Microphone Adventures with Linux Mint

JohnJ

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Greetings. Preamble: I am looking for a microphone for my PC. Linux Mint 21.3 Cinnamon 6.0.4. I would like to record my voice over when using SimpleScreenRecorder. I have looked at various Linux (Minty and otherwise) forums that seem filled with problems, problems, problems regarding recognizing and using microphones. Most but not all talk about laptop and mic issues. My focus is on getting a mic going on my PC.
So, my question/s.
Is there a particular microphone or type of microphone I should be looking to purchase? I am thinking cheap and cheerful.
Yes, I could just go out and buy any old cheap and cheerful mic and just try it but thought I would run this past you Knowledgeable Ones first.
Cheers

System:
Host: johnj-Z97-D3H Kernel: 5.15.0-107-generic x86_64 bits: 64
compiler: gcc v: 11.4.0 Desktop: Cinnamon 6.0.4 tk: GTK 3.24.33 wm: muffin
dm: LightDM Distro: Linux Mint 21.3 Virginia base: Ubuntu 22.04 jammy
Machine:
Type: Desktop System: Gigabyte product: Z97-D3H v: N/A
serial: <superuser required> Chassis: type: 3 serial: <superuser required>
Mobo: Gigabyte model: Z97-D3H-CF v: x.x serial: <superuser required>
UEFI: American Megatrends v: F7 date: 06/17/2014


Audio:
Device-1: Intel Xeon E3-1200 v3/4th Gen Core Processor HD Audio
driver: snd_hda_intel v: kernel bus-ID: 00:03.0 chip-ID: 8086:0c0c
Device-2: Intel 9 Series Family HD Audio vendor: Gigabyte
driver: snd_hda_intel v: kernel bus-ID: 00:1b.0 chip-ID: 8086:8ca0
Device-3: NVIDIA GM206 High Definition Audio vendor: ASUSTeK
driver: snd_hda_intel v: kernel pcie: speed: 8 GT/s lanes: 16
bus-ID: 01:00.1 chip-ID: 10de:0fba
Sound Server-1: ALSA v: k5.15.0-107-generic running: yes
Sound Server-2: PulseAudio v: 15.99.1 running: yes
Sound Server-3: PipeWire v: 0.3.48 running: yes
 


Our newest Super Moderator, @JasKinasis may have some input for you

(he will receive a ping to that effect)
 
Great. Is there some advantage re USB type mic compared to a mic that plugs directly into a sound card access. I am thinking for Mint to recognise the mic
Typically, the microphone input on the motherboard is quite noisy - especially on older machines. It’s ok for connecting a headset for voice chat. But it’s normally not great for recording things.

You can mitigate/remove the noise from recordings in Audacity, by taking a noise profile from a silent area of the recording and then applying that to your entire recording. That can reduce/remove noise from any recordings.

Good quality USB microphones usually provide much better sound/signal with less noise - I have a Blue Snowball, which is a pretty good, reasonably priced USB microphone.

But for audiophiles and professional musicians/podcasters/streamers, you could go one step beyond that and get a USB sound interface allowing you to plug in one or more real, professional, studio quality microphones. The advantage with a USB interface and professional microphones is that the USB interfaces often have good quality pre-amps built in - allowing you to get the best possible signal levels/sound from your microphones. Meaning less digital amplification/processing is required and a better signal-to-noise ratio.

USB audio interfaces range in price, a cheap, second hand interface with two microphone inputs can cost as little as £15-£20. Brand new, probably £50 and up. But for the higher spec multi-channel interfaces, the sky’s the limit.

You can also get analogue and digital USB mixing desks with a USB interface built in.
Again, prices vary tremendously. As do the specs. A mixing desk will allow you to mix multiple sources. Some USB mixing desks will allow you to send all microphone/aux inputs as individual tracks via USB, to allow you to make multi-track recordings using a DAW. Others only send the main L-R outputs via USB, so you have to pre-mix everything and you can record the pre-mixed output from the desk. Others support both.

Analogue mixers with USB typically only send the main L-R outputs.

Some digital USB mixers can also act as controllers for your DAW. So making adjustments on the desk will affect settings in the DAW.

So you have a whole bunch of options there. It all really depends on what you plan to use the microphone for and what your budget is.

If it’s just for voice chat, then either use a mic into the built in mic port, or use a USB mic.

If you plan to live-stream/podcast - use a USB mic, or a USB interface/mixer with a studio microphones.

And if you’re a musician, use a USB interface/mixer with studio microphones for best results.
 
Typically, the microphone input on the motherboard is quite noisy - especially on older machines. It’s ok for connecting a headset for voice chat. But it’s normally not great for recording things.

You can mitigate/remove the noise from recordings in Audacity, by taking a noise profile from a silent area of the recording and then applying that to your entire recording. That can reduce/remove noise from any recordings.

Good quality USB microphones usually provide much better sound/signal with less noise - I have a Blue Snowball, which is a pretty good, reasonably priced USB microphone.

But for audiophiles and professional musicians/podcasters/streamers, you could go one step beyond that and get a USB sound interface allowing you to plug in one or more real, professional, studio quality microphones. The advantage with a USB interface and professional microphones is that the USB interfaces often have good quality pre-amps built in - allowing you to get the best possible signal levels/sound from your microphones. Meaning less digital amplification/processing is required and a better signal-to-noise ratio.

USB audio interfaces range in price, a cheap, second hand interface with two microphone inputs can cost as little as £15-£20. Brand new, probably £50 and up. But for the higher spec multi-channel interfaces, the sky’s the limit.

You can also get analogue and digital USB mixing desks with a USB interface built in.
Again, prices vary tremendously. As do the specs. A mixing desk will allow you to mix multiple sources. Some USB mixing desks will allow you to send all microphone/aux inputs as individual tracks via USB, to allow you to make multi-track recordings using a DAW. Others only send the main L-R outputs via USB, so you have to pre-mix everything and you can record the pre-mixed output from the desk. Others support both.

Analogue mixers with USB typically only send the main L-R outputs.

Some digital USB mixers can also act as controllers for your DAW. So making adjustments on the desk will affect settings in the DAW.

So you have a whole bunch of options there. It all really depends on what you plan to use the microphone for and what your budget is.

If it’s just for voice chat, then either use a mic into the built in mic port, or use a USB mic.

If you plan to live-stream/podcast - use a USB mic, or a USB interface/mixer with a studio microphones.

And if you’re a musician, use a USB interface/mixer with studio microphones for best results.
Excellent Jas. Thank you. Cheers John
 
Typically, the microphone input on the motherboard is quite noisy - especially on older machines. It’s ok for connecting a headset for voice chat. But it’s normally not great for recording things.

That's been my experience as well, but not only for the microphone, but for the speakers.
For whatever reason it seems to be more of an issue with laptops than desktop.

I have some nice Bose speakers I was using on a desktop, but I bought a THX set for my desktop.
So I gave my wife the Bose speakers to use on her laptop ( her laptop is only 1 year old ). The sound was so
buzzy that the speaker port is virtually unusable. I tried 3 different sets of speakers. For now I'm using
a USB to 3.5mm audio jack adapter and that works pretty good. But a lot of companies are making nice
amplified USB speakers now.
 
@JohnJ :-

I'll second Jas.....for one simple reason. USB "mikes" almost invariably have their own dedicated sound card, usually built-in to the connector. It's why so many of them look like a fat 'dongle', because there's an audio chip stuffed in there as well.

Because of this, they bypass the onboard sound card completely, along with being totally digital in nature, with a DAC (Digital-to Analogue Converter) circuit in the final stage just prior to the amplifier. This results in clear, crisp, interference-free sound. Which is what ya want!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~​

I, too, went through all the usual hours and hours of fruitless messing-around trying to get an ordinary analogue mike functioning properly with a 'puter sound card under Linux. An acquaintance over at BleepingComputer suggested the USB route to me some 5 or 6 years ago; I tried it, was gobsmacked at the ease of use & clarity of sound reproduction, and honestly.......I haven't looked back since. They truly have been one of the biggest improvements for your Linux audio experience for years.

I make occasional 'tutorial'-type vids for the Puppy Linux community, and my preferred mode is via a headset. Swing the 'boom' mike down for recording; swing it back up.....and they'll also function as a standard set of headphones.

I'm one of these folks who, if they're going to get new hardware - for whatever reason - I do a fair bit of research first, and then usually invest in good-quality gear. I've had too many cheap'n'cheerful "impulse" buys off eBay and Amazon over the years to really bother with that route anymore; my preferred manufacturer is Logitech. Their gear just 'works', is beautifully constructed, is hard-wearing.....and it lasts & lasts. It's worth paying that wee bit extra just for the peace of mind, knowing it'll keep on working.

My fave headset is the Logitech H340. No, it's not wireless.....it has a cord. (Wireless invariably means Bluetooth these days, and I dislike Bluetooth intensely.) Amazingly clear sound, and incredibly easy to use; just two controls, basically....output volume for the earpieces, and recording level for the boom microphone. Easy-peasy.

(Ignore what it says in the 'Compatibility' section. Their gear works perfectly with Linux, but Logitech just won't admit it.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I also have a more upmarket full-cup headset, from a Far Eastern outfit called SOMiC. Most of their stuff is 'gamer' oriented, but I found a reasonably subdued set - the GS401 - that used a standard 2.4 GHz wireless dongle. The mike plugs in & out, and is detachable, as opposed to the H340 where the boom mike swings out of the way.

The H340 might be a bit more than you were looking to spend, but I'd recommend them to any Linux user. They are SO simple....and just 'work'.

(I still use Amazon to purchase stuff, but I'll do my research elsewhere first before parting with the hard-earnt. They're usually cheaper than most other places at the end of the day).

So.....yeah. USB is definitely the way to go for superior sound quality.


Mike. ;)
 
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@JohnJ :-

I'll second Jas.....for one simple reason. USB "mikes" almost invariably have their own dedicated sound card, usually built-in to the connector. It's why so many of them look like a fat 'dongle', because there's an audio chip stuffed in there as well.

Because of this, they bypass the onboard sound card completely, along with being totally digital in nature, with a DAC (Digital-to Analogue Converter) circuit in the final stage just prior to the amplifier. This results in clear, crisp, interference-free sound. Which is what ya want!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~​

I, too, went through all the usual hours and hours of fruitless messing-around trying to get an ordinary analogue mike functioning properly with a 'puter sound card under Linux. An acquaintance over at BleepingComputer suggested the USB route to me some 5 or 6 years ago; I tried it, was gobsmacked at the ease of use & clarity of sound reproduction, and honestly.......I haven't looked back since. They truly have been one of the biggest improvements for your Linux audio experience for years.

I make occasional 'tutorial'-type vids for the Puppy Linux community, and my preferred mode is via a headset. Swing the 'boom' mike down for recording; swing it back up.....and they'll also function as a standard set of headphones.

I'm one of these folks who, if they're going to get new hardware - for whatever reason - I do a fair bit of research first, and then usually invest in good-quality gear. I've had too many cheap'n'cheerful "impulse" buys off eBay and Amazon over the years to really bother with that route anymore; my preferred manufacturer is Logitech. Their gear just 'works', is beautifully constructed, is hard-wearing.....and it lasts & lasts. It's worth paying that wee bit extra just for the peace of mind, knowing it'll keep on working.

My fave headset is the Logitech H340. No, it's not wireless.....it has a cord. (Wireless invariably means Bluetooth these days, and I dislike Bluetooth intensely.) Amazingly clear sound, and incredibly easy to use; just two controls, basically....output volume for the earpieces, and recording level for the boom microphone. Easy-peasy.

(Ignore what it says in the 'Compatibility' section. Their gear works perfectly with Linux, but Logitech just won't admit it.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I also have a more upmarket full-cup headset, from a Far Eastern outfit called SOMiC. Most of their stuff is 'gamer' oriented, but I found a reasonably subdued set - the GS401 - that used a standard 2.4 GHz wireless dongle. The mike plugs in & out, and is detachable, as opposed to the H340 where the boom mike swings out of the way.

The H340 might be a bit more than you were looking to spend, but I'd recommend them to any Linux user. They are SO simple....and just 'work'.

(I still use Amazon to purchase stuff, but I'll do my research elsewhere first before parting with the hard-earnt. They're usually cheaper than most other places at the end of the day).

So.....yeah. USB is definitely the way to go for superior sound quality.


Mike. ;)
Yes. There is a lot to think about. In the end I bought a simple, cheap and cheerful usb mic - Samson Meteor condenser Microphone Analogue - and it all works great. Just plugged it in and away it went. I opted for a mic that didn't need any drivers. Apparently only the cheap ones don't come with drivers. My thinking was that Linux Mint might accept such a simple mike better that trying to find fancy drivers and such. To my untrained ear this little mic provides perfectly acceptable voice-over quality for my SimpleScreenRecorder and it really was Plug and Play. I might just post this so all others can see what I did. Cheers
 
Thanks all for your detailed and useful comments on my previous post 'Microsoft Adventures with Linux Mint'. I thought that I might just post a quick comment for all to see regarding my findings and outcome. This is because many of you lamented about the hassles you have/had getting your mic to work on a desktop PC. I am not sure if I am doing this the right way in presenting this 'Update' post but anyway here goes.

My previous post explained that I wasn't mucking about with laptop mics. This apparently opens up a completely different can of worms regarding getting Linux to see the onboard mic in the first place and getting it to work properly. So my focus was on a mic for my desktop computer. Also I wanted a cheap and cheerful mic just to do an acceptable voice-over for my SimplescreenRecorder.

I bought a Samson Meteor Mic USB Studio Condenser Microphone for the princely price of $A69. Here is a copy of what I said in a previous response to a helpful post from someone else.

'Yes. There is a lot to think about. In the end I bought a simple, cheap and cheerful usb mic - Samson Meteor condenser Microphone Analogue - and it all works great. Just plugged it in and away it went. I opted for a mic that didn't need any drivers. Apparently only the cheap ones don't come with drivers. My thinking was that Linux Mint might accept such a simple mike better that trying to find fancy drivers and such. To my untrained ear this little mic provides perfectly acceptable voice-over quality for my SimpleScreenRecorder and it really was Plug and Play. I might just post this so all others can see what I did.'

I hope that this is of use to somebody. Cheers
 
In the end I bought a simple, cheap and cheerful usb mic - Samson Meteor condenser Microphone Analogue - and it all works great. Just plugged it in and away it went. I opted for a mic that didn't need any drivers. Apparently only the cheap ones don't come with drivers. My thinking was that Linux Mint might accept such a simple mike better that trying to find fancy drivers and such
@JohnJ :-

Actually, you say that.......but in my (admittedly limited) experience, all the USB mikes & headsets I've tried are pNp - plug'n'play. No drivers required, by any of 'em.

You plug 'em in, and they just 'work', straightaway.

The "work", with these USB audio devices, is all taken care of by the onboard chip.....including that DAC circuit. All the USB port is doing here is to provide an interface by which the device can "talk to" the OS, and the application you're using it with.....and THAT is taken care of by the 'usbdrv' kernel module (which has been IN the kernel for a very long time indeed).

The USB interface merely provides a simple connection for transferring a high-speed serial bitstream in two directions.....'in', and 'out'. That's ALL it does. Nothing 'fancy' about it, nothing 'mysterious'.

Taken together, these are the reasons WHY these things are as simple to use as they are.....and why they will literally work ANYWHERE.


Mike. :)
 
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@JohnJ :-

Actually, you say that.......but in my (admittedly limited) experience, all the USB mikes & headsets I've tried are pNp - plug'n'play. No drivers required, by any of 'em.

You plug 'em in, and they just 'work', straightaway.

The "work", with these USB audio devices, is all taken care of by the onboard chip.....including that DAC circuit. All the USB port is doing here is to provide an interface by which the device can "talk to" the OS, and the application you're using it with.....and THAT is taken care of by the 'usbdrv' kernel module (which has been IN the kernel for a very long time indeed).

The USB interface merely provides a simple connection for transferring a high-speed serial bitstream in two directions.....'in', and 'out'. That's ALL it does. Nothing 'fancy' about it, nothing 'mysterious'.

Taken together, these are the reasons WHY these things are as simple to use as they are.....and why they will literally work ANYWHERE.


Mike. :)
Interesting. They might all claim Plug and Play which is probably just a PR term anyway. I looked closely at the specs and the packages USB mics come in. The more expensive ones say either they 'come with' drivers or to go to some webside to download drivers. Even the term Drivers could mean different things. Maybe these Drivers they talk about are some add ons that provide pretty volume or other GUI. Anyway, I opted for the simplest (to my thinking which could be wrong) mic that didn't mention any specific things to do, just to connect via a USB. Happily it just works. Cheers
 
Interesting. They might all claim Plug and Play which is probably just a PR term anyway. I looked closely at the specs and the packages USB mics come in. The more expensive ones say either they 'come with' drivers or to go to some webside to download drivers. Even the term Drivers could mean different things. Maybe these Drivers they talk about are some add ons that provide pretty volume or other GUI. Anyway, I opted for the simplest (to my thinking which could be wrong) mic that didn't mention any specific things to do, just to connect via a USB. Happily it just works. Cheers
The drivers are usually for Windows and Mac only. No surprise there.
Generally speaking though - most, if not all devices will implement support for the USB Audio standard.
So on Linux the generic USB driver will work.

But if a device has extra features, that are not part of the standard - that might be where you need additional additional drivers.

For example:
I have a Blackstar ID:Core BEAM guitar amp, which has a USB interface.
I can plug my amp into my PC on Linux and can capture sound from it in audio applications. But I cannot access any of the more advanced features of the amp.
On Windows and Mac, Blackstar have made software available that will allow you to adjust a ton of settings for the amp via USB from your PC. So you can change the amp/cab simulation settings, or change parameters on the various effects and load/save custom patches.

On Linux, I can't do any of that - and I refuse to install Wine, or run Windows in a VM for the sake of doing this. I don't want to be running WINE or a VM for realtime audio applications. So on Linux, my amp only has partial support.

On Github, I found a python based application called 'Outsider' (A play on Blackstar's old software for accessing the ID:Core range, which was called 'Insider').
Outsider was created by somebody with one of the first gen ID:Core amps. My BEAM is a 2nd gen ID:Core.
So I had to hack Outsider a little to get it to recognise my BEAM. But the only settings I could access on my amp were the settings that the original developer had discovered/reverse engineered on his V1 ID:Core amp.
The v2 has some additional settings that are unavailable to me. And I don't have the time, the inclination, or the equipment to try to reverse engineer and deduce the rest of the settings that are available on my amp.
So again, even with Outsider - I only have partial support for my amp.

But partial support is better than no support at all!

Anyway, my point is - even if an audio device does require drivers for Windows/Mac - as long as the hardware manufacturer has used open, common standards, like the USB audio standard - then the generic drivers for Linux (built into the kernel) should allow the use of the basic/essential functions of the hardware. You just might not be able to use some of the more advanced features of the hardware.
 
The drivers are usually for Windows and Mac only. No surprise there.
Generally speaking though - most, if not all devices will implement support for the USB Audio standard.
So on Linux the generic USB driver will work.

But if a device has extra features, that are not part of the standard - that might be where you need additional additional drivers.

For example:
I have a Blackstar ID:Core BEAM guitar amp, which has a USB interface.
I can plug my amp into my PC on Linux and can capture sound from it in audio applications. But I cannot access any of the more advanced features of the amp.
On Windows and Mac, Blackstar have made software available that will allow you to adjust a ton of settings for the amp via USB from your PC. So you can change the amp/cab simulation settings, or change parameters on the various effects and load/save custom patches.

On Linux, I can't do any of that - and I refuse to install Wine, or run Windows in a VM for the sake of doing this. I don't want to be running WINE or a VM for realtime audio applications. So on Linux, my amp only has partial support.

On Github, I found a python based application called 'Outsider' (A play on Blackstar's old software for accessing the ID:Core range, which was called 'Insider').
Outsider was created by somebody with one of the first gen ID:Core amps. My BEAM is a 2nd gen ID:Core.
So I had to hack Outsider a little to get it to recognise my BEAM. But the only settings I could access on my amp were the settings that the original developer had discovered/reverse engineered on his V1 ID:Core amp.
The v2 has some additional settings that are unavailable to me. And I don't have the time, the inclination, or the equipment to try to reverse engineer and deduce the rest of the settings that are available on my amp.
So again, even with Outsider - I only have partial support for my amp.

But partial support is better than no support at all!

Anyway, my point is - even if an audio device does require drivers for Windows/Mac - as long as the hardware manufacturer has used open, common standards, like the USB audio standard - then the generic drivers for Linux (built into the kernel) should allow the use of the basic/essential functions of the hardware. You just might not be able to use some of the more advanced features of the hardware.
Many thanks, Jas. Boy, I am sure learning a lot about all this. Cheers
 
Many thanks, Jas. Boy, I am sure learning a lot about all this. Cheers
Heh. That's what we do here - if we can. We not only try to help, we like to educate as well.......it's all to the good in the long run.

Mike. :p
 

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