If you are a singer (and not also an instrumentalist - just a singer), this article is written to help you with audio gear recommendations.
Please note that if you already have a microphone and audio interface that you use for home recording with your computer, you can very likely just use the gear you already own with our free JamKazam application. In this case, check out our system requirements, and then follow the steps in these help articles to set up the gear you already have to work with our app.
If you don't already have this kind of gear, or aren't sure, then following are some recommendations for different levels of expense and quality gear that you can choose, listed from least expensive to most expensive.
Using The Built-In Microphone & Headphone Jack On Your ComputerMost computers today have a built-in microphone and 3.5mm headphone jack. The cheapest and easiest way to get started is simply to use what you already have built into your computer. You can use headphones or earbuds plugged into the headphone jack, and use the built-in microphone to capture your vocal audio. Note that you'll definitely need to use headphones vs. the speakers built into your computer. If you don't use headphones, you'll get a really nasty screeching feedback loop because JamKazam doesn't use echo cancellation technology like Skype. This is one of many differences that enable JamKazam to process audio much faster than voice chat apps like Skype.
The big advantage of using the mic and headphone jack built into your computer is price. It's free. There are two disadvantages. One disadvantage is audio quality, as the built-in microphone won't do as good a job capturing your vocal audio as a better audio interface and microphone would. The other disadvantage is that your built-in sound gear will typically process the audio more slowly than a dedicated audio interface, which will create more latency in your online session, making it more challenging to sing live in sync with other singers or instrumentalists.
All of this said, this is a decent way to get started easily and free, and you can always upgrade to something that costs money when you decide it's worth the investment to do so.
Cheap External Microphone & Headphone Jack ($12)If your computer does not have a built-in microphone (often the case with desktop computers vs. laptops), then you can buy an inexpensive microphone with a 3.5mm jack (a "mini jack"), and plug the mic into the mini jack audio input port on your computer (example pictured below). This is a small circular port (same size as the small headphone port) that accepts an audio input source (like a microphone).
For this approach, we recommend the Audio-Technica ATR-1100 Unidirectional Dynamic Vocal/Instrument Microphone (pictured below).
This is a cheap mic. Your audio quality will be about the same as using a built-in mic on a laptop, which is to say it will be not great, but decent, and again an almost free way to get started.
So with this approach you would play an instrument or sing into this microphone, which is plugged into the audio input mini jack on your computer, and use headphones plugged into the headphone port on your computer to hear session audio of you and other musicians. Audio processing latency with this configuration is the same as above using the built-in microphone and built-in headphone jack.
Samson Meteorite ($39.99) or Audio-Technica ATR2500 ($59.99) USB MicrophonesThe next step up in quality and price is to use a USB microphone. This is a microphone that plugs into a USB port on your computer. When you use one of these products, you simply sing into the microphone, and plug a pair of headphones or earbuds into the headphone mini jack on your computer to hear yourself and other musicians in your sessions.
Our favorite two USB microphones are the Samson Meteorite USB Condenser Microphone and the Audio-Technica ATR2500-USB Cardioid Condenser USB Microphone (both pictured below).
The Meteorite costs $39.99, and it is super compact, really tiny, and highly portable. The ATR2500 is larger and a bit more typical as a microphone, and costs $59.99.
In our testing, we've found that using the Samson Meteorite for audio processing results in about 8 milliseconds of audio processing latency on Mac OS X systems, and about 19 milliseconds of audio processing latency on Windows systems. Using the Audio-Technica ATR2500 for audio processing results in about 16 milliseconds of audio processing latency on Mac OS X systems, and about 12 milliseconds of audio processing latency on Windows systems.
Behringer UM2 + XLR Cable + GLS ES58 Microphone ($69.99)The Behringer UM2 (pictured below) delivers a pretty amazing combination of low price, high audio quality, good feature set, and fast audio processing performance.
At just $29.99, you get an audio interface that connects to your computer via a USB cable, and gives you 1 combination XLR-1/4" input port, plus a 1/4" input port, headphone jack, and optional phantom power. We see this interface regularly available for $29.99 at certain Internet storefronts. To find this pricing, we'd recommend simply searching "Behringer UM2" on Google, and checking the Google Shopping results, as pricing on this interface is much more variable than the other products listed in this article. In our testing, we've found that using the Behringer UM2 for audio processing results in about 8 milliseconds of audio processing latency on both Mac OS X and Windows computer systems.
If you get this interface, as a singer you will also need a good microphone. For a great price/performance vocal mic, we recommend the GLS Audio Vocal Microphone ES-58-S & Mic Clip - Professional Series ES58-S Dynamic Cardioid Mike Unidirectional (With On/Off Switch) (pictured below).
This mic is just $29.99. It's a high-quality imitation of the standard Shure SM58 vocal mic. The Shure mic is an industry standard, but it costs $99.99. For $70 less, the GLS mic is really close to the same quality. If you prefer to spend more, you can use this link to the Shure SM58S Vocal Microphone (with On Off Switch).
To connect this microphone to the UM2 audio interface, you'll also need an XLR cable. You can pick one of these cables up for less than $10. For example, the Your Cable Store XLR 3 Pin Microphone Cable (6 feet) (pictured below).
The one other accessory you can consider (but is not required) is a microphone stand. You can simply hold the mic while singing, but if you want to be able to leave the mic on a stand without holding onto it, then a mic stand is handy, and we'd recommend the Samson MK-10 Microphone Boom Stand, which costs $19.99.