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I am completely new to the recording world, please help (even there are dumb questions from me).

I bought the AT2020USB mic, but I heard a lot of people said a condenser microphone plus an audio interface will be sounded great.

Also, I was told not to buy the audio interface, because I can plug it directly into my Macbook to record.

Here's the questions:

  • Should I buy an audio interface to support my AT2020USB mic? Is it necessary to buy it for simple singing covers (like Christina Grimmie's, the song 'Heroes' for example) using my USB mic?

  • Will it sound better with an audio interface?

  • As I mentioned, I am using an AT2020USB mic, how do I plug my USB mic into the interface? I thought there is only XLR plug for the input?

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Should I buy an audio interface to support my AT2020USB mic? Is it necessary to buy it...

If you keep the existing microphone, than no. The primary purpose of an audio interface is to convert an analog signal into a digital one. Because your microphone is a USB mic (and USB cables carry a digital signal) there is already an analog-to-digital converter built into the mic. No further conversion is necessary or possible.

Will it sound better with an audio interface?

No, your USB mic will not work with an audio interface, for the reason you mention below.

As I mentioned, I am using an AT2020USB mic, how do I plug my USB mic into the interface? I thought there is only XLR plug for the input?

You are correct. XLR cables carry an analog signal rather than a digital one, so they need to be converted to digital first, hence the need for an audio interface.

The benefit of the USB mic is that you have everything you need integrated into one convenient package, without the need for anything else. The downside is that you cannot incrementally customize or upgrade your toolchain. For example, I have a non-USB version of the AT2020 along with a cheap (M-Audio) interface, therefore, I could theoretically upgrade the interface without changing the mic (or vice versa). In fact, the audio interface is useful to me, because I can throw in a different mic (such as a dynamic one instead of a condenser, if I wanted a specific sound), or even plug in a guitar.

So, yes, an audio interface can provide an improved sound, and a greater flexibility. But it is not needed (and, in fact, not compatible) with your USB mic. The question you should be asking is: is your current mic sufficient for your needs?

  • Thank you so so much for answering! But my USB mic still sounds awful when I'm recording my vocal using GarageBand, I heard too much air noise when I played it back. Are there any ways to enhance the quality? – Louis Davis May 27 '15 at 11:08
  • That mic should give perfectly acceptable results into GarageBand or any other DAW. There's a problem with your setup somewhere - difficuly to diagnose at a distance I'm afraid! I've known people plug in a USB mic but fail to select it as recording source - they were singing into the mic but actually recording through the computer's crappy built-in microphone. That could be worth checking, particularly if you use a laptop computer. – Laurence Payne Mar 4 '16 at 12:08
  • One more possible error: I have seen people singing into the "wrong" end of the microphone. The sound input is on the side of the mic where the switches are, not on the end. – ghellquist Apr 2 '18 at 17:03
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This is such an older outdated post.. So I thought I would update it.. You can in fact plug a USB condenser microphone into a mixer or an interface.. You need a standard USB brick charger (like you use for any cell phone or tablet) to power the USB microphone.. Then on the microphones headphone output you use a Mic out jack to Line In jack or Mic in jack on the hardware you are using via a converted male to male cable.. Voila! Enjoy!

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