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Help finding a complete desktop solution for a low budget - Will need USB Interface, Mic, and later on some desktop monitors

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

First of all I would like to say hi! I have been lurking this forum on and off for a couple of years, and have lurked it solid for this past week :)

 

I have recently built myself a fairly high spec PC. Primarily the PC will be used for gaming and I had initially put an Asus Xonar Phoebus Solo PCI-e card in it. However I was getting terrible interference problems that I simply could not fix (particularly on the mic input).

 

So it is boxed up and in the process of being returned and I am now looking for an external desktop solution.

 

My current headphones are Qpad QH-90's with detachable mic boom and some Sennheiser HD-555's. The issue I have found is that once outside of the garden variety of desktop interfaces (Creative, Asus etc) there seems to be no products that cater for 3.5mm TRS stereo mic input. All 3.5mm inputs appear to be for line level inputs. I have spent this last week searching high and low and the only product I found was the Audiotrak Prodigy Cube which is probably not worth having imported to the UK.

 

One of the most important uses for the setup will be for communicating in a program called Mumble as I play a team game that requires a lot of communication, hence why I am using the QH-90's. I don't have a massive budget though, and I am looking at around £200-£300 for the interface, mic and all necessary connecting accessories and cables.

 

After hitting a brick wall I decided I really didn't want use any of my PC's on-board sound and I fancy something a little better than your average sound blaster set up. So I set about looking for a desktop solution with separate desktop mic. Essentially I am after something that can use a mic, power headphones and also be used with monitors a bit further down the line when I can afford some (my current speakers are Creative i-trigue L3500 2.1 connected via a single 3.5mm plug which the MicroBook can support).

 

So the current set up I am considering is:

 

Motu MicroBook II USB interface

T-bone SC450 mic

T-bone table top mic stand

 

I was also considering a Scarlett 2i4 instead of the MicroBook, but I am using a Z87 motherboard and I have read there are issues between the two. If anyone can comment on this it would be helpful.

 

I would appreciate any input. It may be my chosen route/setup idea is not brilliant to I am open to suggestions.

 

Further down the line I want to invest in some desktop monitors, so whatever the main interface is, it needs to support output for monitors. Not sure if I should get passive or active yet as I still don't really understand how audio systems work. So again I am open to suggestions. As with the rest of the kit I probably wont have a massive budget for the monitors. I am guessing around £200 for the pair. I could maybe get a little more together if the difference in quality justified it, but having already spent near to £2.5k on the PC, I am trying to keep costs down.

 

I'm not sure if my PC specs are relevant but it is an i7 4770k on an Asus Z87 motherboard, 16GB RAM, R9 290GPU and a 256GB SSD running Windows 7 64 Bit.

 

Thanks

post #2 of 7
I'm a bit confused - I admit I'm not a mic or gaming soundcard expert, but I don't quite understand what you are saying about the 3.5mm connectors.

So, help me out - you want an external gaming soundcard with a mic input? But you don't want something like these?
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829102032
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829102035

Are you also wanting this external soundcard to handle Dolby/DTS mutli-channel digital?

If I'm understanding correctly, one way you might be able to handle this is by using a separate USB mic. The mic doesn't have to be part of the same sound card - the PC can see multiple audio devices and use one for output and a different one for input.
post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by billybob_jcv View Post

I'm a bit confused - I admit I'm not a mic or gaming soundcard expert, but I don't quite understand what you are saying about the 3.5mm connectors.

So, help me out - you want an external gaming soundcard with a mic input? But you don't want something like these?
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829102032
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829102035

Are you also wanting this external soundcard to handle Dolby/DTS mutli-channel digital?

If I'm understanding correctly, one way you might be able to handle this is by using a separate USB mic. The mic doesn't have to be part of the same sound card - the PC can see multiple audio devices and use one for output and a different one for input.

 

Hi, thanks for the reply.

 

OK - regarding the 3.5mm connectors of my gaming headset, it is a dual plug. 1x3.5mm TRS plug for the headphones and 1x3.5mm TRS plug for the mic boom. The mic is designed to take power from the jack of the soundcard or front panel audio. This is a problem with most external interfaces. I cannot connect my current mic to them as they tend to use line level impedance so my mic will not be powerful enough to drive them (or so I understand), nor will they be able to provide the required 2v power through the jack. This is why I believe the solution is to get a new mic.

 

My current mic specs are:

 

Microphone Transducer type: Condenser(back electret)

Operating principle: Pressure gradient

Polar Pattern: Cardioid

Power supply: AB powering Supply voltage: 2V

Current consumption: Max 0.5 mA

Nominal impedance: ≤2.2 kΩ ± 30%

Open circuit voltage at f = 1 kHz 20 mV / Pa

Frequency response: 100 - 12,000 Hz

T.H.D: 2% at f = 1 kHz Max.

SPL: 105dB SPL (THD ≤ 1.0% at 1KHz)

Microphone output: -39±3dB

Dimensions: Ø6*5mm

Length mic boom: 150MM(include gooseneck)

Capsule diameter: Ø6mm

 

You are correct that I don't really want to use either of the two products that you have linked to. I wanted something a little more upmarket if possible. The soundcard does not need to be gaming orientated as such. I don't really want or need 7.1 or 5.1 either. Good quality stereo is adequate. I intend to add a pair of monitors later down the line, so the sound card must support that.

 

I do not wish to use a USB mic as I am under the impression that I would need to use my onboard sound card to do so. Ideally I want to disable it completely and only use the external sound card. Mainly because I don't want the hassle of maintaining two devices, as well as the issues of driver conflicts etc.

 

I hope this helps to clarify things a little.

 

Thanks.

post #4 of 7
I'm sorry - but this still doesn't make sense. Your current headset has two 3.5mm TRS plugs, correct? And the mic currently plugs-in to a standard sound card with a mic input, correct?

OK, if this is true, then your mic is not any kind of special device. Line-level *is* ~2 volts. Your mic is the same as every other standard PC mic that plugs into a sound card. All you need is a device with a mic input. I'm not sure who told you that your mic can't plug into an external device, but I think they are wrong.

Secondly, the audio device for the mic doesn't have to be the same audio device used for the headphones. You can have one audio device for input and a different audio device for output. So, you could plug your mic into your current mic input jack, and you can still use a USB DAC/amp for your headphones and later as a lineout for your active speakers or power amp + passive speakers.

Thirdly, you do not need to use your onboard soundcard with a USB mic. The USB mic does not use the soundcard at all - it would work in a PC with no soundcard at all.

Fourthly, there are many devices similar to the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. Presonus, Avid, Behringer, Lexicon, Tascam, Roland, etc, etc all make essentially the same type of USB box with a couple of mic inputs, one or more lineouts and a headphone jack.

The t-bone SC450 mic you listed requires phantom power. This means you MUST have a mic preamp like the Focusrite or any of the similar devices. Phantom power is 48 volts DC - no typical PC soundcards can provide phantom power - you must use one of the "pro sound" devices. What caused you to pick the T.Bone SC450? That's sort of an unusual choice for a desktop mic.
post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hi, thanks again for the help. I bet you are not nearly as confused as me!

 

Regarding mic input - this seems to be the problem. Very few devices outside of the usual Asus/creative units have a 3.5mm mic input. Any 3.5mm input is listed as line-in on most USB sound cards. I was advised on another forum that line in jacks would not provide 2v power and would have an impedance that my mic would not be powerful enough to drive.

 

Thanks for the info on the USB mic. That certainly opens a lot more choices for a mic. I was put under the impression (again on another forum) that a USB mic would still have to go through the internal on board sound card. If that is not the case then certainly a USB mic is now an option.

 

I have already looked at the majority of devices you mention and all of the mic inputs are 6.3mm TRS or XLR (or TRS XLR combo jacks). If what I understand of your comments is correct, is it possible to use the 3.5mm mic plug into a 6.3mm TRS adapter and plug my headphone mic into the mic in jack on something like a Scarlett 2i2? (making sure phantom power was off, as I have been told elsewhere this would fry the mic).

 

With regard to the T-bone SC450, it just seemed like a pretty cost effective mic and had some good reviews. A team mate of mine uses a studio style mic on his desktop and it works quite well. Certainly it would not be my primary choice now I know I can use a USB mic without any internal on board sound though. I was inder the impression that the MicroBook II provided 48v phantom power, hence why I chose a phantom powered mic.

 

Does this make anything clearer at all? I feel like I am getting tied up in knots! :)

 

Cheers

post #6 of 7
My advice is:

1) Your friend has a working system, get exactly what he has.

or

2) Buy a bundle like this that has everything you need and is made to fit together: http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/AudioBoxStu/
post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 
I have a working system, that is not the issue here. What I am looking to do is get a better system than I already have. Simply copying my team mates set up is not going to achieve that as his current set up is actually worse than mine (except his mic).

I have considered the combo you linked to already and presonus are not the only company to offer them. However I dont need the headphones. It was these bundles that encouraged me to put together the kit I mentioned in my first post - it is my own DIY bundle.

What I have been looking for is good advice and clarification on points such as line in jacks (ie would they support my current mic, do they provide power to the jack at 2v, can I use a 3.5mm mic plug>6.3mm converter>into mic in on something like the Scarlett 2i2 and so on and so forth).

The kit I listed in my first post will do what I need easily and is superior to the basic presonus stuff you linked to. The purpose of me coming here was to get help with possible alternatives and clarification on my questions, not to simply copy my team mates set up or buy a cheap combo. Although my DIY bundle is good, is it the best I can do for my budget? What are the alternatives that offer comparible specs and quality for similar price point? What are the alternative routes I could take? These are the kind of questions I am trying to find answers to.

We have already established that a USB mic is now an option. So there is a different avenue for me to explore. What about the sound card? You mentioned the t-bone mic being an odd choice, can you advise on or recommend an alternative?

If sound cards and mics are not your area of expertise can you point me to someone who does know the ins and outs? Would it be worth me posting my questions in another area of the forum do you think?

Thanks again!
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