Usb microphones for online lessons

April 16, 2020, 10:47 AM · I've been taking online lessons for a while and I want to upgrade the sound quality.
I can't buy the Blue Yeti microphone because it's outside my budget but Blue has a mic that's called Snowball ICE. It has good reviews and the audio quality seems quite good.

There's also Samson C01u pro and it also has good reviews.

So, if anyone has used this microphones tell me what do you think and the pros and cons. Also if you use another mic that has worked well or you have another suggestion please let me know.

(My budget is around $80)

Replies (22)

April 16, 2020, 11:49 AM · Any cheap USB mic is going to be better than the one embedded in your laptop. You do need to make sure your laptop has the right kind of USB to go with the mic you buy, as Xuanyuan has wisely mentioned.
April 16, 2020, 12:03 PM · Some folks may have already mentioned this here...I was just looking for something for my kids' piano trio's violinist to use for videos and it looks like the cheap Zoom and Tascam recorders can also double as a stereo USB interface with mics. The H1n is $85 B&H, Tascam even less. And you get a decent hand held recorder too. Haven't tried it myself though.
Edited: April 16, 2020, 12:29 PM · Oh my that Blue Yeti is expensive! I have been using a Logitech headphone with mic that looks like the Logitech H390. It is handy because the microphone is in the right place to get the violin sound; the price now is $39.99 at B&H. There are less expensive headset/mic combos.
April 16, 2020, 2:03 PM · Some webcams and laptops have really good enough microphones, don't need to waste extra.
April 17, 2020, 1:21 AM · I’ve been using a Blue Yeti and my teacher notices the difference in sound quality between my mic and other students. I imagine this helps in assessing the quality of my tone as he is able to hear some pretty fine nuances. One of the other teachers at the school uses a Blue Snowball and says it works quite well. The Blue mics are not cheap, but they are high quality. Between the built-in mics on my laptop and phone or the external $20 Fifine K668 mic I use for phone calls at the studio, the Yeti is in a different league, but the Fifine is honestly good enough for online lessons.
April 17, 2020, 5:00 AM · Amazon sells a FiFine USB mic for about $40 which is pretty good. I bought one to have as a backup for my Audio-Technica 2020USBi and when I did a comparison of both by recording my voice into Audacity I found them both fairly comparable. The AT2020 was a bit richer in sound, but the FiFine will be very good if something happens to my AT2020.

One consideration that many people don't take into account is that for a microphone to get the full sound of an instrument it should not be right next to the instrument unless you've got excellent sound equipment designed to get a rich full sound. For things like USB mics and online music lessons, the mic needs to be at least 5 or 6 feet away from the instrument. 15 or 20 feet is much better since that's the sweet spot where the sound is fully developed and won't overload the microphone.

People see videos of professional recording sessions where the mic is right next to the instrument or the singer and try to do the same for their online lessons but they don't realize that the professional recording is using very delicate very expensive ribbon or condenser mics running through soundboards which cost well over $10K and are designed for such close micing.

Edited: April 17, 2020, 9:07 AM · My teacher has just bought a snowball ice. She hasn't had time to try it out, but I assume she bought it because it was recommended.

The reason for close-miking is because the amount of room reverb the mic picks up is proportional to the square of the distance from the mic to the sound source. Too much can't be filtered out once it's there. Also the nature of the room's acoustics will be fixed on the recording forever. But if you close-mic and record with as little reverb as possible, then you can add a desired amount and quality of artificial reverb later.

Edited: April 18, 2020, 6:10 PM · Is a USB mic the best way to go? I have no experience either way for computer linking, but I'm wondering why not use an XLR ended condenser mic through an interface like a Focusrite Scarlet (for example) instead. Then you'll have that XLR terminated mic for performance or studio use too, while the USB mic would be less flexible in its applications. The interface would mean a bit more hardware complexity as a price to pay for greater versatility. I'm asking this here because I'm trying to decide about whether to get an interface right now myself. (Admittedly the overall cost of a mic plus interface would exceed our op's budget.)
April 18, 2020, 6:53 PM · That's what I'm doing Mark but the OP wants an $80 solution.
April 19, 2020, 5:33 AM · I thought of this too.
Turned out, it doesn't matter how good your mic is, because sound is compressed through ZOOM, and it all sound the same.
I know this because I compared the sound of my ZOOM recordings and sound recorded by the computer. It always sounds like cheap radio in ZOOM.
Edited: April 19, 2020, 1:45 PM · The poor sound of ZOOM doesn't negate the value in buying a good XLR terminated mic and a USB interface, because you would still have that high quality mic for applications like sound reinforcement or studio recording, or even digital recording sans ZOOM or SKYPE, should you ever have the need. If you're certain you won't ever have that need, then maybe not.
April 19, 2020, 4:27 PM · Zoom shouldn't sound poor if both people have good quality microphones.
Edited: April 20, 2020, 8:18 AM · $80 is a pretty low budget to be getting an XLR mic and a USB interface. I thought I was cheap getting a PreSonus Audiobox USB 96 interface ($100) and an AT2010 mic ($120), those are Sweetwater's prices. They've both been around a while, you might be able to find them on the used market. The PreSonus comes with a nice DAW interface, probably they all do, and there are oodles of YouTube videos to get you started. If you give piano lessons (I have one piano student) then it just occurred to me that I should be able to plug my Yamaha stage piano right into the interface.
April 21, 2020, 7:46 AM · My question deviates from the OP's original question a bit, but I figured that it's close enough and didn't want to start a whole new discussion. As I understand it, there are a couple of knowledgable people on this website when it comes to sound engineering. I have a decent understanding of photo and video editing, but absolutely no clue about sound, and I got a Tascam DR-07X to record concerts with, hoping for a better sound than my phone would provide. These days, with all my lessons being online, I'd like to use it to my advantage, too.
The short question is this: I couldn't seem to find any resources to get into the basics of recording acoustic instruments with these kinds of mics, specifically for beginners. I'd like to make the most of its capabilities but don't know what the optimal distance, the direction of the microphones and settings are, setting it up intuitively (= badly). Are there any basic steps I should follow and is there an online resource to learn all of that so that I don't have to keep bothering you people? It would be even better if I got my hands on some basic recommendations on how to get the best result in post using something like Audacity, too. Thanks!
Edited: April 21, 2020, 8:58 AM · the t.bone Ovid System CC 100 , excellent price/sound ratio; poor man version of DPA 4099. I did a group buy for my son's youth symphony players which lowered the cost of shipping from EU to USA.

Edited: April 21, 2020, 9:44 AM · Benjamin, I have a Tascam DR-07mkII, which is the predecessor to your DR-07x. Mine lacks the ability to function as a USB microphone, which is regrettable. Anyway, I'd urge you to get some closed back headphones that you can plug into the recorder to monitor what the recorder is hearing, while isolating yourself from the direct sounds of your instrument(s). You can put the TR-07x in record standby mode and move around in relation to the mics, while hearing for yourself through the headphones. A standard rule-of-thumb in recording a violin is to place the mic(s) about a meter away, pointed at the soundholes. It's helpful to put the recorder on a mic stand while doing this. Your recorder has a reverb function that can be employed while monitoring/recording, or added to the mix after the fact, which I find very useful. Those are my non-expert recommendations to get you started.
April 25, 2020, 9:22 PM · I just got this from Amazon and my initial impression is that it's very good. The scissor-arm stand and the mic itself both seem to work very well, and with my Windows laptop it was entirely plug-and-play. It was easy to adjust the settings within my software to choose the USB mic.

FIFINE Studio Condenser USB Microphone Computer PC Microphone Kit with Adjustable Scissor Arm Stand Shock Mount (Model T669), US$60.

April 25, 2020, 9:48 PM · I have the Fifine T669 too. My sister has the Blue Yeti but thought something lower-priced would suit my needs, and I didn't bother to research, figuring she already did. It's much better than my laptop's built-in mic, of course.
April 28, 2020, 1:02 PM · "Looks like the cheap Zoom and Tascam recorders can also double as a stereo USB interface with mics. The H1n is $85 B&H, Tascam even less. And you get a decent hand held recorder too."

True for the Zoom H1n, but the inexpensive Tascam recorders (like my DR-05) cannot double as a USB mic. The USB port is only for transferring files or powering the recorder.

I recommend the H1n.

April 28, 2020, 2:05 PM · DR-05X says it does on their site: https://tascam.com/us/product/dr-05x/feature, "Connect to a PC using USB Audio interface mode, and DR-X becomes a tool for voiceover work, live streaming, podcasting and songwriting with studio-quality audio" as well as DR-07x. I think someone earlier mentioned the newer 'X' ones do this.

I bought the H1n for another person in my kids's group to use and verified that it works as an audio interface on my Mac.

April 28, 2020, 3:08 PM · You're right. I missed those Tascam "X" models. :o

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