Friday, October 07, 2005

Awful Microphone Buzzing on New Lappy

OK, starting to see the differences between Toshiba's higher and lower-end machines. I was able to use Pants' el cheapo desktop microphone plugged directly into Bluejay's microphone port to record podcasts, giving pretty good sound with the two of us about half a metre from the mic. His desktop didn't have any kind of microphone input booster, so I had to bring the lappy over every time we wanted to record a podcast.

Anyway, I had starling and bluejay over at Pants' place last night since I was lending bluejay to Willie to see if he could get it resussitated. Decided to test out the mic port on starling with Pants' same mic. Results were pretty disappointing. In normal mode it acted just like Pants' desktop's soundcard, where you pretty much have to set the mic about 5 cm from your lips in order for it to pick any sound up. This is a bit too intimate for two-person voice recording, sadly.

I did find a mic boost option in the sound device properties, but when I tried that out it picked up my voice loudly enough, but the sound signal was awash in static. I wasn't sure if it was the mic or the sound card, but when I unplugged the mic and then unmuted the microphone sound channel I heard all the same static again, which got audibly worse when I'd move the mouse cursor around or cause the hard drive to spin up. Awful awful awful. I don't know if it was better electronics or some fancy sound filter that bluejay's soundcard had but I never had problems like that. You could hear some buzzing but you'd have to be listening for it to have it really bother you.

So now I'm looking for alternative recording options. I'm thinking either of a Griffin iMic, basically a USB device with line in and out jacks on it that you can hook either a mic or a stereo input signal to, or a plain vanilla USB Microphone like this one from Logitech. The iMic might be overkill for me at this point. I don't really think I'll be doing any transferring of vinyl or audiocassettes to digital, which is what Gord is using his for. The Logitech mic costs about a third of the price of the iMic, and I could certainly use it for Skype calls as well as voice recording. Perhaps I'll go price comparison shopping for it.

It's baffling why a PC maker would even bother putting a mic jack on there if they know that the sound is going to be unusable. Of course I know the answer to that, they want you to buy the more expensive models ;) If only old bluejay wasn't falling apart, I'd have happily kept it alive for another year or two.

Update: Decided to go with the Logitech USB Mic. Seemed the most logical choice for the moment. It was kind of hard to find at my usual places, though, but FrontierPC had it in stock and for about half the price listed on Logitech's Canadian website. I also ordered some RAM at the same time, yay impulse clicking.

By al - 7:17 PM |

I don't really do the podcast thing. But I got a USB Sound Blaster Audigy 2 NX to record audio from my minidisc player last year. It's great. With the on-board sound chip, I'd get background noise around -40db to -50db. The USB SB background noise is only -70db to -80db. I've noticed audio is much more clear and crisp. Of course, that's more of a high-end solution to a simple problem.
Yeah that's the same idea as the iMic. A bit of overkill for me at the moment, so I decided to save a few pennies, and also have one less piece of kit to carry around.

Incidentally, apparently the USB Mic isn't susceptable to feedback in the same way an analog mic is. I'll report back when I actually get the thing. Very cool if true.
If the mic you are using is the one I think you are using when you refer to "Pants' el cheapo desktop microphone", that's MY el cheapo desktop microphone, thank you very much. As for the usefulness, or lack thereof, of computer's built in mic jacks, they are designed for single user input for basic voice application only (ie. voice conferencing and the like) and there really isn't much need to make them any better. Those who need better quality should be using a real studio mic fed into a preamp (ie. mixer) and then into the "line in".
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