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While some laptops already have a microphone built into them, using an external microphone can help improve the sound quality of audio recordings superbly. An external microphone can upgrade the audio quality of your video calls, streams, and recordings into a more professional sound that sometimes a built-in microphone can’t achieve because of microphone settings limitations.
Whether you’re using a Mac or PC computer, most models have already included a simple computer mic port to make it easier to connect a microphone, provided that the microphone jack is compatible. Most USB microphones can also be connected directly to a laptop via the USB port for an easy plug-and-play installation.
However, with many microphones available today, there are microphone jacks that may not fit the mic port of a laptop or desktop computer. Don’t fret if your microphone falls in that category as there are several ways to connect an external microphone, even more than one microphone, to your laptop!
Before you connect a microphone to your laptop or desktop computer, it’s best to first find out the type of mic you have as there are certain requirements, specifications, and power supply needed depending on the mic. This will also help you recognize the microphone name right away when you locate it in the input device or audio input settings of your laptop.
You will also need to have and be familiar with the audio interfaces you have installed. Audio interfaces will be the device and program that connects your microphone to the laptop, computer, studio monitors, and powered speakers. To get good quality recordings, audio interfaces act as analog to digital converters.
Simply put, the sound picked up by your recording device is converted to a format that will be recognized by your laptop and software thanks to the audio interface. With that said, there are usually three 3 types of audio interfaces.
USB microphones and digital microphones have an internal mic audio interface. They work by converting the analog signal to a digital signal for the final recording to be recognized by the gadget.
A standalone audio interface is an in-line converter between an analog microphone to a computer and has two styles; adapter-style audio interface and hub-style audio interface. The former allows for one connection of an analog mic to a digital output while the latter allows multiple microphones to be connected to a single computer. This type of audio interface is usually used by an XLR mic, multiple audio devices, and instrument inputs as it can withstand a phantom power supply.
Most of the time, lower-end and budget mics make use of an internal computer sound card audio interface. The sound cards of the laptop act as a converter that will allow the audio recording to be transmitted. A mic with a headphone jack usually makes use of this audio interface.
After familiarizing yourself with the type of mic and the audio interface you have, you can now start connecting your microphone to your laptop or computer to start making audio recordings.
Most hands-free headset microphones come with a headphone jack that can be connected directly to the desktop computer via the port at the back, computer case on top, or at the side of a laptop. If your laptop does not have a headphone port, like in newer models of Apple MacBooks, then you may purchase an SD card reader or mini plug connector to hook it up with.
A dynamic mic or mini-plug microphone can also be connected directly to a laptop if the appropriate jack fits the mic port. Generally, most mics with a jack come in a standard ⅛-inch in size, so connecting microphones via this method is simple plug-and-play. However, if the jack size is not compatible, then you may use a headphone output to solve this issue.
Once your microphone is connected, check the control panel of your audio interface and see if the audio input has recognized your mic. If not, then click on the input device tab, which is usually beside the volume icon. You should find the mic input of your device.
USB microphones are becoming a popular choice of mic for many people who are building a home studio or are simply looking for an entry-level microphone. Since USB mics are plug-and-play in setup, connecting them to your laptop, computer, or even your mobile phone is easy and quick.
The most common way of connecting your USB mic is through the USB port. USB microphones usually have a 2.0 interface that will fit the standard USB port of a laptop, so compatibility is not an issue most of the time. However, some USB microphones may have a bigger size so you can opt to use a USB adapter to connect them.
Whether you’re using an adapter or connecting the USB mic directly to your laptop, the many ports allow you to use multiple USB microphones at the same time. This gives you the option to dedicate each USB microphone to recording audio from a specific sound source like vocals or instruments.
Once the USB microphone is plugged in, the laptop will automatically detect it. A pop-up window will usually appear and will notify you if any further installation or an operating system is required. If there is, as with most cases if you are using Microsoft Windows, you may click on the notification and install the program accordingly so you can access the mic and the key features that come along with it.
Alternatively, if no notification or pop-up window appeared, you may check the control panel of your laptop to see if the microphone input was detected. Make sure to click on the microphone as your desired audio input or input device.
If you want to make use of a high-quality microphone for professional standard recordings, then you can also connect your XLR mic to your laptop. However, since an XLR mic is a type of condenser microphone, it cannot be directly connected to your laptop because of the phantom power requirement, otherwise, it will damage both devices.
One way to connect XLR microphones is through a USB mixer, which is similar to an audio interface. The many ports of a USB mixer can allow multiple audio devices to be plugged in at the same time but do take note of the phantom power requirement. Another way to connect your XLR microphone is via a TRS adapter, which can be plugged into your laptop’s mic port.
For other ways to connect your XLR mic to your laptop, you may watch the video tutorial below that will explain how you can connect it via USB, sound card, phantom power, and audio interface.
If you prefer to keep your laptop and computers free from wires, then you may also opt to use a Bluetooth mic. Before deciding on choosing a Bluetooth mic, you must first check if your laptop has a Bluetooth built-in feature. You can do so by going to the control panel and checking if Bluetooth and other devices are included. If it isn’t, then you can purchase a Bluetooth dongle and adapter.
To connect or pair your Bluetooth mic to your device, you must toggle the Bluetooth feature on and secure the connection. Other microphones and devices will require a PIN to pair both devices, but this will vary accordingly. Check if the microphone and your laptop have paired by going to the control panel and checking the microphone input. You should be able to see the mic name or model in bold.
Yes, you can. It is even possible to connect multiple external microphones at the same time to your laptop and monitor outputs. Using an external mic is a great alternative to the built-in microphones of a laptop if you’re looking to improve the audio quality of your recordings – may it be for vocals or instruments.
There are cases wherein the laptop cannot detect or recognize your microphone. When this happens, you may have to manually troubleshoot this, install an audio interface, or download the software for your microphone.
There are multiple ways to manually troubleshoot connection problems. You can first try disconnecting devices that are currently plugged in as the laptop may be experiencing an overload.
You can also check if your default audio input settings are in place and check if the recording tab is connected to the mic. If not, then you can click on the recording tab and choose your microphone. Other times, you may just need to click on “manage sound devices” and enable the microphone to run.
You can also inspect your laptop and microphone ports to see if any obstructions are causing the two devices not to detect one another. Sometimes, a good cleaning is needed to simply fix this problem. You can also check if there’s any faulty hardware at play. If this happens, then you may need to purchase replacement parts or take them to the service center depending on the problem.
There are other ways to troubleshoot connection problems that you can read and watch videos on YouTube for a more detailed guide.
From video makers to office workers, adding external microphones utilize your setup to upgrade the overall sound recording quality. The good news is, as more major microphone manufacturers make microphones accessible for all, it won’t take an audio engineer to install and set up one as they can be easily connected to a laptop.