Hardware, Studio Setup

How To Connect A Ribbon Microphone To Your Computer [EASY]

Written By : Andrew Siemon

To connect your ribbon microphone to your computer, you need an audio interface like the iRig PRO I/O or Scarlett 2i2. Connect it to your PC, then run an XLR cable from the ribbon microphone to the input on the audio interface. Ensure you’re using a proper shock mount, and avoid using phantom power.

The consensus seems to be that you don’t want to use phantom power on your ribbon mic. The reason is you’ll fry the inner components, especially if done repeatedly. 3 other important things to know is they tend to be sensitive on the inside. So don’t drop it. Also, make sure you have a shock mount and a pop filter to protect the ribbon from direct airflow.

Gear You Need To Connect A Ribbon Mic To Your Computer

1) Audio Interface (iRig Pro I/O)

iRig PRO I/O - How To Connect A Ribbon Microphone To Your Computer [EASY]
I’ve been using the iRig PRO I/O (on my Page) for about a month now and I really like it.

The iRig PRO I/O is a great audio interface if you want something super portable and easy to use. I like it more than the iRig HD 2 because the PRO has an XLR and 1/4″ input, unlike the iRig HD 2 which is just for guitar and bass (my review).

Additionally, I would say the PRO I/O is an upgrade in terms of build quality and durability which is a welcome improvement that I discussed briefly in my article comparing the HD 2 and PRO I/O.

2) Ribbon Microphone (MXL R144)

MXL R144 - How To Connect A Ribbon Microphone To Your Computer [EASY]
I first got the MXL R144 (on my Page as well) in the middle of the 2020 pandemic.

The MXL R144 is a great introduction to the world of ribbon microphones because it’s affordable, unlike many of the other ribbon microphones that you’ll find on the market. I’m unaware of any other ribbon mics of a similar price point, although, I’m sure you could find one if you looked hard enough.

3) XLR Cable (Any XLR Cable)

XLR Cable - How to Connect a Ribbon Mic to a Computer?
You can find XLR cables anywhere, including on Amazon.

Obviously, the XLR cable is just as important as the microphone itself because if you don’t have the XLR jack, you can’t connect anything.

That said, almost any old XLR cable will work just fine. The one shown in the image is a Quebec, Canada brand.

4) Shock Mount (Comes With The MXL R144)

Shock Mount - How To Connect A Ribbon Microphone To Your Computer [EASY]
You get a shock mount right in the box if you purchase the MXL R144. But again, these are readily available as singular units on Amazon.

One of the nice things about the MXL R144 is that you get a solid case that’s packed with tons of other accessories including a shock mount. And surprisingly, some of the other gear you get in the box is actually pretty good quality.

The amount of value you get for the price is honestly pretty impressive. You definitely want a shock mount for the ribbon microphone because these mics tend to be quite sensitive. You don’t want any of the inner components bouncing around or making themself vulnerable.

5) Pop Filter

Pop Filter - How To Connect A Ribbon Microphone To Your Computer [EASY]
You get what you pay for, and this was certainly the case when I bought the pop filter as part of a set shown above. While everything else in the box was great, the pop filter wasn’t so good. I would be willing to pay a little bit more than what is the going rate for a pop filter because it’ll be worth it.

You also need a pop filter for the ribbon microphone because there is a sensitive ribbon component on the inside of the mic that can be damaged easily if you blow on it too hard. For this reason, you want a pop filter to protect the ribbon from heavy plosive sounds or currents of direct air.

Without further ado, let’s get into how to actually set up the ribbon microphone with your computer or mobile device. The principles are pretty much the same regardless of whether you’re using a PC or phone/tablet.

How To Connect A Ribbon Mic to A Computer [A Step-By-Step Guide]

How To Connect A Ribbon Mic to A Computer [A Step-By-Step Guide]  - Infographic
To connect a ribbon microphone to your PC or mobile device, connect an audio interface with the appropriate cable and then run an XLR cable from the input on the audio interface to your ribbon microphone. Set the ribbon microphone in a shock mount and use a pop filter to protect it.

Once you’ve gone through every step that I’ve just outlined above, you can then go into your computer’s settings and configure it there, or you can do so in your DAW. I’ll show you how to do both in the section at the end, but first, let’s go through a step-by-step tutorial on how to do everything I just stated.

1) Connect The Audio Interface To Your PC

Connect-iRig-to-Computer - How To Connect A Ribbon Mic to A Computer [A Step-By-Step Guide]
The first thing you want to do is actually connect your audio interface to your PC like what’s shown here.

In the case of the iRig PRO I/O, I just use the Mini-DIN to USB-C cable that comes in the box. This simplifies the process because I don’t need any other adapters. If you buy the PRO I/O, you get almost every kind of cable that you could possibly need.

2) Connect The Mic to the Audio Interface Via XLR Cable

XLR-Connection-for-Mic - How To Connect A Ribbon Mic to A Computer [A Step-By-Step Guide]
Connect your XLR cable to your iRig PRO at the bottom.

The three-pronged side of the XLR cable should go into the input of the audio interface. Ensure the phantom power is turned off and turn down the gain a bit to ensure you don’t create any super loud or unexpected noises.

3) Put Your Ribbon Mic In A Shock Mount

Ribbon Mic in Shock Mount - How To Connect A Ribbon Mic to A Computer [A Step-By-Step Guide]
Put your mic in the shock mount.

Your shock mount will have to attach to a boom arm of some kind. It could also be attached to a camera stand or some other device that you probably already own. If you don’t, these are readily available on Amazon as well.

4) Make Sure To Also Use A Pop Filter

Pop-Filter - How To Connect A Ribbon Mic to A Computer [A Step-By-Step Guide]
Attach a pop filter to the microphone’s shock mount so you can protect the ribbon on the inside of the mic.

And finally, you want to go into your DAW or your computer’s settings to actually configure everything and get ready to record with your new mic. We’ll start with the computer’s preferences first.

5) Go Into Your System Preferences (Or DAW Preferences) To Set Up The Input

A) Setting It Up In System Preferences

Preferences > Input - How To Connect A Ribbon Mic to A Computer [A Step-By-Step Guide]
Click on the gear icon on your computer and then go into the Sound settings.

For your input, you’ll want to choose your audio interface, whether it’s the Scarlett as shown in the image above or the iRig PRO I/O. The image shown here is an old one from a Scarlett 2i2 so the settings correspond to it. The principle is the same though.

B) Setting It Up In Your DAW

With your DAW open, in this case, GarageBand, go into Settings, then Audio/MIDI, and then choose the iRig Pro I/O as your input device. Set your Output device while you’re at it.

If you wanted to connect headphones to your audio interface and use those, you would then want to set your output device to your audio interface.

But if you just want to use the built-in speaker or a speaker system that’s connected directly to your computer, you would then use the “Built-In Output” option. And that’s it for this tutorial.

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Important Things To Note About Connecting A Ribbon Microphone To A PC

1) There Are Other Audio Interfaces And Ribbon Mics Available

You don’t have to get the MXL R144 or the iRig PRO I/O. There are other ribbon microphones on the market, although, I would say that most of them are quite expensive – at least from what I’ve seen.

When it comes to an audio interface, there are a lot more options under $150 if you’re looking. I think if you are to get one, the iRig PRO I/O or Scarlett 2i2 is a great start. You could get the Scarlett Solo if you wanted something even simpler. You’ll quickly outgrow the Solo though.

Gear Mentioned

1) iRig PRO I/O

2) MXL R144

3) XLR Cable

4) Shock Mount

5) Pop Filter

Andrew Siemon is the principal creator of ProducerSociety.com, a website dedicated to all things music, including music production, music theory, recording, and how to use the most popular DAWs. Starting out as a metal guitarist, Andrew has since moved into other areas of music production including hip-hop and fusion

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