Tip of the Week - 2016 10 06: USB Audio Cable Review

With the rise of digital technology, a basic production studio is now well within the reach of most radio stations. By installing free software, utilizing hardware it already owns, and making some very modest purchases, a station can be turning out IDs and promos in no time.

A few months ago, I looked at the value of USB microphones. This week, I want to look at a new innovation…that will turn an ordinary microphone into a USB microphone.

Allow me to introduce you to the XLR to USB cable. On one end is an XLR female plug, to attach to any dynamic microphone. On the other end is a USB plug, with a built-in analogue to digital converter. If a station already has an office computer, headphones and a dynamic microphone (SM58 or similar), this cable will turn it all into a mini production studio – alleviating the need for either a mixer or USB microphone (But let me stipulate, this cable does not have enough grunt to produce phantom power for a full condenser microphone).

At a grand total (including freight) of $US16, I couldn’t pass up the chance to see if this cable had potential, although I must admit I was a bit skeptical. Once I ripped open the packaging and plugged it all in, it took virtually no time for my Audacity recording software to recognize the cable as a USB audio device.

And the audio quality? I would describe it as typical digital – flat but a faithful reproduction of the sound. The only concern was the quietness of the audio signal. Even with my Windows recording mixer on full, I struggled to get a decent recording volume.

However, the story is not yet over! I used Audacity to do some basic post production – noise reduction, volume boost, and a little bit of EQ for sparkle. The finished result was, in my opinion, quite useable.

A busy recording engineer may find the low levels frustrating, and find it a chore to post-process everything. For a moderately regular user with a low budget, this is a much cheaper alternative to buying a mixer or a USB microphone. With this being such a new product, only time will tell what its life expectancy will be, and whether companies continue to develop it…or whether it remains merely a useful toy.

Click on this link to listen to the audio sample. I’m interested to hear what you think.

Happy Broadcasting

James

 


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Added: Friday, October 7th, 2016
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