I just put up Part 3 of the “How to Build a Home Recording Studio” series on the Home Brew Audio website. This installment digs into the kinds of microphones and sound cards you’ll need for both kinds of home studios (configuration #1 and configuration #2) – in order to get into the realm of pro audio.
For configuration #1 (where it’s just a mic going directly into a computer), the tiny mics like plastic PC mics that plug directly into a computer’s built-in sound card will probably not get you anywhere near pro quality audio. You’ll need a USB mic for this configuration, and not the small headset kind (or even most hand-held ones) either. Look for a large diaphragm condenser type microphone.
It’s also interesting that USB mics don’t need a sound card, per se. The analog-to-digital conversion that sound cards provide (including external “interfaces”) happens right inside the USB mic.
But true pro quality comes from configuration #2 – a standard (non-USB) mic is plugged into an external sound card (interface), which then is plugged into the computer, usually via USB. Again you’ll be wanting large diaphragm condenser mics for vocals. For music, things open up a lot more depending on what you want to record (small diaphragm mics for instruments, dynamic mics for drums and electric guitar amps, etc.).
See what mics and sound cards (interfaces) are recommended and how much they cost in the full article here: www.homebrewaudio.com/how-to-build-a-home-recording-studio-part-3-microphones-and-interface