Connecting USB Microphone to Chromebook

Connecting USB Microphone to Chromebook

As Chromebooks become ever more popular, people want to be able to utilise them in creative endeavours. If you look at a lot of the Pixel artwork, it shows some bearded hipster-type using his Chromebook in what looks like a creative workshop setting. Fortunately for us, we do not need to grow a beard, but we can use our Chromebooks for creating stuff.

Process

The process is pretty simple really. First you plug in your Microphone, then from within the dock you select the Microphone as your input source.

Next to where you change the volume there is an arrow that takes you to your audio settings:

Connecting USB Microphone to Chromebook Audio

Select your USB Microphone by clicking on it:

Select Your USB Microphone

And that’s it, doesn’t get much easier than that.

Selecting a USB Microphone

In this article, I’m using a Blue Snowball Ice USB Mic [UK Link]. This is a good all-round device that captures far better quality sound than the built into your Chromebook. I’d heartily recommend this if you are interested in capturing voice or acoustic instruments. It’s a no-nonsense plug and play affair which doesn’t require drivers.

If you are looking for a different type of USB Microphone to use with a Chromebook, it must not require drivers to operate. A bit of research before spending your hard earned cash will save you hassle, or failing that make sure you buy from a site like Amazon – they’re really good at refunds if things don’t work as expected.

I haven’t personally tried a wide range of USB Microphones but can confirm that my Alesis 320 USB speakers [UK Link] (with audio input) are recognised. And I’d expect that a lot of low cost devices will just work as they tend to use the same USB components.

What does it sound like?

Listen to it for yourself. Here are a couple of super-quick test recordings to show you the kind of improvement you can expect. Both are recorded in the kitchen with the same amount of background noise.

You will get better quality if recording in an environment with no background noise.

What next?

There are three key areas where I can see that having a good quality USB Microphone will be of benefit.

Hangouts

If you regularly use hangouts to chat, collaborate and work with others, having a good quality audio source can make the world of difference. I’d go as far to say that poor video is more tolerable than poor audio. You see, when using Hangouts it’s likely that others have your image in a small window. In which case the video is more of an add-on than the main focus. Whereas if your sound is weedy, others have to put up with it.

Screen Recording

If you are recording your screen to help others see what you are doing, then good quality audio matters. It can set your how-to guide apart from others and help you get noticed. Once again, poor quality audio, makes you look a little amateur-ish.

Screencastify will let you capture both what is happening on screen with audio. The free version allows you to capture up to ten minutes of screen and audio and there is a premium edition for longer files.

Podcasting

Podcasting is having a bit of a renaissance of late, and if you want to get on the band wagon then good quality audio is a must. Teamed with either Screencastify or Soundcloud you can turn your Chromebook into an audio capturing device for mobile light-weight podcasting. You will need to be connected to the internet to be able to take advantage of these options. You may also need to pay for premium features if the free editions aren’t sufficient for your needs. But at least this provides a low cost way of dipping your toe in the water.

[update Jan 2018].

Since this article was first written, Android apps are becoming increasingly commonplace on Chromebooks. If you have access to the Google Play Store and have an Intel Chromebook, then CrossOver opens up the potential to run the Windows version of Audacity on a Chromebook. The great news about this is that you do not need to be connected to the internet to record / edit, nor do you need to get in the weeds with running chroot on your Chromebook.

Here is a screenshot of Audacity running on my Chromebook:

Audacity Running on Chromebook Using Cross Over

As part of my testing, I can confirm Chrome OS passes the microphone signal to the application – even if it is running through an emulator. Also, you can install the LAME dll which allows you to export to mp3 directly from the application. Pretty neat, huh?

What do you plan to use yours for?

Now that you know how easy it is to connect a USB Microphone to Chromebook there should be no stopping you. If you are doing something a little different (or plan to at least) please leave a comment as we love to hear what others are up to.

  18 comments for “Connecting USB Microphone to Chromebook

  1. Danuel
    29/06/2015 at 6:13 pm

    Thanks for that … Is the quality good enough for voice over auditions ?

    • 29/06/2015 at 7:38 pm

      No worries. I’m not sure what quality is expected for voice overs, but it is good enough for music producers. Does that help?

  2. Peter Trieshi
    20/12/2015 at 2:26 pm

    I tried it but it wouldn’t show up blue snowball,know why?

    • 21/12/2015 at 10:33 am

      I assume you are plugging the mic in direct, if you have it plugged into an unpowered hub then it may not be delivering enough juice. Does the mic work on something else?

      It should just work, unless there is not enough power, or a fault with the mic.

    • Niall O'Sullivan
      23/12/2015 at 11:55 am

      Same problem with me (snowball ice), it works with my Windows machine but both my chromebooks wont recognise it.

  3. Goober
    17/02/2016 at 1:18 am

    I chose the Blue Snowball thing but it wont produce sound! Help! PLZ

    • 17/02/2016 at 2:22 pm

      What are you trying to record with? Have you tried using the inbuilt mic? If so, does this work?

  4. sandra
    17/07/2016 at 12:41 am

    I stumbled on your blog and found it very helpful. Thank you

  5. Josh Gering
    06/09/2016 at 4:28 am

    Do you have any recommendations for usb condensor microphones? I’m hoping to record guitar demos. Definitely nothing professional quality, but I want to get something good enough to get a good idea of my music. I’ve been shopping around and reading reviews, but if you have any recommendations I’d be very grateful. Cheers.

  6. Sagan De La Cruz
    10/11/2016 at 6:24 pm

    THANK YOU FOR THIS! THIS WAS REALLY HELPFUL!

  7. Zerin
    23/03/2017 at 11:57 pm

    Oh Thanks I was scared I would get it and it wouldn’t work. YOUR THE BEST!!!!

  8. Zerin
    23/03/2017 at 11:59 pm
  9. chris
    10/06/2017 at 5:35 pm

    Hi, ditto thanks for advice Gary. Can anyone help? I attached snowball ice mic (which works fine on another pc) to chromebook via usb port but not appearing on volume control as an input option as shown on your screenshot on the post. Have done the usual of switching usb ports, rebooting etc. Also, on advanced settings – microphone, only ‘default’ (in-built mic) shows up. Inbuilt mic definitely works as I can hear myself. Frustrating as I bought it to use with chromebook. Any other trouble shooting ideas? I’ve searched other posts across the web but no joy. Cheers.

    • 01/01/2018 at 6:45 am

      Sorry for the delayed response. Are you still having trouble? It sounds like you’ve tried most of the obvious stuff, so I’d suggest trying a different mic / Chromebook to see if the issue persists.

  10. Kerry Stone
    31/12/2017 at 11:09 pm

    Is there anyway to use the usb ports as a line in jack> I am wanting the run a cable from the audio output jack on my guitar amp straight into my chromebook which I can do with regular laptops that have a line in port

    • 01/01/2018 at 6:42 am

      A class compliant audio interface should do the trick. I’d expect you’d experience some noticeable latency (>100ms) using the stable Chrome OS build. I would have thought those which work with iPad are most likely to be compatible as they do not required drivers to work.

  11. MediaBanger
    25/01/2018 at 4:56 pm

    Hi Gary,

    Great news about Audacity. When I upgrade my Chromebook to a newer model that has access to the Play Store, I will definitely be trying this. I’ve used Audacity for years on Mac/Linux and it’s seriously powerful.

    I’m trying to get a Samson Go Mic to work with my Chromebook. The Chromebook recognizes the device, and the audio quality does improve when I use it to record interviews in the Hi-Q MP3 Recorder app. But my Chromebook seems to have some audio input noise suppression built-in, and I can’t figure out how to disable it.

    This is frustrating on two fronts for me:

    First, I’m a reporter, and I need to record government meetings where I’m sometimes sitting several feet away from the people whose voices I need to record. So I don’t want to go to a city council meeting only to have my Chromebook going, “Oh, those voices are background noise, let me mute them for you!” Because then I wouldn’t have any audio to write a news article with.

    Second, I’m a musician. I was really hoping to use my Chromebook for some acoustic demos. I tested this out, again using Hi-Q MP3 Recorder yesterday. The Chromebook apparently sees the guitar as “background noise,” so it picks up my voice but muffles the guitar. It sounds very much like the guitar is underwater — a hallmark of low-grade digital noise suppression.

    This happens with or without the Samson Go Mic plugged in. I had no issues selecting the mic as you outline here. Hi-Q MP3 Recorder has several audio input settings (front mic, back mic, device default, and RAW Audio with no processing) but none of those settings seems to change the noise-cancellation behavior.

    When I record using the same app on my phone, this is not as noticeable. Now, I’m not able to plug the Samson Go Mic into the phone yet (I have an adapter on the way.) But when using the phone’s internal microphones, the noise suppression is a lot less noticeable than it is in the Chromebook.

    Is there some secret to turning off this feature? I figure Chrome OS developers have included this feature as some sort of quality enhancer for video chat in Hangouts or the like, to cut down on background noise. But for my purposes, it’s a source of frustration and I’d like to turn it off, if possible. Any ideas?

  12. head4space
    27/01/2018 at 6:03 pm

    Hey MediaBanger. To be honest, I’d not heard of this, but will certainly investigate and try to recreate the issue you are having. I’ll let you know if I find anything out.

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