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What’s the Best Way to Connect XLR Microphone to Computer?


Using an XLR microphone for your recording applications is a sure way to get the best audio quality possible. Many professionals and recording studios make use of an XLR microphone for recording vocals and more. Given that this is often used as a professional mic by a video maker or artist, many would think that connecting an XLR mic to your computer is impossible.

Contrary to popular belief, you can connect an XLR microphone to your PC or laptop, and this can be done in three methods. Whether you are using a dynamic microphone or a condenser microphone, there’s a method to connect your XLR mic to a computer easily!

What You Should Know Before Connecting an XLR Microphone to a Computer

While it is possible to connect an XLR mic to a computer, it’s not as plug-and-play as connecting a USB mic. You will need to know a couple of things first and exert just a bit more effort in setup when you connect an XLR microphone to a computer.

Even if nearly all computers and laptops nowadays have a built-in microphone input port, you cannot just plug directly an XLR mic to it. Aside from XLR inputs being incompatible with the mic input, phantom power is still required.

With that said, you will first need to distinguish if your XLR mic is a condenser mic or a dynamic mic. Condenser microphones have a wider frequency range and are more sensitive when picking up sound details. For this reason, an XLR condenser mic will need a +48V DC phantom power for it to work properly.

However, a computer alone will not be able to provide this power supply so you will need a few more steps before connecting XLR microphones to the computer.

Dynamic microphones are more versatile so XLR dynamic mics can generally be connected to a computer’s USB port via a signal adapter or cables. However, the audio signal level will come out quite low so a bit of boosting will be done, especially since the computer’s sound card may not cut it.

Three Ways to Connect XLR Mic to Computer

What's the Best Way to Connect XLR Microphone to Computer?

Unlike a USB microphone where you can connect a microphone in just a few seconds via the port, you will need to be a bit more patient when you connect XLR microphones. Do not be discouraged though as these three methods are still fairly easy and simple for you to follow.

Using an XLR to USB Signal Adapter

The easiest way how to connect an XLR mic to computers is via XLR to USB signal adapter.

In this method, all you will be needing are an XLR cable and a USB cable with a signal adapter. The way the USB signal adapter works is that it will act as a one-channel audio interface and be able to supply the phantom power needed for the required power supply of your XLR mic.

In addition to this, the adapter can also come with an integrated preamp with gain controls you may be able to adjust the signal strength of XLR mics through this method.

Here’s how to connect an XLR mic to a computer using a signal adapter.

  1. Connect the USB cable to the adapter and connect the other side to the USB port of the computer.
  2. A pop-up message should appear on the computer screen indicating that the connected device is now installed and ready to use.
  3. Connect the female connector of the XLR microphone cable to the microphone and connect the male connector to the adapter.
  4. For safety reasons, use a long mic cable so that the signal adapter is near or stays on top of the computer desk. Consider using XLR cables that are 6ft, 10ft, and 15ft long for this.
  5. With the mic connected, right-click on the speaker icon of your computer then click on “Open Sound Settings”.
  6. A new window should appear, which will allow you to select your input device. Under “Input – Choose your Input Device”, click on the drop-down menu and select the signal adapter.
  7. Lastly, open the software you will be using for your XLR microphone. Start running a test by speaking into the mic and monitoring the signal level. If this does not come out, click the software settings and select the adapter as the input device.

Using an Audio Interface

Although this may not be the fastest nor the easiest method, it may just be the best way to connect an XLR mic to your computer as it works for both condenser mics and even handheld dynamic microphones.

Most audio interfaces will also allow you to tweak the sound settings of your microphone thanks to the bundled audio software while giving you the option to use two audio input channels. This will come in handy if you also plan on recording a musical instrument.

If you plan on setting up a home recording studio, consider using this option.

This method works by taking the analog XLR signal from the mic and the converter will stream the signal to the computer.

Here’s how to connect an XLR microphone to a computer using an audio interface.

  1. Connect the power supply to the USB audio interface. If you are using one of the newer interfaces, then you can forego the power adapter since they can already be powered using a Thunderbolt port or USB-C.
  2. After connecting the USB cable to any of the USB ports, a pop-up message should appear indicating that the device is now connected and ready for use. If there is an error, you will have to go to the website of the audio interface to download and install the drivers needed for your existing mic.
  3. Connect the female connector of the XLR microphone cable to the microphone and connect the male connector to the adapter.
  4. If you are using a condenser microphone, then you will need to turn on the phantom power to +48V.
  5. Once the mic is properly connected, click on the speaker icon of your computer and click on “Open Sound Settings”.
  6. When a new window opens, click on “Output – Choose your Output Device” and open the drop-down menu to select the audio interface of your choice. Once this is done, you can now monitor your recordings.
  7. Once the output device has been chosen, click on “Input – Choose your Input Device”, open the drop-down menu, and select the audio interface as well.
  8. Test your microphone to check if you have a healthy signal level. You can determine if the signal level is good by making sure that the bar does not go beyond 75%. Increase the gain as needed so your audio signal will be clean and free of any distortion.
  9. If you encounter any incompatible operating system, then try checking your audio mixer if it needs any updating

Using a USB cable to XLR Cable Converter

The most cost-effective method to connect a dynamic XLR mic to a computer is by using a USB microphone cable. Although it will still require more steps than connecting USB mics, this method is still fairly easy as you will only need a cable with a female XLR connector on one side and a USB port on the other.

In this method, the USB port has a small analog-to-digital converter acting as the sound card. Once it’s connected to the computer, the small circuit will be powered from the USB port while activating the analog signal of the mic. This signal will be boosted and converted to digital so it can be fed to the USB audio.

Since you will be using a USB microphone cable, you technically have a plug-and-play system where no driver, software, or audio interface is needed. Your XLR microphone cable converter will do the job for you.

However, do note that condenser microphones will not work in this method due to the lack of a phantom power button, so this is limited to dynamic mics.

Here’s how to connect an XLR mic to a computer using USB cables to XLR cables.

  1. Connect the female XLR connector to the XLR dynamic microphone.
  2. Connect the USB port to the computer.
  3. Once the pop-up message appears, click on this to make sure that the device is installed.
  4. Right-click the speaker icon on your computer and open “Open Sound Settings”.
  5. Once a new window appears, open “Input – Choose your Input Device” and click on the USB mic cable.
  6. Run a test on the USB audio mixer or app so you can check if you need to adjust any settings in order to get the best sound.

How Do I Use My XLR Mic on PC Without Audio Interface?

What's the Best Way to Connect XLR Microphone to Computer?

To use your XLR mic on a PC without audio interfaces will require an XLR to USB adapter. The adapter will allow XLR microphones to be connected similarly to USB microphones, which is a plug-and-play method.

However, the sound card may not be of the same quality if you were to use an audio interface. We suggest that you install a USB mixer or audio mixer for this.

Go back to methods 1 and 3 that are listed in this guide for a more in-depth explanation of how you can use your XLR mic on a PC without an audio interface.

Final Note

What's the Best Way to Connect XLR Microphone to Computer?

As much as we would like for there to be a universal way when it comes to connecting mics to a laptop or desktop, connecting microphones requires different setups and methods based on the type you are using.

For XLR microphones, you cannot simply connect them straight to the microphone input of your laptop or desktop. As discussed in the guide, there are three ways for you to connect your XLR mic to the mic input. Hopefully, with this guide, you can find the best method for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the Best Way to Connect XLR Microphone to Computer?

Do I need a USB cable to connect my XLR mic to a computer?

Depending on the type of XLR mic you own, you can use a USB cable or an XLR cable. There are different methods for you to choose from on how you can connect the mic to your computer. For more versatility, we suggest using an audio interface.

If you want to make use of a cable and an audio interface, then you can connect it to the XLR port accordingly. A USB audio interface or USB mixer should come out once the XLR port is connected so you can monitor the sound levels of your microphone.

You may also find a gain knob next to the XLR input so you may adjust the volume to your preference.

Ash Burnett

Hailing from Chicago, IL - Ash made his break into journalism at the age of 23 writing music reviews for a local website. Now in his late 30's and after being pulled closer towards the technical side of the music and live gig industry, he founded Shout4Music to write thorough microphone reviews.

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