I've been looking into mics and I've heard that 3.5mm cables have problems with audio degradation over long distances. How long does the cable have to be before I start experiencing issues?

  • Save yourself some frustration at the low quality and interference you will get from these type of mics. Just get an XLR mic. Do you have a mixer or audio/midi interface? If this is a yes, then check if they provide phantom power (which most do except the low end ones). If it happens to be one of the few that doesn't then get a phantom power supply. I'm assuming that since you have a boom that you will be using this a lot. Trust me the invest will be way worth it in the long run. – Travis Dtfsu Crum Sep 17 '12 at 16:56
  • Okay. I will see what I can do. What I may end up doing is buying a cheap mic, and once we have the money, invest in an XLR mic. – daviesgeek Sep 17 '12 at 19:29
  • that would be the way to go. I got my Sterling Audio ST51 at Guitar Center for only $50 dollars because it was used and also because it was during the labor day weekend sale and a new one would have been $10 dollars off anyways. It does the job so far except nothing will make my voice sound good -_- – Travis Dtfsu Crum Sep 18 '12 at 13:04
  • Yup. That's the main thing. I want a good sounding mic, but it doesn't have for be spectacular. – daviesgeek Sep 18 '12 at 15:57
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    @TravisDtfsuCrum Phantom power isn't necessary unless he's using a condenser microphone or a DI that requires phantom power. – WLPhoenix Sep 25 '12 at 17:37

Like most things, it depends. There are several factors at play: the impedance of the source, the nature of the circuit (balanced vs unbalanced), the capacitance of the cable, etc.

Ideally you want a low impedance source driving a low-capacitance, balanced circuit.

The impedance of the source is a big factor. A low driving impedance will not be affected as much by higher capacitance (which increases with the length of the cable), so it preserves high frequencies better.

An unbalanced circuit is susceptible to interference like buzz and hum, and the longer the cable the more likely it is to pick up such interference.

A typical 3.5mm cable is unbalanced, so all things being equal it will not perform as well over a longer distance. How long? If there's a source of interference nearby, even three feet may be too much.

  • I'm trying to get a cheap(er) shotgun mic and I'm mainly looking at 3.5mm mics, rather than the much more expensive XLR mics. Length-wise, I'm going to be using a boom, so anywhere from 5-10 feet. – daviesgeek Sep 17 '12 at 2:38

Jim did a nice job of getting to the gist of the problem.

As far as recommendations, If you are recording to a computer I recommend a USB mic. It converts the analog signal to a digital signal right at the mic, so after that you don't have to worry about interference at all. If you need extra distance, you can buy a USB extension cable and use that without worries of degrading your signal. I've used a decent Samson usb mic. Not for super high-resolution recording, but for the basics, it really does the job well.

  • I appreciate this answer's 4+ years old, but roughly how long a USB cable could be used, theoretically? Is there a way to have a 50-100 metre cable, for example? Maybe with some device in the middle, or at 25m intervals? Thanks! – Danny Beckett Jan 13 '17 at 3:50

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