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I've bought an acltron mc410. It's a FET condenser mic that requires phantom power. I hooked it up to phantom power with XLR to XLR and connected the power to the laptop with XLR to 3.5mm audio jack. It's not being detected on any of the laptops I've tried it on. The phantom power seems to be working fine.

Could it be because it requires an external audio interface or sound card? I was under the assumption that when not provided with one, mics will use the internal sound card of the laptop. Since my laptop has a microphone, I assume there's both a DAC and ADC in the internal sound card so the necessary electronics should be there. Are there any mics that absolutely require external sound cards?

  • First suspect would be the XLR-jack - what's the pin-out ? – Tetsujin Oct 12 '18 at 12:07
  • @Tetsujin if pin out doesn't refer to a technical term I dont know of, and just refers to the number of pins, then it's 3. Both cables (XLR to XLR and XLR to3. 5mm)I bought for the mic and are brand new. So I don't think it's from them. – M Zein Oct 12 '18 at 12:44
  • 'pin-out' is basically 'what wire is soldered to what terminal?' Google images has a lot of examples of unbalanced wiring from XLR – Tetsujin Oct 12 '18 at 12:51
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    Compulsory link to xkcd: standards ;) There is no single standard, which is why I asked the question. – Tetsujin Oct 12 '18 at 12:57
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    Those pin numbers(!) on XLRs are standard. The fact is that those three pins need to be connected to specific parts of the other plug on the cable. There are several different conventions, or even a dry joint or disconnection/broken wire. I seem to find plenty of them! – Tim Oct 12 '18 at 15:59
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Most computers will not "recognise" a microphone unless the microphone has active circuitry for that purpose (eg USB mics)

If you have the correct adapter, and are correctly powering your mic then you should be able to use the computer's built in audio circuitry, but because of all the ways you could get that wrong, and the fact that external audio interfaces are better in every way (lower noise floor, greater range, better isolation etc) I would always recommend getting one. Ideally an externally powered one, if you can - this helps reduce your noise floor and possible sources of interference even more.

  • I understand that external audio interfaces are better. I have ordered a midrange sound card but it needs time to arrive. Investing in a proper interface with a preamp is for another time. For now, I'm trying to know if something in my setup is dysfunctional or if it's just the lack of an external interface. I thought mics should be automatically recognized if they're connected properly through the 3.5mm audio jack. What I'm getting out of your answer is sometimes computers never recognize mics unless there's active USB circuitry involved, which can be provided trough an external interface? – M Zein Oct 12 '18 at 14:37
  • @MZein The audio jack doesn't have any functionality to "recognise" a device at all. It is for analogue signals. USB is a digital interface, and allows for much greater functionality. – Doktor Mayhem Oct 12 '18 at 14:42
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    Alright thanks. I presume I'll be figuring out if something in the set up is faulty when the sound card arrives. I expect it to be fine as everything is brand new and yet to be used. – M Zein Oct 12 '18 at 14:46
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    I have to post a link to one of my myriad 'what to do with the cheap condenser I just bought' answers, over on Sound Design - sound.stackexchange.com/a/44185/9601 - it doesn't directly answer the question, but may be salient. – Tetsujin Oct 12 '18 at 17:33

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