacity program supplied with our product the setting for this feature is referred to as "software playthrough", and you will need to select it in the preferences to monitor the audio coming in via USB.

    I'm sure there are others from other manufacturers that are about the same type of thing, at varying price points, i suspect. this one appears to be about $80 in the usual online big-name retailers (Full Compass, Sweetwater, Musician's Friend, etc.)

    Two mic/line inputs? Check.

    USB out into computer? Check.

    Phantom power? Check.

    Cheap (under $100)? Check.

    Some caveats are in order. Something like this WILL get your mic connected to the USB on your computer, and it WILL record. That may be good enough to start with. (Everybody had to start somewhere, and usually not with a $5000 mic and $4000 preamp!)

    As for sound quality? Likely not the best...but I've never used one, so I don't know. A little research on whatever thing like this, as far as reviews, etc., may help you decide.

    Use search terms like "USB preamp", etc., to see if you can find anything similar? Also, visit the big-name retailers (the aforementioned, plus ZZounds, American Musical Supply, BH Photo, and even Amazon, etc.) to search for this particular unit, and they may list several more "similar products" that you can look at, and/or back up one step in that particular department to see what else they have.

    Anyway, just an option. Personally, for $20 more, I'd go with the Presonus (or something similar) mentioned earlier in another's post. Likely better sound (though I can't verify), and more features.

    Good luck!

  7. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I just did a session yesterday at a client's home recording space, using a Focusrite Scarlett 6i6., and I was very impressed by the sound overall. Plenty of gain, very quiet, transparent and smooth.

    I wouldn't recommend that particular model to our OP, as it has features that she would be paying for that she likely doesn't need... SPDIF, Midi, etc.

    But, as far as I know, the little brother to this one - the 2i2 - uses the same mic preamps, has a headphone out, and is USB. Price is around $149 or so.

    Cheaper than that, and I would look at the Presonus AudioBox. Decent preamps, HP, USB, $99. I use an 1818VSL and I really like it.

    I think that the Presonus also ships with Studio One (Artist version) DAW software. While I use Samplitude, I've tinkered around with S1 and I found it incredibly easy, user friendly, almost an "instant" type of recording/playback scenario, great for entry level.

    Neither one of the choices mentioned are going to get you that big pro sound, as those who are getting that sound are using big money pres - Neve, Millenia, etc., but you aren't gonna touch those for any less than $1500-$2000 per channel, so, as with all things, you'll get what you pay for. The models described above are perfect for demo productions and indi/vanity press releases.


  8. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    @MCruz : if you don't want to spend more, you could also return or sell the mxl and get a USB Mic instead. But using the internal sound card for playback and monitoring isn't ideal.

    This reference through software can introduce latency. Focusrite and Presonus products have internal mixer with zero latency. You can have a full band playing together and all the headphone feeds come from the internal mixer without hitting the DAW or third party software. There is a provided application to create the mixes but audio doesn't pass through it.

    For that reason and the fact that the preamps will sound better, I would choose a Focusrite or a Presonus over the ART.

    Someone looking for a XLR to USB adapter isn't ready for Highend pre and there is no shame to it. We all started somewhere ! ;)
    A 99$ to 200$ audio interface is a good place to start without investing a lot and take time to figure out if we like recording enough to invest more.
    If you are doing more than karaoke and youtube demo, a good set of studio monitors is also something to consider.

    The next step would be having an interface that can accomodate external preamps, via line ins (that goes strait to converters) or via digital inputs.
    Any interface with a spdif digital input can receive a Focusrite ISA One which is the entry level of high end preamps. (one mic preamp and an instrument DI) They give a ton of noise free power !
    After that, sky is the limit ! As they say ! :)
  9. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member

    I got a 6i6 a few months back for a specific purpose (mobile with laptop, and needing at least 3 separate playback tracks), and am also impressed with it. Good bang for the buck. I suspect, also, that the little brother is just as good sounding, if that's all you need.

  10. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member


    I'm not seeing a SPDIF on the original ISA One, is there an optional digital I/O that can be ordered for it? And if so, do you have any idea of the price ? (either the total amount for an ISA w/SPDIF, or the price for just the upgrade)...


  11. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Yes, there is an optional AD converter for the ISA One, I think it's the same that goes in the ISA 430:

    KF6.jpg KF1.jpg
    Optional stereo 192kHz A-D converter
    You can chose to upgrade your unit with an optional digital card that delivers the best A-D performance in its class (dynamic range of 118dB). Alternatively, the ISA One Digital comes with the A-D converter as standard.

    Other than that, the ISA Two doesn't have any digital option. Then you can go for the ISA 428 or 828 that have optional adat !

    For pricing : http://www.sweetwater.com/store/search.php?s=ISA+one&Go=Search

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