View Full Version : Still possible with a laptop?


Aviv Hallale
April 18th, 2006, 10:09 AM
I have a Dell Inspiron 4100 Laptop that I was hoping to use when filming live bands, I was planning on running the audio straight from the mixer into the laptop's Line-In and recording it was Audition...I've now discovered that the laptop doesnt have a line-in, rather just a mic-in...Is it still possible to record with this method?

Steve House
April 18th, 2006, 11:16 AM
I have a Dell Inspiron 4100 Laptop that I was hoping to use when filming live bands, I was planning on running the audio straight from the mixer into the laptop's Line-In and recording it was Audition...I've now discovered that the laptop doesnt have a line-in, rather just a mic-in...Is it still possible to record with this method?

You'll be better off with an external USB audio interface or you can get a good PC card interface like this one

http://echoaudio.com/Products/CardBus/IndigoIO/index.php

The built-in motherboard sound "cards" of laptops (and most desktops, for that matter) are usually marginal.

Aviv Hallale
April 18th, 2006, 12:32 PM
Well, what I actually need is some type of CHEAP device in which I can run in a Line-In signal, record and then copy the recording to my PC.

Any ideas?

Steve House
April 18th, 2006, 01:36 PM
Well, what I actually need is some type of CHEAP device in which I can run in a Line-In signal, record and then copy the recording to my PC.

Any ideas?

$199 US is pretty inexpensive for a quality interface

Aviv Hallale
April 18th, 2006, 02:13 PM
I'm on quite a tight budget at the moment :D As in spectacularly tight.

Chris Shaeffer
April 18th, 2006, 02:22 PM
This is about the best deal I know of. M-audio is a good company that caters to the low-end, high quality audio market.

http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/Transit-main.html

$99US (no idea what that will be in South Africa...) is about the lowest price I've seen for a stereo, USB, bus powered interface.

While I have used and liked other m-audio interfaces I haven't used this one. The company has a good rep... but I can't be any more specific about this particular piece.

Take care,
Chris

Steve House
April 18th, 2006, 02:39 PM
I'm on quite a tight budget at the moment :D As in spectacularly tight.

I know the feeling - as a friend of mine once said, if they was selling steamships for a nickle, all I could do is stand on the dock and say "My ain't that a bargain!" Still, making room in the budget for quality gear usually works out cheapest in the long run. Those of us working on a shoestring can't afford "bargains." Save money by eliminating un-needed frills, not cutting quality. The M-Audio units Chris mentioned looks good - haven't used one but they do have a good reputation. One thing to be a little careful of is USB devices sometimes have trouble keeping up with the flow of data. USB2 usually has no problems but USB1 sometime experienced dropouts. I don't know which that device is nor what is on the Inspiron notebook so you might want to investigate it. Another good way to go is a firewire audio interface and firewire card but that's going to get up into the $500 or so US$

Douglas Spotted Eagle
April 18th, 2006, 03:41 PM
You might look for an Indigo from Echo. I use one a lot. Runs around 120.00 new, but there might be some used on Ebay or something.

Greg Bellotte
April 18th, 2006, 05:09 PM
if you can still find the creative labs MP3+, model # SB0270 i'd check that out. bought mine some time ago for $39. An external USB device, it has line in/out on RCA, optical digital i/o, and mic and headphones on 1/8". sounds good, works well...

Bill Ball
April 18th, 2006, 08:16 PM
I have used the M-audio transit to transfer live and pre-recorded audio with good results. I think the usb interface has its limitations (compared with firewire) but this device works as promised with no surprises.

Gian Pablo Villamil
April 18th, 2006, 08:42 PM
You might look for an Indigo from Echo. I use one a lot. Runs around 120.00 new, but there might be some used on Ebay or something.

Totally support that suggestion! The indigo io is top-notch, really good quality for input and output and not expensive.

Don't try to cut corners at the acquisition stage - you'll regret it later.

Nelson Cole
April 26th, 2006, 01:35 AM
I'm also considering recording audio with my laptop, not the camera.

My Powerbook has an optical line in, happily. Would I still need a USB or Firewire interface?

Steve House
April 26th, 2006, 06:12 AM
I'm also considering recording audio with my laptop, not the camera.

My Powerbook has an optical line in, happily. Would I still need a USB or Firewire interface?

You would need some sort of interface - the optical in would be for a digital signal and so you need something outboard that would convert the analog audio into digital and send it to the laptop via optical instead of either USB or Firewire. Of the three options, finding an interface with optical might be more difficult and/or expensive thanb the other two options you have.

Cannon Pearson
April 26th, 2006, 07:14 AM
You might look at the Griffin iMic.

http://www.griffintechnology.com/products/imic2/index.php

I's about as cheap as it gets and does stereo at line and mic levels.

Aviv Hallale
April 28th, 2006, 11:43 AM
Well, I just did some tests with my Laptop...A lead from my PC line-out to my Laptop's Mic-In (I've heard some people say that that the mic-in on a laptop automatically adapts to Line-In when the situation arises) and recorded an MP3. The quality is suprisingly good, I had the Mic-in level set in between the bottom and first notch and there was no clipping whatsoever. Should I still invest in an iMic, or will this method suffice?

http://www.zastore.co.za/index.php?lm=IGstore&cf=ProdList&p%5Bprod_id%5D=158&d=1&p%5Bcat_id%5D=VCB Says it will only work with a Mac.

Steve House
April 28th, 2006, 01:53 PM
Well, I just did some tests with my Laptop...A lead from my PC line-out to my Laptop's Mic-In (I've heard some people say that that the mic-in on a laptop automatically adapts to Line-In when the situation arises) and recorded an MP3. The quality is suprisingly good, I had the Mic-in level set in between the bottom and first notch and there was no clipping whatsoever. Should I still invest in an iMic, or will this method suffice?

http://www.zastore.co.za/index.php?lm=IGstore&cf=ProdList&p%5Bprod_id%5D=158&d=1&p%5Bcat_id%5D=VCB Says it will only work with a Mac.

I've never heard of an auto-adapting mic/line input like that. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist, only that I've never heard of it. I know my older Dell laptop has separate line and mic inputs and they both are lousy because the on-board sound card is lousy.

Having the level between the bottom and the first mark tells me that it had not "auto adapted" and you would run a real danger of overloading the input on louder sounds.

Aviv Hallale
April 28th, 2006, 02:35 PM
The sound from my PC was being played at full Wave and Volume Balance...Do you think this is a safe indication that I might get a good recording of sound coming out of a mixer?

Steve House
April 29th, 2006, 07:45 AM
The sound from my PC was being played at full Wave and Volume Balance...Do you think this is a safe indication that I might get a good recording of sound coming out of a mixer?

I would be very cautious. Can you set your mixer to deliver a mic level output?

The mic preamps and the A/D converters in your laptop's internal sound system are likely to be very marginal at best. Getting a sound recorded without gross distortion and getting good, usable, recordings for serious music and video work are two entirely different things.

Have you played back the sounds you recorded in your first test on a good quality audio system - preferrably studio monitors - or listened to it through a pair of truly professional quality headphones? The built-in speakers on a laptop, most desktop computer speaker systems, and the typical computer accessory or mp3 player headphones are NOT adequate for evaluating the quality of your recording.

Aviv Hallale
April 29th, 2006, 04:49 PM
I listened to it through my PCs 5.1 sound system and it sounds pretty good, but I am worrying that there'll be higher output from the mixert than from my soundcard when I did that test...I don't need crystal clear audio, just something listenable.

Steve House
April 29th, 2006, 05:47 PM
I listened to it through my PCs 5.1 sound system and it sounds pretty good, but I am worrying that there'll be higher output from the mixert than from my soundcard when I did that test...I don't need crystal clear audio, just something listenable.

Whether your 5.1 sound system is giving you a clear picture of what your recording really sounds like remains to be seen. There's a LOT of differences in quality of various computer speaker systems, ranging from fairly good down to downright awful. And remember, what sounds awsome with games or recreational music listening is not necessarily what you want for monitoing and evaluating audio recording - there you need accuracy more than anything else. It's not for nothing that monitor speakers for professional audio workstations can easily run well over a thousand dollars apiece. Take a look at product lines like Mackie, Genelec, DynAudio to name a few and you'll see what I mean. That's not to say you need to spend thousands of dollars to do good work but you do need to give your options some care and attention.

If you're recording sound to use in your video productions you need to record the best possible sound you can get. Merely "listenable" won't cut it with your audiences - people forgive less-than-perfect video but they won't forgive poor sound. You need as close to "crystal clear audio" as is practical for you to achieve - trust us on this one <grin>.

I'm not sure what you mean by "higher output from the mixer than from the soundcard." Aren't you thinking of feeding your stage mics to the mixer which you'd then feed in turn to the laptop's soundcard mic input? If that's the case, instead of turning the input level on soundcard all the way down to the bottom of the scale to avoid overload, either set the mixer's output to mic level if possible or add an inline attentuating pad to drop the line level down to mic level. If you have to set the soundcard's level much below mid-scale to avoid going into the red, you're very likely to overload the input on loud peaks before the signal ever even gets to the level control.

I and several others gave a recommendation earlier that I'll repeat -- the Echo "Indigo" PCMCIA card audio interface is a thoroughly professional quality sound I/O device for a laptop at a *very* reasonable price. I have an Echo Audiofire 8 on my desktop and can personally attest to the quality of their products. There are others on the market as well but whichever you ultimately go with I'd strongly suggest you give something along those lines some careful consideration.

Aviv Hallale
April 30th, 2006, 05:29 AM
All the mics into a mixer and then the mixer into my Laptop is what I had in mind, but when I did a test at home I had the line-out from my PC into my speaker and recorded some sound from my PC, that's why I'm worried that the output on a mixer will be much more powerful than the output from my PC.

The business venture I'm pursuing is relativly small scale and a lot cheaper than full professional live productions. The stuff I'd be recording is for quasi-professional (ie teenage) bands, so I don't think their TV soundsystems are any better than my Logitech PC speakers...I can't seem to find the Indigo at any local stores, but the iMic is quite available and about half the price...Do you think this would cut it?

Steve House
April 30th, 2006, 06:22 AM
All the mics into a mixer and then the mixer into my Laptop is what I had in mind, but when I did a test at home I had the line-out from my PC into my speaker and recorded some sound from my PC, that's why I'm worried that the output on a mixer will be much more powerful than the output from my PC.

The business venture I'm pursuing is relativly small scale and a lot cheaper than full professional live productions. The stuff I'd be recording is for quasi-professional (ie teenage) bands, so I don't think their TV soundsystems are any better than my Logitech PC speakers...I can't seem to find the Indigo at any local stores, but the iMic is quite available and about half the price...Do you think this would cut it?

Griffin has a rep for decent products so I'm sure it will work as advertised. Whether the resulting sound is going to be any better than using your laptop's existing sound system is also anyone's guess at the moment - I've never used one so I can't say one way or the other. But one thing is for certain, you just can't plug a line level output from your mixer into a mic level input and being safe from overload because you're keeping the laptop's level setting all the way at the bottom of its range. Teenaged bands particularly tend to equate "loud" with "good" so when you're recording live you're going to have some very high levels to contend with.

What mixer are you using? Does it provide unbalanced outputs?

Aviv Hallale
April 30th, 2006, 06:34 AM
Usually a different mixer for different gigs, the house mixer. But they're big...With lots of knobs. If that helps. :P

I understand that the echo is a soundcard of its own, but is the iMic like that too, or is it just an adapter?

Steve House
April 30th, 2006, 07:37 AM
Usually a different mixer for different gigs, the house mixer. But they're big...With lots of knobs. If that helps. :P

I understand that the echo is a soundcard of its own, but is the iMic like that too, or is it just an adapter?

It's a soundcard AFAIK - Griffin doesn't publish any specs, at least I haven't found any, which in itself is off-putting. You have to consider it to be in the "toy" category IMHO. My take is it would be fine for listening to your "toonz" on your laptop or playing around with recording but it's probably not going to be up to the demands of video production where you expect to get paid for your efforts. The fact that your business is just starting out and is small scale doesn't mean it's not a real business and so it's ok to approach it in half-a***d manner. If you want it to grow into a profession where you'll earn your living, you have to approach it with the attitude "Good enough, never is." That doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune on top of the line gear right now - by all means be creative in figuring out how to get champagne results on a beer budget - but it does mean you have to think like a pro and do whatever it takes to get the job done right. You may be on a beer budget but you can't deliver beer-level results to your clients and grow a sucessful business.

Aviv Hallale
May 1st, 2006, 12:23 PM
On the Griffin page, the tech-specs for the iMic are:

$35!

We’re not trying to be flip here – well, maybe a little bit, but there’s a reason. In order for us to develop and supply a $35 audio device, it was necessary for that product to be specification independent. Because it’s not a professional device (which would require exact specs for demanding pros), but rather a consumer device that fills a very definite need and price for non-professionals, we have to be able to adjust to changes in the raw materials markets. Otherwise, the extremely low price of the iMic could potentially fluctuate and we might have to deal with unnecessary shortages. So our engineers made the decision to keep the iMic within certain basic parameters and not release a detailed spec sheet. The iMic will always do 24 bit A/D and D/A conversion internally, and it will record and playback at 16 bit, 48 kHz. The quality of the iMic has never before been available at anywhere near its price, and we’re extremely proud of it. Having said that, we feel if exact specifications are that crucial to your project, you might be better served with one of the products costing hundreds of dollars more.

So that isn't that informative, but the fact that the iMic is less than half the price of the Indigo card (which I can't seem to find locally) appeals to me...Will the iMic itself be a lot better sounding than my original method of Line-out to Mic-In?

Also, my Laptop has about 6gb HDD space left...Is this enough for only audio? How much space would forty five minutes of a recording at 48khz use?

Steve House
May 1st, 2006, 12:44 PM
....

So that isn't that informative, but the fact that the iMic is less than half the price of the Indigo card (which I can't seem to find locally) appeals to me...Will the iMic itself be a lot better sounding than my original method of Line-out to Mic-In?

...

For the Indigo and other interfaces, have you checked music stores that have a good audio recording section or have you just been checking computer stores? If SA is anything like here in the Toronto area, the computer stores have next to nothing usable for audio and video production other than CPUs, monitors, disk drives, and the like. For mics, mixers, headphones, audio cards & interfaces, software & plugins, etc, you need to go to a sound speciality shop.

Aviv Hallale
May 1st, 2006, 02:27 PM
The shop I checked in was a PC place and the salesperson told me such adapters don't exist. So I guess you're right :P

I think that at the moment I'm going to go with the iMic, it has to be better than nothing at all, right?

Steve House
May 1st, 2006, 03:13 PM
The shop I checked in was a PC place and the salesperson told me such adapters don't exist. So I guess you're right :P

I think that at the moment I'm going to go with the iMic, it has to be better than nothing at all, right?

That remains to be seen. You're trying to start a business, music videos will be a present focus of that business, and musicians (either professional or aspiring) will be your key clients. Quality sound is likely to be key to your success and poor quality sound could condemn you to failure.

Found this link by googling for a South African source for you ...
http://www.mio.co.za/article.php?cat=&id=285
and they quote at the bottom of the article the following price for the Indigo...
Price: R1695 incl. VAT
Available from: CRN, call them on 011-315-6687
More info: www.echoaudio.com

Aviv Hallale
May 1st, 2006, 03:31 PM
Yeah, unfortunately they're based in Joburg, I'm in Cape
Town and have a thing about buying having stuff delivered
from online orders from some bad experiences...The main reason prices will be lower than more professional producers is precisely because the equipment is not as professional as what more money can buy.

Aviv Hallale
May 11th, 2006, 04:19 PM
Well, I got an iMic today for use with a Windows XP Dell Inspiron 4100. I'd like to be able to use it with Adobe Audition 1.5 but so far have encountered nothing but problems.

All connections are fine, the device is recognized and selected in the Sound settings, however when I try record in Audition, no signal comes through. I've tried changing the selected device from the iMic to"Wave Mapper" which seems to work, but only in Mono. I will be using the iMic to record live audio straight from the mixer. The test I did today was from my PC Line-Out into the iMic which went into my Laptop. How can I get Stereo Line-In sound? When connecting my PC to my Laptop's Mic-In the sound is stereo, but obviously the impedence is too high and the sound distorts easily.

Half the time, Audition gives problems with the iMic, saying it's the wrong type of device, the sample rate is wrong or the USB Bandwidth has been exceeded. This requires a reboot to start working again properly, but the slightest setting change will cause this problem again.

How can I get the iMic to work predictably and in Stereo when recording with Line-In?

Thanks.
Aviv

Steve House
May 11th, 2006, 05:11 PM
Download the free Audacity audio editing program and see if you have any better luck. Beyond that I don't have any help to offer as I've never used the iMic nor since upgrading to 2.0 do I have Audition 1.5 installed to take a look at for ideas for you to try. Maybe someone else has some experience with it and will have something to offer out but I'm fresh out of ideas. The fact is, it may turn out you might not be able to use the iMic with Audition after all - Audition is designed to work with pro gear which the iMic definitely is not. There could be lots of issues such as poor or incompatible drivers, etc at work here and it's hard to guess what's going on..

Aviv Hallale
May 11th, 2006, 06:03 PM
Well, I tried GoldWave, and it semed to work a lot more reliably, since I got it, I've had better luck with Audition. I had to tweak settings with the Wave Mapper and device etc. Although I still have the stereo problem. I record in mono and then just copy the left channel to the right for a fake stereo effect. The quality is better than recording straight into my Mic-In though. Is it to do with the cable I'm using? A guitar lead with two stereo jacks with mini-stereo converters on them going from my PC to Laptop. When I used that cable straight into my mic-in, the sound was in stereo.

Steve House
May 11th, 2006, 09:16 PM
Well, I tried GoldWave, and it semed to work a lot more reliably, since I got it, I've had better luck with Audition. I had to tweak settings with the Wave Mapper and device etc. Although I still have the stereo problem. I record in mono and then just copy the left channel to the right for a fake stereo effect. The quality is better than recording straight into my Mic-In though. Is it to do with the cable I'm using? A guitar lead with two stereo jacks with mini-stereo converters on them going from my PC to Laptop. When I used that cable straight into my mic-in, the sound was in stereo.

The cable and converter combination could be it. The converter could be shorting the tip and ring together or they could be shorting the ring to the sleeve - hard to say for sure. When you say you're getting mono, does that mean you're getting signal on the left channel only and the right channel is silent? If so, I'll bet your converter is designed to convert a balanced cable to an unbalanced input - A TRS connector used for stereo puts the left channel on the tip, the right channel on the ring, and the common ground to the sleeve. A balanced cable has signal hot on the tip, signal cold on the ring, and ground/shield to the sleeve. A balanced to unbalanced converter leaves the signal on the tip and shunts the ring to the sleeve, grounding signal cold. If that's what you have in your connection instead of a stereo adapter, the right channel is shorted to ground and goes silent. If you have a ohmmeter, see if you have a ring to sleeve short circuit somewhere.

Aviv Hallale
May 12th, 2006, 04:51 AM
Yeah, sound in the left but the right is silent, unless I connect the cable straight into the Mic-In, where there is a signal in both channels...What can I do to get a stereo output with the iMic's Line In?

Steve House
May 12th, 2006, 05:17 AM
Yeah, sound in the left but the right is silent, unless I connect the cable straight into the Mic-In, where there is a signal in both channels...What can I do to get a stereo output with the iMic's Line In?

What exactly are the cables and adapters you're using?

Dale Paterson
May 13th, 2006, 01:33 AM
Aviv,

My two cents worth:

You say that when you used the same cable configuration going directly into the notebook you had stereo. Was this really stereo or was it actually just mono on both channels? Remember that a mic-in jack on a notebook is nearly always a mono input jack so even if you fed it stereo it would still be a mono recording but on both channels. If the latter was the case then I would say that it is your cables.

Another reason that I suspect the cables is simply due to the fact that when you plug a mono source into a stereo input you normally always just get sound on the left channel by default.

By the way (I'm sure I don't have to tell you but just in case) mono on two tracks is NOT stereo.

We are not supposed to put links on this site to suppliers other than the sponsors so if you email me I will give you the name of a very big music shop in Cape Town. They have all this type of gear and have been very good to me i.e. I live in Johannesburg and have ordered stuff from them over the phone on their recommendation, without even seeing the goods first, and have been extremely happy upon receipt - one of the few places here that actually know what they are talking about!

Regards,

Dale.

Aviv Hallale
May 15th, 2006, 08:36 PM
Well, here's the result...

Came out really well, I think.

http://www.streamload.com/Neverdead/THC.mpg (Right-Click Save Target As)

55mb

It's a big file, I know, but it's the only thing that can compare to the 1.2gb original in terms of sound and passable video quality.

George Ellis
May 16th, 2006, 06:43 AM
Just a post discussion add-on and not the better solution in most cases, but...

Creative Labs does now make a PC Card/PCMCIA Audigy 2.