How To Connect A Condenser Mic to a Computer

You are tired of the cheap mics and you’ve finally decided its time to upgrade your microphone. Now that you got your new mic you are probably thinking, how do i connect this thing? XLR? Whats that? Don’t worry, today we will be teaching you how to connect a condenser mic to a computer.

Requirements

To get started you are going to need 5 things…

  1. A Computer/Laptop
  2. A Condenser Microphone
  3. An XLR Cable
  4. An Audio interface

Got them all? Great! Lets get started…

 

A little background before we start

What is an XLR cable?

An XLR cable is a 3 pin cable that is used to connect a microphone or similar audio device (such as a monitor speaker) to an audio interface. They can provide excellent signal strength in various audio applications. Pretty much, they can deliver a balanced signal which means that the audio signal will have way less unwanted noise from any interferences. The original audio signal is preserved and high quality and this signal is transferred over a long distance.

What is a condenser microphone?

A condenser microphone is a type of microphone that is higher quality and requires audio from an additional power source. This power source results in an audio signal thats cleaner and higher quality than a regular dynamic microphone. Condenser mics are used in many scenarios such as recording vocals, drums, instruments and so on.

What is an Audio interface?

An audio interface is a device that allows you to record audio that comes from input from your XLR cables into your computer or played out loud via your studio monitors. The goal of the audio interface is to take an analog signal (your microphone) and convert it to a digital signal into your DAW (digital audio workstation)

Why a computer or laptop?

A computer or laptop is how we are able to get the signal from the microphone to the XLR cable to the audio interface and into our computers. We save the audio signal there so that we can easily access the recording later. This is a crucial step!

Connecting the condenser microphone to the computer

Now that we understand the roles of each, let’s begin!

Step 1 – XLR Cable to Microphone

Take the male side of your XLR cable and connect it to your microphone. When connecting it to the microphone, be sure that it’s secured tightly. Many XLR cables have a small  clamp at the end that you can press to push the lock module in. You should push the XLR cable into the microphone until you hear a “click”. You may have an XLR cable that does not click – As long as the the male side of the XLR cable is fastened in, you are good to go.

Step 2 – Microphone and XLR Cable to Audio Interface

Next we will be taking the female (or other) side of the XLR cable and plugging it into the audio interface. This is a straight forward process… just simply plug it in and thats it. Some audio interfaces don’t really have a click, but they have a little “grove” like feeling or sensation that you get when its fully plugged in. Once you feel this or recognize this, then its plugged in and you are ready for the next step.

Step 3 – Audio Interface to computer

If you are following along, you will see that we now have the microphone plugged into the XLR cable and the XLR cable plugged into the audio interface. Now we will be plugging the audio interface into the computer.

Your audio interface can have one of many types of connections to your computer:

  • ThunderBolt
  • USB 2.0
  • USB 3.0
  • USB-C
  • Firewire

Its highly likely, that your interface will have a USB 2.0, 3.0, or USB-C connection. Thunderbolt and firewire are becoming less common these days thanks to USB-C.

Anyways regardless of the connection, to connect, just simply take your wire and follow the directions on your audio interface to plug it in to the audio interface first. Once, one of the sides is connected to the interface, take the other end (the male side) and plug it into the computer. Voila! Done.

Step 4 – Phantom Power

Next you want to turn on Phantom Power. Phantom Power is used to power condenser microphones. You need to turn it on so that you can get a nice loud signal. See our article Does a Condenser Mic Need Phantom Power? for more info.

Step 5 – Configure Microphone and adjust Levels

You have made it this far. Your XLR cable is connected to your condenser microphone. You connected the microphone and XLR cable to your interface. You connected the interface to your computer and finally you engaged phantom power mode (48V). Now you can configure your recording levels.

Most audio interfaces have a gain knob on it that allows you to control the input gain that is going from the Condenser microphone to the Audio interface. Adjust this until you get a nice sounding volume. IMPORTANT! – Make sure that its not clipping!

Clipping is when a signal hits red. Once it hits red, that means that the signal is going over 0dB. Once it goes over 0dB and start clipping, any audio that goes over that is literally chopped off. Once this happens, distortion is introduced into your recording and this can not be fixed!

The solution is to adjust the gain knob and keep testing your mic by speaking into it or playing an instrument until the signal is green.

Pro Tip – Play your signal LOUD on your end and adjust so that the signal is right before red (clipping). This allows you to have rest of mind so that no matter how loud you get, it’s highly unlikely that you will clip.

Conclusion – How To Connect A Condenser Mic to a Computer

In this guide, we showed you how to connect a condenser mic to a computer. Even though it involves several steps, it’s a simple process that you wont forget. Next time when you are in a completely different studio, you will be the guy or gal that has the know how on how to connect a condenser mic to a computer.

Go ahead, show off. You deserve it!

Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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