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I use a simple setup to record vocals on a music track. I plug in my AT 2020 USB mic directly into the USB port of my Mac and the headphones into the mic headphone jack. And I'm set up for recording my vocals in Audacity.

My question is: Will my recording quality improve by:

  • Adding an audio interface
  • Changing the DAW
  • I have edited this down to the on-topic question here. – Doktor Mayhem Jun 19 '17 at 7:32
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    "Mac" : Apple Computer. "MAC" : media access control mechanism. – Carl Witthoft Jun 19 '17 at 11:17
  • There's only one thing guaranteed to improve your recording quality: practice. Recording is an art like playing an instrument. Keep practicing and trying new things and you'll get better at it. – Todd Wilcox Jun 19 '17 at 11:43
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In theory, you already have all you need.

The upside of a USB mic is that it does the conversion from analog to digital for you, so no separate mic preamp is needed.

Once in the digital domain, then to all intents & purposes one DAW is as good as any other.

What you would gain from a 'better' DAW is in the editing, mixer bay & audio plugin areas - though Audacity has equivalents for a lot of those.
A better DAW starts to become a necessity once you exhaust the possibilities of your existing setup.

There's a lot of mileage in your freeware setup; work with it, experiment with plugins - compressors, reverbs, EQ - etc. - until you are sure you have extracted the most from it that's possible... then look at the paid options.
If, as it sounds, you are doing what is effectively 'adding a vocal track to karaoke' then you may never actually need to step up to a paid solution.

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Audacity records a raw audio signal exactly the same way any other DAW does. More advanced programs may offer more tools for messing with the audio once recorded - adding effects and manipulating the sound in other ways. The AT 2020 is a pretty good mid-price mic. But, unlike DAW programs, different mics DO sound different. Not necessarily better, even when moving to a higher price bracket, but different.

There is nothing in your present setup that shouts out as limiting quality. THe main factor is quality of performance. Also the room you record in can be 'heard', and if it's 'boxy'or 'boomy' there's not much the recording gear can do about it.

In the last few years, the quality of budget-priced gear has become very adequate. Though it's still possible to buy crap, it doesn't cost much to get to the level where spending a lot more money doesn't make much difference. And you're well at that level.

Do pay attention to room sound though.

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There is nothing to be gained by adding an interface or changing your DAW. If you are getting on ok with Audacity, fine. If not, Garage Band is certainly more user-friendly. You may want to consider one of the inexpensive 'mini screen' systems that are available now for isolating the microphone and getting a purer sound. Basically, instead of treating the whole room for sound, you mount these little screens at chest height around you and the microphone to create a miniature 'recording booth'.

  • There was a fashion for those screens. Sometimes putting it behind your head was as effective as putting it around the mic! I always found the tent of duvets technique more effective in taming a nasty-sounding room. Bad rooms condemn you to ultra-close miking, with all the additional problems that brings. I've even known studios where live musicians were never going to be recorded simultaneously with vocals nevertheless build a 'vocal booth'. Presumably they LIKE the sound of a voice in a wardrobe? – Laurence Payne Jun 20 '17 at 8:58
  • Ah yes, but duvets do tend to trap effluvia while wardrobes can be reassuring to closet Carusos. – Areel Xocha Jun 20 '17 at 12:08

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