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.
I’ve heard mixed things about using phantom power on ribbon mics, but for the most part, the consensus seems to be that you don’t want to use phantom power on your ribbon mic. The reason is that you’ll fry the inner components. However, I’ve heard other people say that it won’t damage unless you use it repeatedly.
Others argue that it’s mostly vintage ribbon mics whose inner components will be damaged by phantom power, but not so much the newer ones. Either way, connecting a ribbon mic to your PC or mobile device isn’t terribly different from connecting any other kind of mic.
It’s a simple process that requires the same amount of equipment and knowledge. Don’t use phantom power – just to be on the safe side – and you should be fine. 3 other important things to know about ribbon mics are they tend to be sensitive on the inside, so don’t drop it, make sure you have a shock mount, and also use a pop filter to protect the ribbon from direct flows of air. But I digress. Let’s get into the actual tutorial down below.
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Table of Contents
Gear You Need To Connect A Ribbon Mic To Your Computer
1) Audio Interface (iRig Pro I/O)
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)
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)
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)
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
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]
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Other Articles You May Be Interested In
- MXL R144 – The Best Budget Ribbon Microphone
- How to Use the Scarlett 2i2 With A Microphone [EXPLAINED]
- What is a USB Condenser Microphone?
- What Is A Condenser Microphone Used For?
- How to Connect a Dynamic Microphone to a Computer?
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.
2) MXL R144 (on Amazon)
3) XLR Cable (on Amazon)
4) Shock Mount (on Amazon)
5) Pop Filter (on Amazon)