In 2012 the likelihood that a decent recording microphone will be horribly mismatched with a decent mic preamp (included in the audio interface units I talk about on this site) is, in my opinion, really low. Now, when I say “decent,” I’m talking about microphones from well-known and respected manufacturers like Shure, Audio-Technica, Rode, Neumann, AKG, Blue, Mojave Audio, etc. Preamps (see our article – What is a Mic Preamp?) these days are almost always integrated with the audio interface, and in the case of a USB mic, integrated directly into the mic (so need for worrying about mismatches). When I say “decent” in the context of audio interfaces, again you’re unlikely to go wrong with units by companies like M-Audio/Avid, EMU, CEntrance, ART, PreSonus, Focusrite, Behringer, etc. Obviously there are more, especially in the very high-end market. But my point is this – if you have an Audio-Technica AT2035 microphone (see our review here: Review of the Audio-Technica AT2035 Microphone), you don’t need to worry whether plugging it into an M-Audio Fast Track C-600 interface. It’ll sound great!
However, I’m a fan of the old saw – knowledge is never wasted. And there are still times, especially when working with very high-end equipment looking for the pinnacle of conceivable performance specs, when it could be handy to understand how the electronics interact with one another to degrade or enhance the resulting sound. In that vein, I refer you to this article explaining the terms and numbers involved in mic and preamp specs: