This tutorial shows you exactly what you need to know when you want to connect your XLR microphone to your computer (PC or Mac).
We use a Shure SM58, Shure SM7B, and AKG C 3000 B microphone, so you see how different types of microphones work, complete with a demonstration on the computer.
Are you looking to connect an XLR microphone to your computer (Mac or PC)? There are many great reasons that you may want to do this:
- Studio Recording (Garageband, Protools, Ableton, Logic, etc.)
- Video Conferencing (Zoom, Google Chat, FaceTime, Skype, etc.)
- Live Streaming (YouTube, Twitch, Periscope, etc.)
Generally speaking, there are two ways to achieve your goal:
- XLR To USB Cable/Adapter
- USB Audio Interface
We’ll go into both options and let you know why we think the USB Audio Interface is the best way to achieve your goals.
Related: Best XLR Cable For Your Microphone
XLR To USB Cable / Adapter
In some circumstances, it may be possible to use a cheap ~$20 cable to plug an XLR microphone into your desktop or laptop computer’s USB input. In our tests, this solution has worked well for handheld dynamic microphones like the Shure SM58.
That being said, we don’t recommend this solution for the following reasons:
- It doesn’t offer a lot of gain. This can make it tricky for dynamic microphones like the Shure SM7B.
- This would only work for dynamic microphones (Condenser microphones require phantom power).
XLR To USB Cable Price: https://currentprice.io/xlr_to_usb
USB Audio Interface
The USB Audio Interface is the most robust and reliable solution to connect your XLR microphone to your computer.
On the low end, several options for $100-250 will fit your needs:
All of these options do the same thing. They will give you:
- Two XLR inputs
- Independent volume control
- Main output control
- Headphone jack
- Phantom Power for Condenser Mics
- USB port to connect to your computer
With this option, you can also multitrack record.
This means that if you’re using ProTools, Garageband, Logic, or Ableton, you can record both inputs simultaneously to separate tracks.
This will allow you to adjust the volumes of both tracks (guitar & vocals, for example) after recording them.
The USB Audio Interface is the best solution for both Mac & PC Computer users.
Related: Audio Interface vs Audio Mixer | What Should You Buy?
USB Audio Mixers
A USB Audio Mixer is another great way to connect your XLR microphone to your computer.
With a USB audio mixer, you get the same connectivity as an audio interface, but you get more hardware-based control of your microphone inputs.
Not only do you get more control, but you get more inputs as well. If you need to connect several devices to your computer, an audio mixer is a great option.
If you decide on buying a small audio mixer for yourself, be aware that (most) audio mixers only send the stereo mix to your computer. You won’t be able to multi-track record each input separately.
A USB Audio mixer is more common for:
- Live Events
- Live Streaming
- Video Conferencing
- Hybrid Events (Broadcasting a live event online).
Some common USB Audio Mixers Include:
- Yamaha MG10XU Audio Mixing Console: https://currentprice.io/mg10xu
- Mackie ProFX10v3 Audio Mixing Console: https://currentprice.io/profx10v3
- Rode Rodecaster Pro II
Related: How to connect Audio Mixer to Interface
Digital Audio Mixer
Recently, digital audio mixers are becoming more common.
With a digital audio mixer you can have more control over more inputs compared to any of the other options in this video.
They give you an all-in-one recording suite, with the ability to record to SD card or connect to your computer.
Digital audio mixers have more on-board processing to help you sound your best, this can include:
- EQ Settings
- Noise Gate
Below are our favourite options for digital audio mixers:
- Rode Rodecaster Pro II: https://currentprice.io/rodecaster2
- Zoom Podtrak P8: https://currentprice.io/podtrak_p8
Mic Stand For XLR Microphones
Unless you bought a complete XLR microphone kit, you will need to buy some type of mic stand for your microphone.
There are two options to consider:
Table mic stands are inexpensive and rugged. They do an excellent job of positioning your microphone. The only downside to using a table stand is that it takes up space on your table.
On the other hand, you can use a microphone boom arm which will give you more flexibility with placement. They are easier to use and don’t take up valuable space on the table in front of you.
Below are some options that we love:
Next, you will need an XLR cable for your microphone.
Not all XLR cables are created equal.
Although most XLR cables “work”, here are some things to look for:
- Four conductors inside the XLR cable (Star Quad)
- High-Quality Shielding
- Good Amount of Flexibility
- Durable Connectors, preferably black.
If you are looking for more info, you can check out our guide to the best XLR cables for microphones.
Best XLR Cables
- Canare Star Quad (Best Overall)
- Mogami Gold Studio (Most Expensive, Best Shielding)
- Amazon Basics (Least Expensive)
- Hosa Technology Pro (Best Value)
How To Connect XLR Cable To Computer (PC or Mac)
How To Connect XLR Cable To Computer
- Connect Audio Interface (or mixer) To Computer
Connect audio interface (or mixer) to your computer using a USB cable.
- Mount XLR Microphone On Microphone Stand Or Boom Arm
Mount your XLR microphone on a microphone stand or boom arm.
- Connect XLR Microphone To Audio Interface (or Mixer)
Connect the XLR microphone to your audio interface or mixer using an XLR cable.
- Position The Microphone Correctly
Position the microphone so it’s 2-4″ from your mouth.
- Set The Gain/Level On Interface or Mixer
Set your gain on your audio interface so you are between -18dB to -12dB if you’re recording music or a podcast or between -12dB to -6dB if you’re live streaming
- Hit Record
Hit Record! This will largely depend on what software you’re using on your computer. You may be live streaming with OBS or zoom, or you might be recording with Garage Band or Audacity.
Equipment featured in this video:
- XLR to USB Cable – https://currentprice.io/xlr_to_usb
- Presonus USB Audio Interface – https://currentprice.io/audiobox
- XLR Cable – https://currentprice.io/xlr_cable
- Shure SM58 – https://currentprice.io/shure_sm58
- Shure SM7B – https://currentprice.io/shure_sm7b
- AKG C3000 – https://currentprice.io/akg_c3000
XLR To Computer Topics / Chapters
- 0:00 – Introduction
- 0:21 – Microphones For Test
- 1:22 – XLR to USB Cable / A/D Converter
- 3:55 – USB Audio Interface
- 6:51 – Comparing Both Options
- 7:45 – Final Thoughts
Connect XLR Mic to Computer FAQs
Although you can buy an XLR to USB cable, those only work on some types of XLR microphones. We recommend that you use an audio interface or mixer to connect an XLR mic to your computer, for the best results.
In order to use an XLR microphone on your computer, you need an audio interface or mixer. This will give you everything that you need to setup your XLR mic with your computer.
You can connect your XLR condenser mic to your computer with the help of an audio interface. An interface will give you the +48v of phantom power required to activate your condenser microphone.
It’s possible to use an XLR to USB cable, but they only work on some microphones. For best results you should always use an audio interface or mixer.
XLR to USB adapters work on some microphones, but not all. For best results, you should use an audio interface.