Selecting a Microphone for Your Needs

You must match a microphone to your sound card based upon a number of criteria, including

• Stereo or mono Most computer sound cards expect to receive stereo input from their microphones. Most microphones, however, are mono. Microphones marketed for computers simply use stereo connectors and pipe the same input into both channels. You can tell stereo from mono jacks by the number of black rings on the tips of the jacks. One ring indicates a mono device, and two indicates stereo. (Figure 11.8 shows a mono and a stereo connector for reference.) If you want to use two microphones to do stereo recording, you can use two mono microphones in conjunction with a mono-to-stereo adapter that merges two mono signals into a single 1/8-inch stereo jack. You should be sure that both microphones are well matched in their electrical characteristics, however, such as impedance.

Part III

Figure 11.8

A mono jack (left) has a single black ring at its tip, whereas a stereo jack (right) has two rings.

• Impedance Impedance is a measure of resistance to current flow, and is measured in Ohms (Q). Microphones vary substantially in their impedances—from 1500-20,0000 or more. Sound cards vary in the range of impedances with which they work best, although most work best with low-impedance microphones—typically in the 150Q-1,000Q range.

• Frequency response Like speakers, microphones can be described in terms of their frequency response curves or ranges. Using a microphone that's capable of a wider frequency response range than the sound card can handle isn't a problem, but using a poorer microphone results in a reduction in the quality of the recording, compared to what it might be with a better microphone.

• Sensitivity This characteristic is measured in decibels (dB), and is usually a negative number. Higher sensitivities (that is, negative numbers closer to 0) generally result in louder input.

Unfortunately, finding the relevant specifications for a low-cost microphone can be difficult, and many sound card manufacturers fail to provide information on the relevant characteristics that they require in a microphone. You might therefore need to try several microphones, one after another, until you find a match.

Chapter 11

Using a Home Stereo 11

It's sometimes desirable to link your computer and your home stereo. You might want to do I

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this as a way to obviate the need for separate speakers for your computer, particularly if your TA

stereo and its speakers are located within convenient distance to the computer. You might also O |

want to use the two together to accomplish some specific goal, such as transferring cassettes or Tp

LP records to CD. Whatever the reason, linking your computer and stereo isn't a difficult task, T but there are some pitfalls to be avoided.

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