How to hear my microphone in my headphones
January 31, 2008 5:38 PM   Subscribe

How can I hear instantaneously what I'm recording with my microphone.

Basically I want to sing into my mic, and hear what I'm singing into my headphones.

I tried the Microsoft Hardware Test app in the control panel, but there's a delay.

There's got to be a simple way to do this, but unfortunately it's impossible for me to find the right terminology to google for.
posted by philosophistry to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Try this: Double click the volume control in the Systray.

Options -> Properties and check to show "Microphone."

It should be muted, unmute it and the microphone input should be passed through to the speakers. Beware of feedback.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:55 PM on January 31, 2008

I believe the standard term for this is a microphone loopback.

TheOnlyCoolTim beat me to the volume control suggestion, that should work.
posted by burnmp3s at 5:56 PM on January 31, 2008

The hardware-based solution to this would be to invest in a small sound mixer for your desk. You can plug the mic in and send the main audio out to your computer, and just plug headphones into the mixer.
posted by DMan at 6:07 PM on January 31, 2008

Response by poster: TheOnlyCoolTim, I tried what you mentioned, and I didn't get any loopback. *shrug* I'll Google for microphone loopback.
posted by philosophistry at 6:19 PM on January 31, 2008

How are you recording the audio signal? All the recording software I've used has some sort of "monitor" type setting.
posted by nanojath at 6:48 PM on January 31, 2008

Response by poster: Hmm, googling for loopback isn't helping either.
posted by philosophistry at 6:50 PM on January 31, 2008

Response by poster: I tried using SoundForge, and it monitors, but it doesn't play the sound anywhere.
posted by philosophistry at 6:51 PM on January 31, 2008

Response by poster: I feel like I'm asking the wrong questions because this has got to be ridiculously simple. If you plug in a guitar into your computer and strum, you should be able to hear it. Likewise, if you plug a microphone into a computer, it should be easy to hear what you're saying.
posted by philosophistry at 7:03 PM on January 31, 2008

You'll need Audio Stream Input Output. Try the ASIO4ALL drivers.
posted by Mrs. Buck Turgidson at 7:53 PM on January 31, 2008

Best answer: In digital audio terms, the word for this delay is "latency." If you use this in your internet searches you're more likely to turn up

When you record a sound into a microphone it has to

1.) Travel through the microphone cable into your sound card
2.) Be converted into a digital signal by your sound card
3.) Be processed by your sound card's drivers (software)
4.) Be converted back to an analog signal
5.) Travel through your headphone cables to your ears.

This takes time. It can be rather quick, a matter of microseconds, but it will never be instantaneous. That said, the delay can be nearly imperceptible if you have a good sound card and drivers.

I think the bottleneck is most often in step 3, the software drivers. If you can find WDM or ASIO drivers for your sound card, you're more likely to have low latency (in other words, a very short, perhaps imperceptible delay). You might want to look into getting a professional audio interface (a fancy word for "sound card" for people who record music on PCs). If you're not looking to be a professional recording artist, I'm sure you can find something you need for well under $100 (here's a list, sorted by price low-to-high, but do some research because I'm not necessarily endorsing any of these in particular -- that said, I've had good luck with the higher-end M-Audio interfaces and I'd guess that their sub-$100 ones are pretty solid for your purposes).

Before you spend money on a new audio interface, you might want to look into ASIO4ALL drivers for your sound card, as recommended by Mrs. Buck Turgidson in a previous post. I don't know much about these but they look promising.

If your main goal is to listen to yourself in headphones as you sing, then you might want to look for recording software which supports "input monitoring" (or a sound-card/audio interface which has a "monitor" or "input monitor" feature built into the hardware or into the software drivers. This essentially bypasses steps 2-5 or 3-5 of the signal path I described above, which should solve your problem immediately. A lot of recording software can get pretty pricey but there are free programs called "Audacity" and "Reaper" -- I honestly don't know if these have an input monitoring feature but they offer fairly professional recording features for a $0 price tag, so they're worth a look.
posted by Alabaster at 8:23 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Reaper worked out pretty well. Thanks everybody who chimed in.
posted by philosophistry at 8:46 PM on January 31, 2008

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