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Recording on a Budget


You beatbox, you or your parents have a PC with a soundcard, and now you want to record your beatboxing. BUT, you don't have a lot of cash. Sound familiar? If so, read on…

These days there are many options to making recordings using a PC – in fact, to cover all the options in one article will be just about impossible. To put it bluntly, it's a minefield. Yet, there are some basic things that will help you make a choice. I'm going to try and guide you through some of the options and give some practical advice.



The question I often get asked is "What kind of soundcard shall I buy?" Well, maybe you don't need to buy a soundcard. If your PC already has a soundcard in it, then it will most probably do the job.

There is a myth that the cheap (often on-board) sound cards that come with PCs will not be good enough for recording. This is not likely to be the case. The soundcard contains inside it what we call A/D converters. These are Analog to Digital converters that turn an electrical signal into a digital format and vice versa. The reality is that they are going to be perfectly adequate for recording.

It is true to that A/D converters are susceptible to picking up electrical noise and this is why most professional soundcards are external, however, these days, with good electrical shielding, any noise is almost unnoticeable. The reason that people often get poor results with PC soundcards because they use poor microphones and poor recording techniques. So, for the rest of this article, we are going to assume that you are going to work with the soundcard in your PC. Look, I've already saved you money!


Monitoring is the professional term for listening to recorded or live music through electronic equipment. This is why studio loud speakers are called monitors.

When you record beatboxing, you need to be able to monitor both the backing track and the microphone into which you are beatboxing. You need to be able to hear what you are going to sound like before you record yourself and see if it fits with whatever else is recorded.

For example, you may wish to beatbox over a click track – a recorded metronome beat that will enable you to keep in time, or you may wish to create a layered beatbox track.

Now, when you record using your PC soundcard you may or not be able to hear yourself, or if you do, because the sound is going through the PC, you will hear a slight delay. The delay won't be recorded but it will be heard whilst recording. The professional term for this delay is called latency. What you want when monitoring is what we call zero latency (i.e. no delay).

Now, the ability to monitor without any latency does exist on more expensive internal or external soundcards, however, you also get it on every mixer.


Your PC soundcard will be good at digitizing the sound but it is unlikely to have a microphone pre-amplifier (pre-amp) built into it that will be adequate for a more professional microphone. The microphone input on soundcards is designed for PC mics that have a different impedance. So, if you wish to use your PC soundcard you will need a pre-amplifier to amplify your microphone before it goes into the PC soundcard.

More expensive sound cards will have microphone inputs with pre-amplifiers. These soundcards have a knob on the front to adjust the gain (the amount of amplification).

Now, some people buy dedicated microphone pre-amplifiers but only professionals do this. They tend to be expensive and more specialized. However, every mixer has microphone inputs with pre-amplifiers (can you see where I'm going with this?).

Balanced/Unbalanced Inputs


Now, things might get a little scary here but hang in there...

Many soundcards, even slightly more expensive ones do not have what we call balanced inputs. The output from all professional microphones is balanced. It means that if you connect the microphone to a soundcard or mixer that has balanced inputs then any noise picked up by the microphone lead is cancelled out. This is a good thing!

Balanced inputs and outputs need three wires or pins and this is why professional microphones have a three-pin XLR plug on them. As a general rule, jack plugs are used for unbalanced equipment and XLR (three pin) plugs are used for balanced equipment.

With me? Right. So, if you connect your professional microphone directly to your soundcard with an XLR to Jack lead, then you don't get the benefits of the balanced noise reduction. In other words, you will record any unwanted radio signals picked up by the microphone lead.

Nearly all mixers have balanced microphone inputs. This is a good thing (okay, you should really be able to see where I'm going with this).

The Equipment

What you need to buy is a microphone and a mixer. You will need to buy a connecting lead from the microphone to the mixer and a connecting lead from the mixer to the soundcard. You will also need a pair of headphones and some free recording software such as Audacity.

  • 1 x microphone
  • 1 x mixer
  • 1 x XLR to XLR cable
  • 1 x Y-lead (two mono jack to one stereo mini-jack)
  • 1 x headphones
  • 1 x free recording software

Now, with your PC soundcard you will be able to record two tracks simultaneously and play back as many as your PC can handle. This means you will be able to record two beatboxers at the same time if you wish.

All packages are quoted from European dealer Thomann (

Package 1: Total price - £77 GBP


This is the very cheapest package you can buy. The Behringer XM8500 or t.bone MB85 can be used for live beatboxing and the mixer has two microphone inputs for future-proofing in case one-day you wish to record two microphones.

  • 1 x Behringer XM8500 or t.bone MB85 microphone (£18)
  • 1 x 6m male to female XLR cable (e.g. SSSNAKE SM6BK) (£4)
  • 1 x Behringer XENYX 802 mixer (£48)
  • 1 x 10ft Y-lead (2 x jack to stereo minijack) (e.g. SSSNAKE YPK2030) (£3)
  • 1 x headphones (any brand) (£5)
  • 1 x Audacity software (FREE)

Package 2: Total price - £97 GBP


If you are not going to do live gigging but use the mic at home for recording, then you may well be better off going for a cheap condenser microphone. This kind of microphone is more sensitive and will need a mixer with phantom power.

  • 1 x Behringer C1 microphone (£35)
  • 1 x 6m male to female XLR cable (e.g. SSSNAKE SM6BK) (£4)
  • 1 x Behringer XENYX 802 mixer (£48)
  • 1 x 10ft Y-lead (2 x jack to stereo minijack) (e.g. SSSNAKE YPK2030) (£3)
  • 1 x headphones (any brand) (£7)
  • 1 x Audacity software (FREE)

Package 3: Total Price - £159 GBP

If your budget can stretch a little then this package offers the most flexibility and slightly better quality. The Behringer 1002FX is a good mixer because it has built-in effects and you can use the compressor preset on the mixer to give you a nice sound for recording.


I have included two mics – a dynamic handheld mic and a studio condenser to give you the most flexibility in recording. You could even use them both at the same time!

  • 1 x t.bone SC400 microphone (£43)
  • 1 x Behringer XM8500 or t.bone MB85 microphone (£18)
  • 1 x Microphone stand (e.g. MILLENIUM MS-2005) (£8)
  • 2 x 6m male to female XLR cable (e.g. SSSNAKE SM6BK) (£8)
  • 1 x Behringer XENYX 1002FX mixer (£70)
  • 1 x 10ft Y-lead (2 x jack to stereo minijack) (e.g. SSSNAKE YPK2030) (£3)
  • 1 x headphones (any brand) (£9)
  • 1 x Audacity software (FREE)

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