I must admit... I don't know much about microphones. I'd like to buy a microphone that will record my talking voice and sound crisp and clear, unlike most cheap computer microphones which tend to record a lot of background static and wind when you pronounce the letter 's'. I'd really rather not spend much more than $100... I should save my funds for college and life after that if there is any.
All I have is that little microphone input on my audio card to get the sound into the computer. I don't have a mixer, have never used one, and would rather not buy one now if I can spare it. But I'm not sure what kind of output most mics have and how to get it into the computer...
Any help at all would be greatly appreciated. What I'd like to do is buy a mic from my local Guitar Center sometime this month... hopefully.
I'm not sure you can get what you want without a mixer, or at least a preamp. Any microphone worth its salt will need preamplification before it gets to your sound card.
It's a bit over your budget, but you can't go wrong with the Studio Projects C1 microphone. It came out a few years ago and became kind of a home-studio staple, because it's relatively cheap (just under $200), but it--supposedly--stacks up with $3000 Neumann mics. I have one and I've been very happy with it--I've used it for vocals, saxes, voiceovers, etc.
For this you will need a mixer or at least a preamp with phantom power. Check out one of the little Behringer Euroracks for a small inexpensive mixer, or your cheapest bet would be to pick up an Audio Buddy preamp (I have all of the above and they all do the trick). The Audiobuddy is great for a small portable way of recording into your sound card. I carry it around in my laptop case.
You can also try a dynamic vocal mic like the Shure SM-58 or the Audix OM-2. These will be cheaper than the C1, but not as rich and crisp sounding. You'll still need a mixer or a preamp, but you won't need phantom power.
There is also the Shure SM-57 which is kind of a everybody-has-to-have-one microphone for recording -- it's an all-purpose mic, although I'm not sure how it handles vocals.
You could probably get a used Audio Buddy and a Shure or Audix without going too far over $100. But I think you'll be happiest with the C1.
I don't have a mixer, have never used one, and would rather not buy one now if I can spare it. But I'm not sure what kind of output most mics have and how to get it into the computer...
Most microphones have XLR connectors--a round 3-pronged plug about the size of a coin. You'll need to adapt this to a 1/8" plug on your sound card, but you need to have a preamp in between in order to get it up to a respectable level.
I was in your same exact situation about 5 years ago in college, and I finally sucked it up and bought a mixer. It was the best thing I ever did for my studio. The Behringer Euroracks are great "starter" mixers, and they're really not complicated at all once you play with them for a few minutes. You'll be glad you learned your way around one.
If you're still intimidated, then just get the Audio Buddythat I mentioned in my last post -- just two volume knobs (one per microphone), and a power switch. Nothing to worry about.
I'll second the Studio Projects C1 recommendation, nice-sounding mic, use mine frequently. I'll add another great first mic in the same price range, the Rode NT1a. But here's a true $99 wonder: the Audio Technica AT2020. These are all condensor mics, and will need phantom power and a preamp. So while you're at GC, grab the cheapest Behringer mixer you can find, probably like $39, it will hold you over until you can afford more, and will let you get your feet wet.
But be warned, it's very addictive once you start this recording thing...a real slippery slope ahead.
As everyone has mentioned, for good quality speech (and singing), you need a large diaphragm condenser mic with a phantom power supply (hence normally also a mixer). The line out from the mixer goes to your line in on your soundcard.
When I first got a Superlux (on DPDan's recommendation and the one pictured in at least the second picture) I also bought a UB802 mixer. I think the two together cost around £90 at the time which I thought was a reasonable price to pay for the quality and clarity of results.
The Behringer UB802 mixer is not the quietest in the world, but if you are fairly close to mic, the S/N ratio is not far off 'hi-fi/broadcast' quality. If you are distant to the mic, you would have to rack the gain up and then the circuitry noise kicks in. I am so delighted with my Superlux, I have bought another one (albeit because our baby broke the first one!). Note the UB802 phantom power is either on or off across both mic channels.
A freind of mine uses a Rode NT1A with excellent results - a little more expensive than the Superlux. He also gets great recordings from his Shure SM58, but I can't seem to achieve those results which are dull compared to the Superlux (dynamic, v condenser) so my Shure sits in the drawer.
Samson have recently brought out a large diaphragm condenser that connects directly via USB which would theoretically solve your problem of needing quality, but not wanting a desk. The two reviews I read though I felt were hesitant in their praise (and if a reviewer is hesitating to praise a product from one of the magazine's main advertisers, it usually spells BIG trouble).
And if you consider buying a preamp, you might want to have a look at Studio Project's VTB-1: http://www.studioprojectsusa.com/vtb1.html
I use the VTB-1 a lot, and I believe it's great for both vocal recordings and for example recording an electric bass straight into the sound card.
In Sweden the B1 and the VTB-1 are now sold together in a special bundle, for a nice price! Maybe US dealers have the same offer?!
If you've got lungs and want less background noise, consider the Shure 58 dynamic or equivalent. Even Bono has used the 58 on studio recordings. He gets right on top of the thing, and doesn't even use headphones. He sings along with the monitors. The bleed is low enough that the engineers can still mix him to taste.
With a large condenser and pop filter, you'll be a bit away from the mic. That means it will pick up the room noise and reflections, so you'll want to be in a quiet, treated room.
Given your price range and the desire to reduce background noise, go for a dynamic. The Shure Beta 88 is worth a look. You'll still need a preamp, but not phantom power. The cheaper Behringer would do the trick.