I’ve been doing some experiments recording FM radio using Audacity. The other day I made a seven hour recording, converted it to MP3 format automatically and it seemed to be a success. Although I have not had a chance to listen to it.
The other day I dug out this little device I had purchased 20 years ago from Wal-Mart called a GeoTek PCFM radio. I’m not sure why I bought it at the time. I guess it was a novelty item I had just bought my first PC (although I had been fooling with Commodores since the early 1980s) and found it cool.
There are PCI card and USB devices like this but I believe this was one of the first of it’s kind. The software will run as far back as Windows 3.1 and runs fine on XP. It plugs into the parallel port or COM port using an adapter. The output wire connects to the LINE-In jack on the sound card. The instructions say it won’t work without a sound card but I suspect you could plug a set of amplified speakers into the LINE-IN port on the radio and it would work. I haven’t tested this.
The software has the capability of recording and saving as a WAV file, however I can’t get it to record anything. It’s just as well because it says there is only 925KB of free space to record despite having a 1 TB hard drive.
So anyway I wanted to see if running it along side Audacity would work. Sure enough it works.
I realize when you do any kind of audio compression, the sound quality can suffer. I’m trying to figure out the best way to record seven hours of music and get it onto a 2 GB sound card without the sound quality sounding like garbage.
I haven’t had a chance to see how large the file I recorded the other day is. I do remember I set the recording to 44,000 KHZ on stereo. From one of my recordings doing this test, the sound quality wasn’t that great compared to the sound generated from the GeoTek device.
One idea I’ve yet to try is to double the bit rate recording but in mono. I know that sounds crazy but seems to produce a somewhat better recording.
Here’s something I noticed. If I record in mono, Audacity shows that it’s recording one channel instead of converting the signal from stereo to mono. So that’s the case, this may sound a bit funky on some older recordings. Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze is a good example where the vocals and instruments are split between two channels. So Jimi’s voice is only recorded on the left channel and you can barely hear his voice on the right channel.
I have also experimented using an old mono Drexel radio. I’m using one of those 3.5 mm adapters that splits a mono signal into two channels. So I plugged that into my sound card. The sound quality sounds a bit dull using that radio.
If I record in mono versus stereo, does that cut the file size in half? I’m also trying to figure out what bit rate FM analog radio is close to.
If you guys are wondering why I am not recording steaming audio. Well from my past experience, it’s just unreliable. Buffering issues, drop outs, etc. FM radio works 99% the time.