How to Connect a Microphone to a Laptop for Recording

can you use a condenser microphone without phantom power

If you want to connect a laptop to a microphone for recording, then you have 2 options – USB microphones or XLR microphones.

By default, we recommend you go with an XLR microphone over USB. The reason why is because XLR microphones are better quality, last longer and the latency is better. Regardless of your choice, in this post, we will show you how to connect a microphone to a laptop for recording.

USB Microphone

To connect your USB microphone all you need to do is take the male end of the USB wire and plug it in to the laptop. Once its plugged in, you will probably need to download software so that it can run properly on your laptop. Head over to the manufacturer’s website and go to either the downloads or support section and make sure to download the latest files.

Once the necessary drivers or programs are downloaded, go into your DAW’s audio settings and make sure the USB microphone is active and ready to be used. Select your microphone by creating a new track in whatever DAW you are using and make sure the input is selected to your microphone.

Now that the microphone is ready, record a test track with you speaking into it or playing an instrument. While you are doing this, set the gain to whatever is comfortable and prevents clipping (it hitting the red).

If everything looks good then congrats – you have successfully connected your usb microphone into your laptop!

XLR Microphones

Connecting an XLR microphone involves more steps and more items. Before we begin, we will need…

  • an XLR cable
  • an Audio Interface
  • Studio Monitors or Studio headphones
  • a microphone (preferably a condenser microphone for best quality)
  • If you have a USB-C only type laptop – a USB to USB-C dongle/converter

Have all the items? OK lets begin…

First lets figure out what kind of laptop you have. If you have a USB type laptop like me (Macbook Pro), then you will need to get a USB to USB-C dongle/converter. Like the name says, this will allow you to plug in any usb device and it will work with laptops that only accept USB-C.

RELATED: How to Attach a Pop Filter to your Microphone

Once you have that taken care of, then the next step is to plug in your audio interface into your laptop.

Usually audio interfaces utilize USB but some can use Firewire as well. Whatever the connection, make sure your laptop supports it and plug it in to your laptop.

(Remember, if you have a USB-C type of laptop, then plug the audio interface in via the dongle/converter you just purchased).

If you have studio monitors, headphones or both, follow the instructions and plug them into the audio interface now.

Finally, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to connect the audio interface to your laptop. Once everything is connected, open up iTunes, Spotify or your favorite music player and with the audio interface’s volume all the way down to start, begin playing your favorite music. Gradually turn the volume up until you are at a comfortable listening level. If everything sounds great then we can now tackle the microphone next.

Now we will take the microphone and XLR cable and plug them into each other. Should be simple and straight forward. Once thats done, take the other end of the XLR cable and plug it into one of the inputs on your audio interface.

Once thats done, we will open our DAW of choice and make sure the microphone shows up. Go into your audio settings on the DAW and make sure the microphone is visible. Once you can see that the microphone is connected, create a new audio track and make sure the input is set to what ever the microphone’s input is.

Begin setting the gain by hitting record and then talk or play into the microphone. Set the gain at a level your manufacturer recommends or a good enough gain to where it’s not clipping.

Once everything looks good, you can now rejoice because you have successfully connected an XLR microphone to your laptop!


Microphone not showing on laptop

If you are not seeing any microphone show up on your DAW, then try restarting the DAW.

Still not showing up, try restarting your laptop. If you restarted your laptop and you are still not seeing it, contact the USB Microphone’s or audio interface’s support center. You can also check  some forums while you are waiting for them to reply back.

I don’t hear any sound

Make sure that the microphone is on the correct input. If it is and you still can’t hear sound, make sure the volume on your studio monitors or speakers is turned up. Tried the above and you still can’t hear anything, make sure your DAW’s settings are correct.

If all else fails, try another DAW or recording program to further diagnose the problem. If you aren’t hearing anything at all still then its probably the microphone or audio interface. If you can hear the microphone in this new program then its the DAW that has the problem. Seek the applicable help desk/support for whichever product or software has the issue.


If you are going the XLR microphone route then you are making a great decision. If you have both a USB microphone and an XLR type microphone, then you will notice right away that the quality is better. Regardless of your choice, you learned how to connect both types of microphones. Let us know what microphone you are using and if the guide was helpful!