Can the Sound Card Affect the Quality of Microphone Recording?
- Written by Rodrigo Marques
A common question among beginners in Home Studio is about whether a sound card can affect the quality of the microphone recording in any way. And that question is quite interesting because it opens up a huge range of possibilities for broad explanations on how these audio capture processes work, especially from sources such as the microphone.
The answer we give below applies to other audio sources, not just microphones, but also any device that is connected to a so-called "line-in" or "microphone-in" of that sound card. Come on!
I would also like to make an addition to the theme and include the audio interface, which is inevitably a trend of better quality, which is replacing the sound cards, which would be those devices that are usually stuck in a PCIe slot, as we used 10 years ago. The audio interface of the moment, are connected via USB, which is not the problem, since USB can transmit digital data at very high speed, far beyond what is necessary.
Yes! A Sound Card May Affect the Quality of Microphone Recording
Yes, it is possible that the sound card may in some way affect the recording quality of a microphone. This effect occurs primarily when you connect an analog microphone to a standard mic port on your sound card. The factor that determines the quality of a sound card, is its ability to convert the analog signals into digital data, and this is done by the A / D converter.
The A / D converter is a chip that can vary greatly in price and quality. Therefore, cheaper A / D converters tend to be of lower quality. The best manufacturers of A / D converters are accustomed to charging a fair amount of money for them, and this is reflected in the cost of the final equipment. Quality sound cards, have excellent A / D converters, consequently, are the most expensive you can find.
There are A / D Converters Everywhere
You may imagine that these A / D converters are present only on the sound cards, however, there is a wide range of devices that use this type of converter. A good example of this is the smartphone, which converts the analog signal from the microphone into digital data, which is processed by the software and becomes your WhatsApp message.
Going back to the music world, there are also A / D converters on USB microphones. A good USB microphone is as good as your A / D converter. The manufacturer
of microphones "Shure" confessed in his blog that equivalent microphones with XLR outputs are superior to USB, due to a loss of signal caused by the A / D converter built into the USB microphone. These converters are small, inexpensive and will never achieve at a lower price the quality of A / D converters present in audio interfaces, which are often more expensive than USB microphones.
What to do to Ensure the Quality of the Microphone When Connected to the Sound Card
Usually, you will be using a modern audio interface to make your home recordings, this is what you expect from a normal Home Studio. It is possible to create a Home Studio, all based on USB, but it is important to remember that there are devices for all audiences, and some USB microphones really do not have the quality to participate in a recording in your Home Studio.
The biggest music producers did not start with the best studio settings, or with super powerful microphones, capable of capturing inaudible detail. Knowing what you are doing, it is possible to use cheaper equipment, still within the acceptable limit of audio loss, as we saw in the last post, about the dynamic microphones being used by studio artists.
To get control of your production process, you will basically take care of the quality of each device that participates in your recording system. A microphone, making an analogy, is like the lens of a camera. The sound card is like the body of the camera, and the picture is like the sound you get in your recording.
Yes, we can see that there are cameras of all kinds: we have cameras that produce images of different qualities, DSLR cameras that produce even more refined images, as well as professional equipment that was created with a very specific audience in mind. And similarly, it happens with studio equipment, including microphones, audio interfaces, audio monitors, etc.
If you are a beginner in audio production and you do not have high ambitions for getting a lot of quality, why you are enhancing your technical skills, then I believe you do not have to worry too much about the quality of sound cards and audio interfaces available in the market.
If you're creating podcasts, commenting games, making videos for YouTube, the USB microphone will probably be enough to meet your demands, and even the simplest sound cards, except for the $ 3 cards you find in China, will suffice to record with your microphone.
If you have a more advanced microphone with XLR output then it is best to work with the audio interface that has a compatible XLR input so you will not lose quality anywhere in the process. Taking care of these recording details is important because this is part of your production process. You as an audio producer should know exactly where you are and what you are doing, to ensure that in the end, everything ends well. In Home Studio this means getting quality audio, technically compatible with any audio equipment.
As for USB microphones, I recommend that you try to listen to recorded audio samples from these devices to see if their quality matches or exceeds your expectations. Testing before, very calmly, you can not go wrong. And then, as your technical skills are more developed, you will have more knowledge and ability to discern where equipment needs to be improved and what techniques or software you need to master, to do whatever you want.
An extra tip from Rodrigo: If you want to know How To Build a Home Recording Studio From Scratch And Get High Quality Audio Using a Production Process, I recommend you take a look at our kindle book right now.
We believe that a Home Recording Studio can change the future of many entrepreneurs and artists who need to show how great their talents are. Enjoy it!