How to Add Echo to a Microphone

By Matt McKay

Adding echo to a microphone can be accomplished by adding a hardware device for live or computer applications, or a software plug-in if using your mic solely with computer-based recording programs. Echo (also called "delay") is a popular microphone effect and can be heard on many professional recordings and during live performances. The most flexible method of adding echo is with an external hardware device, as it can be used in any instance when coupled with a sound mixer and PA system or computer.

Things You'll Need

  • Microphone cable
  • Echo device
  • Connection cable from echo device to audio device or computer

Step 1

Plug the microphone into the input of the echo device with a microphone cable.

Step 2

Insert a connection cable from the output of the echo device to the input of an audio source. An audio source would be a sound mixer and PA system, guitar or karaoke amplifier or a computer. Make certain that the termination plug of the connection cable matches the input terminal of the audio device.

Step 3

Turn on the power to the audio and echo devices, and set the volume level on the audio device to normal operation level.

Step 4

Turn the "Blend" or "Mix" control of the echo device up or down to mix the sounds of the "dry" (non-echo) signal with that of the "wet" (echo) signal.

Step 5

Turn the "Feedback" control on the echo up or down to control the number of echoes.

Step 6

Turn the "Delay" or "Time" control on the echo up or down to control the speed of the echo repeats.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some echo devices include a main "Level" knob which controls the overall input level of the microphone. Follow your owner's manual for information regarding the use of this and any other controls.
  • Software echo devices, called "plug-ins," are operated in much the same way, but the controls are present on the computer screen and manipulated with the mouse or key commands. Read your software manual for information on how to use your particular software plug-ins.
  • It is important for the novice to understand the difference between "echo" and "reverb," as the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Reverb is another popular musical effect which makes voice or music sound as though it is being performed in a large room, concert hall or cathedral. Echo is distinguished from reverb by distinct repeats of a word or phrase, similar to the effect derived when yelling across a mountain range.
  • Audacity is free, open-source, cross-platform audio recording and editing software which comes with free plug-ins including echo effects (see Resources). Simply install the software, plug your microphone into your computer's "microphone" jack and you'll be ready to go with all the echo and other effects you'd like after following the brief tutorial.
  • If your unit is equipped with a "level" control, turning it up too high will cause audible distortion to both the dry and wet sound.
  • Turning the "feedback" control up too high will result in a never-ending echo, which will interfere with the overall sound and may cause distortion.
  • Make sure your hardware echo device is compatible with your microphone connections. For instance, professional low-impedance microphones with XLR connectors require a line-matching transformer with 1/4-inch plug adapter in order to function with a guitar echo pedal.