- USB Audio Hardware
If you’re looking for a way to connect an XLR mic to your computer via a USB connection, then this article may be of interest. We’ve got 6 XLR to USB microphone adapters to investigate.
1. Shure X2U
This high quality product is designed to plug into an XLR microphone and also has a handy port for plugging in a pair of headphones for zero latency monitoring.
It provides phantom power, so will it happily accomodate a condenser mic that needs power and it records at 16-bit resolution with up to 48kHz sampling rate. There are also some handy controls, a microphone gain control, headphone volume control and a monitor control for adjusting the blend between computer audio playback and live audio from the microphone. A tri colour LED indicator give visual feed back for signal, peak and clipping levels. There’s also a green LED to confirm USB connection and a blue LED to indicate the presence of 48v phantom power.
Here’s a video overview of the X2U produced by Shure.
Interestingly, the X2U appears to be USB audio class compatible for use with the iPad (although you’ll need a powered USB hub as the X2U needs more power than the iPad provides).
Check out this You Tube video for a demo of the X2U being used with .
Links and further reading for the X2U
2. MXL USB Mic Mate Pro
MXL are known for their excellent quality microphones, so the Mic Mate Pro, with its studio quality preamps won’t disappoint when it comes audio quality.
It offers control of mic gain level and you also get zero latency monitoring via the built in headphone socket, which also has a handy level control. The unit is Plug and Play (but do check requirements for your specific operating system), capable of recording at 44.1 0r 48 kHz (at 16-bit resolution) and supplies 48v phantom power for use with condenser microphones. Here’s a video review of the Mic Mate Pro and the Blue Microphones Icicle on You Tube.
Links and further reading for the Mic Mate Pro
3. Blue Microphones Icicle
The Blue Microphones Icicle XLR to USB adapter provide really simple operation with a single control for controlling microphone gain. The Icicle sports an integrated microphone pre-amp, drive-less plug and record operation for PC or Mac, 48V phantom power, analogue gain control and a fully balanced low noise front end. The Icicle logo and volume control surround also has an attractive blue glow to let you know that the USB is connected and working. Setting up is a snap, with the preset set sample rate of 44.1kHz (at 16-bit resolution), so there’s no messing around with settings, just plug it in and fire up your favourite recording software. Blue Microphones also report that the Icicle will also work with iPad and (camera adapter kit) but needs to be used with a powered USB hub.
Links and further reading for the Icicle
4. CEntrance MicPort Pro
The MicPort Pro has similar features to the Icicle and X2U, sporting a zero latency headphone monitoring via the dedicated headphone port, together with microphone gain controls and headphone volume controls. It also can supply 48v phantom power. But what sets this one apart from the rest of the offerings here is its ability to work at 24-bit resolution up to 96kHz sampling frequency! So, if you’re not satisfied with 16-bit and lower sample rate audio performance, then this is the unit for you. The MicPort Pro would certainly make an excellent companion with a high end condenser or ribbon microphone, especially given its 103.5dB dynamic range. You can also use the ‘Device Aggregation’ driver facility to use two of these devices together (or with an AxePort Pro) to achieve stereo recording. I’m not sure about the opera, but you can check out this video introducing recording with the MicPort Pro. It certainly shows off the capabilities.
Links and further reading for the MicPort Pro
5. Maplin - Microphone to USB Lead
Available from Maplin for £19, this one is the cheap and cheerful option. There’s not a great deal to say about this one because it does exactly what it says on the tin, with no additional bells and whistles. Just plug in your mic, hook up to your computer and fire up your favourite recording software. If you’re looking for a low cost Plug and Play solution and don’t need phantom power, gain controls or headphone outputs, this is the one for you.
Links and further reading
6. Lindy – USB to XLR cable
Again, not a great deal to say about this one. It is quite simply a USB to XLR adapter. It does offer an integrated LED to indicate successful USB connection. Like the Maplin version above, the audio quality is probably not going to set the world on fire, but if you just want to plug in that dynamic mic you already have and record a quick podcast this could be just the thing for you, and it won’ break the bank. You can get hold of USB to XLR adapter from Lindy for around £23. It is also worth mentioning that there is also a guitar adapter version of this simple adapter lead, which may be just the thing if you just want to plug in your guitar and have a jam (you may want to keep an eye on your audio buffer size though to keep latency effects under control!).
Links and further reading
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