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Background:
I recently decided to move away from my AT2020 USB microphone and jump on the next tier up— AT875R Shotgun microphone. I like the fact it'll be more directional, won't need to be directly in the frame of my content, and, to my knowledge, will provide better overall quality. All of my content is solely through my PC and is in a live form.

I currently have the following setup:

AT875R → XLR/XLR → Phantom PSU (XLR balanced out) → XLR/3.5mm → PC (on-board sound inputs)

However, the audio levels are so drastically low that I feel I'm missing something. Based on what I can tell, I seem to be getting sound in/around the -50dB to -40dB range. All of my audio levels in Windows are correct and I've went through all possible drivers and updates to ensure it wasn't something minor like that.

From my research, it sounds like I'm supposed to use a preamp (and/or mixer?) between the microphone and my PC to ensure the audio levels are correct before they get to the PC. Since most come with phantom power, I would assume it could replace the current, very inexpensive, one I have now. I would love to take the dive and assume so, but I've searched nearly every combination of "AT875R" and (preamp, mixer, amp, low audio, quiet, pc, audio levels) and didn't find a closely matching scenario which would make me confident enough.

Question(s):
Would a preamp mixer such as this one satisify the issue I'm having with the audio?

Also related, are there any other pieces of hardware that should be considered for this type of PC setup (audio card)?

Updates:
I purchased the preamp/mixer since it was one of a few options I had to solve the low audio issue. Ultimately this took buying a few cables to connect things up correctly, but provided below is my current, working, setup:

AT875R → XLR/XLR → Preamp/Mixer (using unbalanced Stereo Out) → 1/4"/3.5mm → PC (motherboard's mic in)

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Actually, there is already a preamp stage of sorts in your signal chain in your PC's in-built MIC IN (I assume you're using mic in, and not line in, right?). In-built sound inputs, however, are usually pretty poor in quality - noisy, not much gain, etc.

Another potential problem in your signal chain could be the XLR-3.5mm cable connection. The output of the Phantom unit will almost certainly be balanced, whereas the PC will probably expect an unbalanced signal, so simply connecting the two together won't necessarily work well unless the cable is wired correctly - and even if it is, signal loss is sometimes a result of the interconnection. See here for info on balanced/unbalanced audio and wiring: https://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jan02/articles/faq0102.asp

Your best bet would probably be to buy a dedicated USB or firewire audio interface with XLR inputs and phantom power. This would power your mic, you'd have an onboard preamp to add gain to the signal, and you'd avoid potential wiring issues altogether.

Signal chain: Mic -> XLR -> Interface -> USB/firewire -> PC

  • Looking at my Phanton PSU, I can confirm that it is putting out a balanced signal. The preamp/mixer I was looking at has XLR balanced output too. When you mention audio interface, would something like the Blue Icicle fit that need? As for build-in lines, it sounds like either get a preamp before PC input or get an audio card that handles preamp better, correct? I sincerely appreciate your input and will continue to research actively. – Xrylite Aug 21 '15 at 15:45
  • Yes, sounds like you're getting it. Not used a Blue Icicle myself, but it sounds like it would do the job. An external sound card from Focusrite or Presonus or similar would work, too. The benefit of these is that you completely bypass the PC's built-in sound input altogether, and the signal is converted from an analog to a digital signal in the interface. It'll also have a balanced input, so your mic (which will output a balanced signal, too) will be able to talk to it properly. – Azz Aug 22 '15 at 7:13
  • Just saw your update: that you bought the mixer... This should provide a preamp and should provide phantom power to the mic. As you'll still be plugging directly into the PC, just make sure that you're doing so in the right way, though. Your PC input expects an unbalanced signal, so you want to use the unbalanced STEREO OUT jacks on the mixer (and not the balanced XLRs). This needs to go into the LINE IN on the PC (not the mic in). – Azz Aug 22 '15 at 7:30
  • I received the mixer today. I also took your advice to get the 1/4" cable and use the unbalanced stereo out on the mixer. However, I did need to use the mic in to get this to work for me. For some reason the line in was only giving white noise. I assume this won't cause issues in the long run. Regardless, I sincerely appreciate all the help/teaching you've provided with this. I would have been clueless otherwise so thank you greatly! – Xrylite Aug 23 '15 at 3:17

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