Look at those pretty lights inside the connectors on either end of this 10-foot LightSnake USB intelligent microphone cable. They light up when it's performing its alchemy, using an embedded analog-to-digital converter to change those analog signals emitted from high quality microphones with XLR connectors into the digital data that only a Mac or PC could love. No drivers are necessary on Mac OS X or Windows XP, and come to think of it, neither is a sound card.
This is a $70 cable, but it could save you from having to get yourself the pre-amp normally required to cross that analog-to-digital divide. It's from SoundTech Professional Audio, a whose LightSnake Smart Audio Cable for guitars impressed us a while back. Podcasters and musicians will love this.