Samson C01U USB microphones are great for recording podcasts, or when there's just one of you. Really nice. But trying to connect two of them at the same time, so you can record two people having a conversation onto separate vocal tracks, is a total bitch. Don't do it. At least not under XP. (And don't even think about it with Vista or Linux. You may have more luck with a Mac.)
For a start, the audio recording software has to be able to cope with two inputs. Audacity can't, so we install an old version of Sonar LE, which came with the mics. (Sonar 4 - the current version is Sonar 7.) I'm not a big fan of Sonar, but hey, you go with what you have, right? Well, it takes Julian about an hour of frigging around before he gets both mics to input simultaneously. At all. But even when we have both inputs, one mic is really loud, and one is really quiet. Actually, that's not quite true. One appears quite loud, but when we record it and play it back, it's also really quiet. That's partly an issue with using USB mics, they just don't have the power going through them.
So we install the Samson SoftPre pre-amp software to boost the mics a bit. This comes with a somewhat ambiguous warning that basically means it doesn't work under XP if you have two mics connected at the same time; it can only cope with one mic. (In my experience, I couldn't even make it work right with one mic, but we had to try.) However, with even more frigging around in the bowels of Windows drivers, SoftPre and Sonar, Julian eventually persuades both mics to input at a reasonable level. His audio ninja skills are strong.
So now we have a stereo stream coming off each mic. This isn't what we want for voice recording, we want two mono streams. More messing about, but eventually, we get there. At this point we discover something interesting. The mic input is completely different depending on what USB socket it's plugged into. Plug it into the top back one, and it's detected as a "Samson mic". In the lower back, it's an "Unknown mic". And in either of the two sides, it's a "Samson C01U". And the input volume is different on each port. Aargh!
Now we only have one problem left. The mics have too much range, so my mic is picking up Johnnie in the background, and his is picking up my voice. We try gating the recording, but that doesn't work. So we try gating the input, and that doesn't work either. It just clips things off. Basically, the C01U is a condenser mic, and that's just the way it works. We'd need to build isolation booths.
Finally, after his third cup of tea, Julian delivers his professional opinion.
- Buy different mics, not condensers and not USB.
- Get some different audio software, not an old version of Sonar.
- Don't try recording on a laptop.
- And don't expect decent audio quality if you're recording in the dining room.
Oh well, I'll have to see what I can set up later in the summer. For now, I'm going to fall back on the tried (and mostly trusted) system of using Audacity and a single C01U mic, hope I don't get too many bits with two people speaking at once, and re-record individual lines when I do.