Looking for a general-purpose microphone with easy 3.5mm interfacing

Hi. I need suggestions for a mono microphone suitable for recording ambient sounds, noises and simple acoustic instruments like strummed strings, metal plates, noise boxes, etc. I will be using it mainly to feed live audio into my modular synth: I already have an input amplification module with adjustable gain up to 20dB/40dB, but I need to bring the signal through a 3.5mm jack somehow.

I can already do exactly that with my digital recorder, a Tascam DR-05, which has a nice on-board microphone that can be monitored “live” through line-out. Problem is, I already use it to record the final output of my performances, so it can’t be used as a microphone at the same time. I could buy another similar digital recorder, but I think it’ll be redundant and I’d prefer to focus on the exact use case.

Given I know literally nothing about microphones, I don’t know where to start looking. I looked at condenser microphones, small “video” microphones, but I have no idea what specs should I look for. Do they need phantom power? Do some impedance values make it unusable in my setup? Is the polar pattern relevant in my use case? The majority of them features a XLR connector only, will I be fine with a stupid XLR to TRS cable if I don’t care about having a balanced signal? Or I should prefer microphones with on-board 3.5mm outputs?

There’s no strict budget, but I’d like to stay around 100€ - 200€. Thanks!

tl;dr: I need a general-microphone for feeding live sounds into my modular synth, but I know nothing about microphones specs and XLR connectors.

LOM audio have some great products, though not entirely sure they’ll fit your description. I’m very pleased with my USI Pro

2 Likes

Well, they look exactly tailored at the type of sounds I want to record. I loved how the examples sounds, and I like that they’re very small. Thanks!

I’m looking at the basic Uši now, the one with the 3.5mm connector, but it’s not clear to me what “plug-in power” means. I see a standard TRS cable at the end, so I guess there’s ground and the two mics’ signals there, where is power? Again, keep in mind I know literally nothing about microphones.

that’s the one I actually have. I use mine plugged into a Zoom recorder, so it get’s it’s power from that I guess

Ok then, I guess I have to dig deeper into the power subject, and try to guess if the input module of my synth is capable of that. Again, thanks for the tip.

Edit: partly answering myself, here for reference and future readers, from Wikipedia:

Plug-in-power (PiP) is the low-current 3–5 V supply provided at the microphone jack of some consumer equipment, such as portable recorders and computer sound cards […] It is unlike phantom power since it is an unbalanced interface with a low voltage connected to the signal conductor with return through the sleeve; the DC power is in common with the audio signal from the microphone. A capacitor is used to block the DC from subsequent audio frequency circuits. It is suitable only for powering microphones specifically designed for use with this type of power supply. Damage may result if these microphones are connected to true (48 V) phantom power through a 3.5 mm to XLR adapter that connects the XLR shield to the 3.5 mm sleeve.

2 Likes

same mic capsules (Primo EM172) as used in the LOM usi I think. also available in DIY.

3 Likes

This is great, however this still requires plug-in-power, I see. Given that, I can’t explain the picture with the microphone directly attached to the smartphone: do smartphones provide plug-in-power for microphones?

Thanks!

Yeah, I made some further research about electret microphones powering, unfortunately looks like there’s no tiny Eurorack module that provides plug-in power like portable recorders does (including my Tascam, now I know). So it’d be hard and cumbersome to use them in my setup, since I’d need external powering units (hard to find, anyway) or build some kind of DIY solution (which I’d be perfectly able to, but still, it’d look ugly and I don’t want to risk undermining signal quality).

Given everything said before, I guess here you mean a microphone that doesn’t use any kind of power, being high-voltage phantom power or low-voltage plug-in power, right?

I think this is probably my best choice as of now.

Again, thanks everyone for guiding me through learning about all this stuff! If anyone else has something to add or specific models to suggest, I’m all ears.

1 Like

Another option to consider, is getting an input module like the Expert Sleepers Little Mikey. It’s reasonably-priced, and has an option to provide phantom power. An Usi Pro into the Little Mikey would be a nice combination.

1 Like

Unfortunately I have no 1U rows in my systems. However it’d be great to have schematics for this E-Tret, I could try working on that in the future, maybe. I have some experience in making DIY 3U modules. Asking Pulp Logic costs nothing, let’s try :smile:

Quite big for my portable system, also looks like it doesn’t have plug-in power, but only higher voltage phantom power. Thanks for the suggestion anyway.

I have an Azden SM-10 video mic that I bought years ago for recording video. It takes batteries but still requires phantom power so when I use it I have to connect it the mic in to my Tascam audio recorder. Also, it’s a stereo mic.

I know next to nothing about mics as well, so I have no idea if that info is helpful. I like the mic though and have used it to record ambient sounds and stuff around the house.

Thanks. Actually, it says “powered by AAA battery or plug-in power”, so it looks like I don’t need to provide any power if I use batteries, which is what I want. I’ll add it to the list, it’s well under my budget, although I’m a bit worried about its 100Hz frequency response lower limit.

1 Like

For the price range, you could pick up another tascam or zoom recorder and just use it for the live output, with the bonus of also being able to record whatever it’s picking up.

3 Likes

The battery seems to have no effect with my mic. It could very well be me though, I’ve only recently taken an interest in it, to be honest, I often forget to turn it off and I may just need to swap out the battery.

I have a question about the XLR to 3.5mm TRS converter cable. As I understood it, the tip and ring will provide the audio signal and its opposite, because of the balanced XLR pins. My input module have a stereo input jack and two mono L+R modular outputs, so my question is, will I get the signal and its opposite on the L and R channels? Will I be fine with one of them until I don’t mix with the other one?

Also consider just getting a small mixer and feed the system from that. Then you have xlr, phantom power and also a fader, meters, headphone monitoring etc. The most solid and playable approach perhaps…

No doubt, but I’d like to use it also for a 48HP portable, battery-powered setup to use outside, so I guess a mixer, albeit small, is quite impractical :slight_smile:PS: I’m deciding on the Rode NT-3, which is both battery-powered and phantom-powered through XLR, I already have a MACKIE Mix5 at home, in case I want to use it in studio.

You’re just going to route the mic signal to one of your mono inputs. Ideally, you use a TRS to TS cable with tip-tip, ring-shield, and cable shield left floating on the TS side. With a TRS to TRS cable plugged into a TS jack, the ring will short to ground—which may be fine.

In my case, the input module (an EricaSynth Pico INPUT) has a standard stereo TRS input, which gets amplified and splitted into the two mono modular-level L/R outputs. So I will plug the TRS cable directly, that is why (having a basic knowledge of how balanced signals works, but knowing nothing about how XLR/TRS cables are made) I asked what to expect on L/R.