audacity performance with different soundcards

I’m not sure where to post this question, so I’m trying here for starters. I wonder if anyone knows of any adjustments that can be made in Audacity to improve how it works with different standard-issue soundcards in laptops.

Until this past August I was using Audacity on a Dell Inspiron 1545 laptop running MS Vista. The Dell came with a factory-installed IDT soundcard. Although the Dell had many shortcomings in general, I was able to get surprisingly good results with it as a recording studio using a simple Sony stereo condenser mic plugged directly into the mic jack. There was a little hiss on tracks but I understand this to be inherent in the recording process, and was fairly easily cleaned up with various levels of noise reduction, equalization, or both. The recorded tracks had a clarity and a presence which I was pleased to find very close to the original sound.

The Dell died shortly after I returned from Afghanistan this summer (I had used it for a year there), and I replaced it with a Toshiba Satellite C55 which I realized belatedly was probably lower-end than I should have gotten. This Toshiba runs Windows 8 and has a Realtek soundcard installed. In my first attempts to use it to record, I noticed that the quality, using the latest Audacity release, is much inferior to that produced with the Dell/IDT. The sound is flat and compressed; I guess to use non-technical terms I’d say there’s no depth, immediacy or life to the sound.

I went into the Realtek program to see if I could make any adjustments or tweaks to its operation but I didn’t see anything. I did figure out how to improve the playback (which was pre-set to a mono, AM-radio-quality setting) but couldn’t find any way to make changes in recording. So, I’d be very interested to find out if Audacity allows for any adjustments based on the manufacturer of the soundcard it’s run through. I know so little about this kind of hardware (and its supporting software) that I’m not even aware if there are any significant differences between the one soundcard and the other (except in this case, apparently, a “better” one and a “worse” one.)

If anybody has any experience with this type of issue, I’d be very grateful for suggestions. My alternative would be just to buy a better quality laptop, which is what I should have done in the first place.

Thanks much.

Audacity is a complete slave to the computer and sound card. Audacity does no processing, filtering or effects in real time during the recording. You are listening to the performance of the soundcard … and Windows. Let’s not forget Windows and the drivers are getting into the act, too. Windows likes to run “Enhanced Services” to make Conferencing and Skype work much better. That also pretty well destroys music recording.

There’s an old story of me checking out the sound system in a new computer ignorant of the fact that someone in the Hardware Group left “Concert Hall” effects running. It did take me a while to get past that one.

Have you ever been able to spend extra money and get a good soundcard in a Windows laptop? I haven’t, either. That’s pretty much why we always go straight for an external sound system – and even that sometimes falls flat. Built-in soundcards are usually low-end throw-aways with enough playback to handle Gangnam Style YouTube and enough microphone channel to say hello to Grandma in a Skype call. That’s it.


As Koz says, most built-in sound cards on Windows laptops are varying degrees of rubbish, but it is cheap and effective to upgrade to a USB sound card.

But you should definitely turn off Windows recording enhancements, and make sure the Default Format in Windows Sound for the mic input is set to 44100 Hz or 48000 Hz. Those sample rates are relevant if the “Exclusive Mode” boxes in that section are unchecked or if you are using MME host in Audacity Device Toolbar .

Also go to the Toshiba site and makes sure you have the latest Windows 8 audio drivers for your computer model.


Thanks much for the suggestions. I tried turning off the enhancements and it worked; the recorded sound is much more life-like. There’s a down-side, though-- there is now a ferocious amount of background hiss on the raw tracks. I know some hiss is a fact of recording life, but this level is much, much greater than that which I experienced on the Dell (ironically, presumably even with such enhancements still enabled?) and the previous version of Audacity. The hiss is too great for Audacity’s current noise reduction application to mitigate without compromising the original instrumental sound, so it appears this solution is only partially successful.

I guess the next step would be to try an external sound card. Since I’m also ignorant of these, I’d welcome any suggestions or recommendations for good but inexpensive starter models as well as any advice for using them (if it’s more than just plug-in-and-go.) I’m hoping these can be had second-hand on ebay as readily as new from a dealer.

Thanks again.

This issue is not do with Audacity. It doesn’t pre-process the signal with audio effects.

If the machine is still under warranty, complain to Toshiba. There is a small chance they will pay for a USB sound card.

You can search Google or Bing for recommendations. Read the reviews on the shopping site. If you need stereo mix for recording computer playback I would recommend Trust Sound Expert External from my own experience, but there are a number of different choices and any of them should be an improvement on a built-in sound device.