Most of you on Voice123 should know this by now, but amazingly I keep encountering it with home studio consultation clients: How do you get the signal from your mic to your computer?
You get it into your computer and software via USB by means of some external analog to digital converter, an ADC, a DAC, a DI or USB mic; many names for an item that simply takes the analog voltage changes from your microphone and turns them into digital sampling bytes…the 1’s and zero’s your computer recognizes as data to compute.
Still, some in voice overs living in 1998 think the way to go is through the “Line In” or Mic In” plug on your computer, and into your computer’s sound card where that digitization takes place. Since the advent of digital recording back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, something had to make that conversion. It was originally done with bulky, mysterious black boxes connected to digital recorders. This technology morphed into the digital interfaces we have today, and boy…are there choices! Just search through the B & H, Sweetwater, Musicians friend or Guitar Center online catalogues and you will see what I mean. PreSonus, Apogee, M-Audio, Tascam, Yamaha, Centrance, yada yada yada…. They all work.
What doesn’t work is “Line-in.” OK, it physically works. You are sending an analog signal to your computer and your sound card, which is busy doing other things at the same time, says “Yeah I can handle that.” But it’s actually worse than that. By feeding your computer directly from your mic and pre-amp and outboard processors, you’re giving your sound card a noisy, unbalanced input. And the end result as we all know in computer language is “Poop in- Poop out. Whenever I hear thumpy audio with lots of background hiss, my first question is, “How are you inputting your mic to your computer?” The answer is almost always a sheepish …”Line-in?”
It’s these digital interfaces that make what we do at home possible. You’re giving a balanced low noise signal to an external device that has nothing to do but digitize your voice and then play back your audio with the same return fidelity. Its nice and clean. The sooner your signal is digital, before it makes its way to your CPU, the better. This includes USB mics. Some of which are really getting competitive with how they sound.
If you want to record with the technology that is one step above your old SONY cassette recorder, go for “line in.” You want to record with a simple system that records more pure than what used to be a $10,000, 4 track ½ reel to reel tape machine, go for the external digital interface. If it doesn’t have a USB, or the fast fading “fire-wire” connection, It doesn’t belong in your audio chain.