monitoring while recording.

Hi. I`m new to all this, so please bear with me. Since procuring my new laptop, I cannot monitor (listen in to) ingoing audio, while recording with Audacity. On my old desktop PC, the ingoing audio could be heard during recording. Being just the one audio in socket on this laptop, I tried using a splitter with headphones. It worked fine via the headphones, but the resulting recording was badly distorted. Can Audacity be tweaked to play, while recording?
Recording blind is really not an option - any ideas would be gratefully appreciated. Thanks. wilen

Need to know your operating system and what you are recording from - if using a microphone, is it USB, or plugged into your sound card. Too much information is better than not enough.

OK. Windows Vista, I record from different devices - hi fi, cassette player, minidisc player. My audio in on laptop is stereo 3.5mm jack. Audio out from all my devices is same - 3.5mm jack. wilen

Vista + Laptop + On-board sound (+ Realtek HD or SigmaTel?) = not the easiest options to work with, but lets have a go.

The input is most likely a microphone input, although it may be a combined microphone / line input. Either way the sound quality is likely to be dubious and you will need to be very careful to keep the input volume (the volume that your minidisc /cassette player kicks out) is kept low enough to prevent distortion by the on-board sound card.

Audacity is a slave to the operating system sound system. The settings for which input and output sockets are active and at what level are controlled by the operating system. There are two pages with relevant information here:
http://audacityteam.org/wiki/index.php?title=Windows_Vista_OS
and here:
http://audacityteam.org/wiki/index.php?title=Mixer_Toolbar_Issues

Once you have mastered the mysteries of the Vista sound system, everything should fall into place.

Thanks, stevethefiddle, Im wading my way through the info you suggested. By the way, you asked in your first post if I used a mic with a USB plug. Can I assume from that, that audio can be fed into a PC via a USB socket? If so, do you know of the existence of a cable with the appropriate fittings (3.5mm jack to USB) thus enabling a USB port to record from an external device? Or an adaptor to convert 3.5mm jack to USB plug? Sorry for my ignorance, but Im learning fast. Thanks.

There’s a huge range of USB audio devices including USB sound cards, USB Turntables (we see lots of problems with these), and USB microphones. Prices range from abut $30 US up to several hundred $'s.