USB microphone and input monitoring through headphones

I am new to Ardour and professional audio. I have a Blue Snowball USB microphone and wired headphones. For some overdubbing, I’d like to set up monitoring on the headphones while recording with the Blue Snowball.

I have a choice between ALSA and JACK on Ubuntu Studio 19.10. I chose ALSA.

When choosing an input, I select “Blue Snowball”, and then the output defaults to “None”.
If I try to change the output to “Intel HDA” (the built in audio interface for the wired headphones) it changes the input to “Intel HDA” as well. From what I could find, it appears that using different sound cards for input/output is not supported due to different clocks.

I am willing to acquire new equipment if I need to. Am I doing it wrong? What is the standard/proper way to accomplish this?

The Blue Snowball is what is referred to as a Half Duplex interface, it only allows audio in one direction, in this case capturing. This generally doesn’t get used for professional audio much, as the more typical option is a full duplex audio interface with XLR microphones.

You can get around this by, for instance, setting Ardour to use the Jack with the Intel HDA, and then using alsa_in alsa_out jack utilities but that is a band aid on the issue, it would be better to have the correct equipment really.

The reason for this has to do with digital clocking, which is a topic in itself. In short there should only be a single clock in a studio that all digital devices work off of, generally for smaller setups this is the audio interface, and many smaller interface and pretty much all USB microphones have no ability to clock externally, so using two devices (Your Intel HDA and Blue Snowball) presents a problem that the above is trying to work around instead of fix, as the fix is to get the correct hardware.

Hopefully that made sense.


I will also add that the Blueball runs at 44.1/16-bit so for better professional audio I’d recommend a USB microphone (or ideally a USB interface + regular condenser microphone) that allows you to record in 24-bit (lower noise floor so no need to be aiming as hot as possible and more like -12dB peaks). I used to own a Snowball because it worked well for VOIP stuff but for everything else I’d be recommending a 24-bit interface plus microphone(s) given the excellent results that can be had even with the lowest cost options these days.

I agree. Another two band aids that are available are zita-a2j and audioadapter. Of the three I have found audioadapter to be the best.

Install excellent Ubuntu Studio Controls. That will help you set up all your audio gear nicely.

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