There are times that you will need to have multiple microphones connected to your computer. If you have a USB mixer or an audio interface with more than 3 channels, then this will be easy as all you need to do is plug the mixer into your laptop.
Let’s consider the following scenarios:
- You have three USB mics without an audio mixer or an interface.
- You have fewer mic inputs on your mixer/interface and want to add an additional mic.
In the examples above alongside other scenarios, you will not be able to get audio signals of all the mics as desired. But there is a way to get the different sound sources independently by having each microphone designated to each particular sound source.
The image below shows the two examples mentioned previously of the simple studio setup scenarios. You might be having 3 USB microphones and want to plug them into the laptop directly. The image on the left represents this.
It can also be 2 mics plugged into a 2 channeled mixer and then connected to a computer but you need an additional microphone plugged in.
Prior to having this solution, you might have considered using a single microphone and have it passed or moved around during the recording session. An idea that would mess up your recording. It can also prove to be laborious.
In Audacity, you can only pick one USB sound source. Therefore, when you plug two or more USB mics you can only choose one. The solution in this article allows you to have more USB mics plugged into your pc and your digital audio interface will be able to pick audio from all microphones connected.
3 Mic Setup and Recording
Download Voicemeeter. This software allows you to manage your audio inputs. It mixes and manages any audio sources from or to any audio devices or applications. This is an intermediary role where it makes all connections available are routed through it and in turn, it makes all connections available for selection.
Voicemeeter has different types. There is the Voicemeeter, Voicemeeter Banana, and Voicemeeter Potato. The difference is the number of outputs. Voicemeeter has 3 (2 physical and one virtual), while Banana has 5 (3 physical and one virtual) and Potato provides 8 (5 physical and 3 virtual). I would suggest downloading Banana. Download Potato If you foresee an instance in the future where you will need more channels. Download Link.
This software is free to use and you can make an optional donation if you find it useful. Restart your laptop to finalize the installation.
Launch Voicemeeter. Here is an image of what the interface for Voicemeeter Banana looks like.
On the left side of this interface, there are three channels. Use these three channels to assign each mic to a specific channel. Click on the Hardware Input section (highlighted in the image below). In the drop-down option that pops up pick a different mic for every channel.
From the image above, you will notice that each mic channel has buttons and settings to make adjustments. The important ones at this point are Mute Buttons to mute specific mics, faders with a meter level bar next to itto adjust the levels and monitor the sound level, and the hardware output channels to input the equipment that you will use for playback.
Head over to your pc sound settings by right-clicking on the volume icon on the taskbar. This is to verify the default input settings are set to voicemeeter. This will open up a list of options. Click on sounds.
Clicking on sounds will open a Sound Dialogue Box. Click on the Recording tab. In this tab, you should see a Voicemeeter option. Click on that to enable it as your input. Apply the changes by clicking on Set Default then OK.
By this, any recording will be routed back to the Voicemeeter interface first then to Audacity.
For playback set the output as the default settings for your computer. This will allow you to listen back to your recording via headsets plugged into your computer. If you need each person to listen back to the recording simultaneously get a 3-way headphone splitter.
Now head over to Audacity. Before starting the recording change your sound hardware settings. Click on Edit followed by Preferences.
This dialogue box will open.
Under the devices tab, set the playback to the default pc speaker,and the recording is set as Voicemeeter. Click Ok to apply.
Press record and you will get all three audio files as one stereo file.
If you have two USB mics and no mixer you can follow the same procedure. Also, it is applicable when you have a few channels on your mixer and need to add extra microphones.
Voicemeeter is very resourceful. With more usage, you become better at it. With time it will also provide other solutions like recording remote guests on a dedicated channel via platforms like Zoom, Zencastr, and Google Meet.
Here are two important things to consider. Some USB cables tend to be short. Therefore when arranging your setup make sure your mics are not close to each other. This is done to avoid phase anomalies and leakage. To prevent phase anomalies and leakage. Secondly, modern laptops are having fewer USB ports in an attempt by manufacturers to have fewer wire connections. If you cannot plug all of them you can use a USB splitter. This increases the number of available USB slots built into a computer.