Adding a Mic to a Mac

The other day my buddy Jeff sent me a link to a video someone had put together that was one of the funniest things I had seen in a long, long time:

The Web Site is Down

Warning: you have to have been in an IT capacity to really appreciate the support desk style humor involved. What was amusing about this was that Jeff and I both thought man, Skype (which figures prominently in the video) looks pretty cool. Determined to check it out I decided that I needed to add a microphone to my Mac Pro in order to get this up and running properly.

When I switched from Windows to Mac I had a number of peripherals that were suddenly available. While most, like printers, USB hubs, memory card readers, speakers, etc. just plugged in and worked, my little standard boom microphone didn't. I plugged it into the back of my Mac Pro and it just didn't record sound.

The reason is the back of the Mac Pro has an audio-in port and I mistakenly assumed was a mic-in port. It's actually a line-in and requires a preamp if I wanted to use my standard mic. Since it was a freebie Creative boom microphone that I'd had for years I decided to just plant it on my Ubuntu machine and get a nice replacement for the Mac Pro.

I ran off to my local Best Buy where I've become such a familiar face that they greet me by name. That's never a good sign. I checked out the mid-range desktop mics and settled on the Rocketfish Digital USB Microphone. My needs for a mic are quite simple and the $24.99 I paid for it didn't seem too bad.

I popped it into a USB port, pushed the little ON button on the top and it was ready to go. I fired up Audacity to see what my recorded voice sounded like and it came through loud and clear, though I did need to set the input volume pretty high.

Now with a functioning microphone attached to my Mac Pro I'm going to give Skype a whirl and see if it's as cool as it looks in that video.

Without a voice that sounds like I've been breathing helium that is.


Unknown said…
I swear you're stalking my Twitter account, haha. I just complained about the line-in issue yesterday on Twitter when my headset wasnt working in World of Warcraft. Anyway, there's also the iMic which acts as a mini amp for 3.5mm mic jacks. Can be attained for about 40 bucks which is kinda pricey for the average guy.

Why didn't you just get a headset?
jbeardsley said…
haha, no joke, you bought the exact same mic I did last Xmas.

-- Your buddy Jeff.
Anonymous said…
Doesnt the MBP have a Mic built in? Why not just use that computer for Skype?
Anonymous said…

I use the Blue Snowflake mike - about $89 and you can use it with your portable. Very good sound quality and form factor.
Unknown said…
My 17" MBP has a mic built in, no need for an external. Works great with Skype and Video on top of that.

Hilarious video. I could tell you some storied from the 80's having to support people that had never worked with a PC before.

Mike V.
Anonymous said…
The built-in mics on notebooks are prone to feedback since they're located considerably closer to the speakers.
Anonymous said…
Ah, yes. RocketFish. I got one of their webcams for my parents to use with my old Mac Mini I gave them so they could video iChat with me. While I have a built-in iSight on my Macbook, I liked the webcam so much that I bought one for myself for use with other computers that weren't so fortunate (such as my old PC, which still sits here next to me silent because it's off) or if I were issued a cam-less PC by an employer.

Nice little devices, and Mac compatible. Comes complete with microphone.
David Alison said…
@Ryan: I didn't want a mic that was in a headset because that means I need to wear the headset in order to use the mic.

@Anon: I generally focus on the Mac Pro when I'm working from my office which is one of the reasons I needed a mic for it. That plus I generally like having a microphone on my machines - handy for lots of other things.
Anonymous said…
OK, I know this question isn’t about a mic, but you all seem to know a lot about Macs, so here it goes. Does Apple make a warranty program that will cover the MBP from physical damage also? I know if I buy a PC from Best Buy I can get an extended warranty that will cover the PC for everything, software, technical problems and physical damage.
The reason I ask is I want to use the Mac in the field and worry about damage to it. I would worry less if I knew it was covered completely.
Next question, if I buy the Mac from Best Buy, I wonder if it would be covered then.

Again thanks for the indulgence, I enjoy the blog and all the feedback so that this would be a great place to ask.
Cyrille said…
I also have issues with the line-in.

I usually plug my electronic drum kit in the line-in and record myself using photo booth. Eventhough the "equalizer" is showing activity in the system preferences, sometimes the sound is recorded, sometimes it's not. And it's very frustrating since I only notice it when I finished playing.

Do you have any idea why this is happening?
@anon RE damage coverage for your electronic gear.

Check with your insurance agent. Ask if they offer "Inland Marine" insurance coverage.

You may be able to use that policy to cover all your gadgets... Laptop, Mobile Phone, PDA, iPod, Camera, etc.

Sitting on the beach and you dump your laptop in the sand? No problem.

Drop your iPhone in the toilet? You're covered.

Actually, I don't know what would or would not be covered in any given situation, but my understanding is that Inland Marine covers most mishaps for hard to cover mobile items.

Tools, Furs, even Accounts Receivable... almost anything that is used while you're out and about.


David Alison said…
@Sylphide: As I mentioned before I'm not much of an audiophile but it could be that the output from your drum kit is not amplified properly. Getting something like the iMic that Ryan mentioned would probably be your best bet.

@Anon: I would try what Raster mentioned first; that's going to be your best warranty. Also, check with your credit card company; some offer a replacement service if you bu it from them.

BestBuy does offer the 3 year performance service plan and it covers normal wear and tear but keep in mind that there are generally exclusions for things like water damage, etc. That's something that an Inland Marine policy would cover.

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