USB microphones are becoming quite popular, especially with the increase in the number of people going into podcasting, vlogging, and other content creation niches.
Since these microphones are designed to be self-contained in their operation, you might wonder if they can be used with audio interfaces.
You cannot use a USB Microphone with an audio interface using the conventional signal chain routing system. However, a workaround can help you connect your USB mic to an audio interface through the headphone output, though it may degrade the sound quality of your final audio.
In the rest of the article, we shall explain how to set up this connection.
To get a clearer picture we’ll explore some background information that will help us understand the main two components in question – USB mic and audio interfaces.
Table of Contents
- Connecting a USB Microphone to an Audio Interface
- Should You Connect a USB Microphone to an Audio Interface?
- What Happens When You Connect a USB Mic to an Audio Interface?
Connecting a USB Microphone to an Audio Interface
Using the microphone’s “headphone out”, you can connect a USB mic to an audio interface. To do this, follow these steps:
- Get a 1/8 TRS to ¼ TRS or 1/8 TRS to XLR cable. Choose TRS or XLR cable depending on the input of your chosen audio interface.
- Connect the 1/8 TRS end to the headphone out of your USB microphone.
- Connect the ¼ TRS or XLR cable end to the input of your audio interface.
You can watch this explainer video by Jordan from Kettner Creative on how to make this connection:
You should now be able to receive audio signals from your USB microphone to your audio interface.
Should You Connect a USB Microphone to an Audio Interface?
USB microphones are designed to be a simple, self-contained recording solution for podcasters, Vloggers, and other content creators who do not need complicated setups for their recording.
These USB mics are therefore designed to be plugged directly into a computer’s USB port without the need for any additional equipment.
A USB mic should not be connected to an audio interface because it is not designed to require additional volume boost or A/D conversion. There are other equally affordable microphones that can be purchased if one needs to connect to an audio interface.
To help us understand why USB microphones should not be used in this way, we shall have to explain what USB microphones and audio interfaces are.
What Is an Audio Interface?
An audio interface is an electronic device that converts analog audio signals to digital signals for your computer. It also converts digital audio signals from your computer to analog signals so you can hear it when you play the sound on your speakers.
An audio interface will usually have a preamp into which your microphone will be plugged to boost it to a line-level signal to achieve a cleaner audio recording.
What Is a USB Mic?
A USB mic is a microphone that plugs directly into your computer via USB. It requires no audio interface as it has one built-in. It also requires no external mic preamp because it has an in-built one. It is, therefore, a self-contained, plug ‘n’ play audio recording solution.
What Happens When You Connect a USB Mic to an Audio Interface?
To understand why it is not a great idea to connect a USB mic to an audio interface, let’s look at what happens when such a connection occurs.
We already explained that the only way to connect USB condenser microphones to an interface is by using the microphone’s “headphone out” as the main audio output.
The audio signal coming into the microphone is converted first to a digital signal, then to an analog signal. It is then converted again to a digital signal when it enters the audio interface and back to an analog signal. This duplication adds noise and other issues to the output.
When sound enters the condenser microphone, the internal audio interface converts it to digital that is sent to the computer.
The computer then digitally sends back a signal that is then converted back to an analog signal and sent to the headphone out for the headphones.
When this headphone out is sent to an audio interface, the entire process of A/D conversion starts all over. Leading to machine noise, latency issues, and multiple colorations to the final audio.
Suggested Solutions to Issues Caused by USB Mics with Audio Interfaces
There are two possible reasons you might want to know if they can use their USB microphone with an audio interface.
It could be that you don’t want to get a second microphone or love your current microphone so much that you’re hesitant to part ways with it.
Most manufacturers of USB microphones offer a similar XLR mic with XLR outputs.
Suppose you’ve decided to get an audio interface and want to use the same microphone as your USB mic. In that case, you can search for an equivalent XLR microphone with XLR outputs from the manufacturer of your beloved microphone.
Having more than one microphone is a good idea as it adds some versatility to your productions. You might find that one is best for a type of production while the other works better for another production.
If you still wish to be able to connect one microphone directly to either a computer or an audio interface, then you may want to consider some of the suggestions below.
Introducing USB/XLR Microphones
Most microphones available today have either XLR or USB outputs.
Thankfully, some manufacturers are now offering microphones with both outputs. Some microphones that offer this option are:
- Blue Yeti Pro USB/XLR Microphone
- Samson Q9u
Any of these microphones listed above will connect directly to your computer with a USB cable or to your interface without any of the issues we discussed above.
You can connect your USB mic to an audio interface but it’s not an ideal way to connect your USB microphone.
It’s best to use your USB microphone with a USB cable how it was designed to be used, or you get one equipped to handle both types of connection.
Given all the information we have shared here, you should now understand how your USB microphone and audio interface work. Hopefully, this information will prove helpful to you.
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