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I purchased a cheap wireless handheld microphone (Nady DKW-3), of the style used in PAs and such. It has a 1/4" output. I also purchased a 1/4" to 3.5mm cord to plug the mic into my computer. I can use Audacity to record sound from the microphone, but even with the volume all the way up on both the microphone receiver and the sound card input, the vocal audio is moderate. I'd be able to compensate for this, but the mic receiver is also injecting a rather high level of static into the audio. (Turning the power off at the mic doesn't affect the static, but turning it off at the receiver cuts the static immediately.)

So the question... are the audio systems for PAs and PCs not quite compatible? Do I need to get some sort of mixer/amp to sit between the mic and PC? Could the fact that the cable is TS on the 1/4" side, but TRS on the 3.5mm side have any effect? Is this just what I need to expect from a cheap wireless mic?

Edit: To add a piece of info I discovered later, the "high level of static" I referenced above appeared to be due to the fact that I was plugging this into the Mic In of my sound card. When I switched to the Line In, the static went away. The low audio level issue remained, however.

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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

To answer the title question: no, a professional microphone cannot be plugged into a computer to produce in any way acceptable results. For condenser mics, this doesn't work at all because they need 48 V phantom power, and dynamic mics have too low signal levels for the low-quality on-chip mic preamps that are used in virtually all consumer-grade sound cards, so it does work (using an XLR -> 3.5 mm adapter, which is, like, never done) but with a horrible SNR.

However, this question isn't really relevant because what you have there is not such a microphone – you obviously do not plug in the mic itself but the receiver, which is for the purpose of recording just an ordinary line-level device and should as such offer easily enough signal level to feed any input.

It should, in principle. In practice however, my experience is that recording over consumer sound cards is always lottery, you must expect to end up with unacceptable amounts of static, strange distortions etc.. Often these problems can be solved with DI-boxes, but the only real solution is to use a proper audio interface. Most common these days are external USB interfaces.

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Can you give an example of a "proper audio interface"? –  glibdud Nov 23 '12 at 21:48
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M-Audio Fast-Track MkII, Tascam US-122, Focusrite Saffire, to name some affordable models. –  leftaroundabout Nov 23 '12 at 21:59
    
Great, thanks for your help. –  glibdud Nov 23 '12 at 22:01
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Additionally: the TRS jack used on the mic-in port on a PC sound card isn't for stereo input, it is for "plug in power." This is conceptually similar to phantom power, but operates at around 3v rather than 48v. This is a legacy of the SoundBlaster design, which appears to have been an emulation of Sony's original plug-in power design for the Walkman. A better description than "proper audio interface" is "audio interface that provides line-level input." Any USB interface aimed at pro audio do this. –  ObscureRobot Nov 24 '12 at 5:56
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Macs, incidentally, have line level input, not plug-in-power mic input. That's why cheap PC microphones don't work at all on modern macs. (older 68k macs may have been different when they included audio input) –  ObscureRobot Nov 24 '12 at 5:57
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