Unplug all microphones, headphones, guitar leads and loudspeakers from your computer(all audio peripherals).
Switch off your computer.
Is this a Desktop or a laptop computer?
Plug in your headphones to the headphone socket on your computer (it may be colour coded green, or it may have a picture of headphones, or it may have a symbol that looks like circles with an arrow coming out of the middle - check your manual if in doubt, just make sure that your headphones are plugged into the headphone socket.
Boot your computer - you should hear the Microsoft jingle when the computer boots up - did you hear that?
Click on the “Start” button and find the “Control Panel” icon - open up the Windows Control Panel.
The Windows Control Panel has 2 different interfaces -
If you are using the “Category View”, click on “Sounds Speech and Audio Devices”, then on “Sounds and Audio Devices”.
If you are using the “Classic View”, double click on “Sounds and Audio Devices”.
It should look something like this:
You will see that there are several “tabs” on the “Sounds and Audio Devices” Properties Window. On the First tab (as shown in the picture above, make sure that the “Place Volume in Takskbar” has a tick - if not, select it now and click “Apply”.
If you click on the “Advanced” button, it will open up the “Windows Mixer” - you can also open this from the yellow loudspeaker icon on the taskbar at the lower right corner of your desktop near the clock. We will want to use the Windows Mixer later.
Click on the “Audio” tab and it should look something like this:
The “Sound Playback” and “Sound Recording” devices should be set to your sound card. Remember (or write down) how to get to this “Audio devices setup screen” - you will need to come back to here later.
Try playing some music with your default media player - you should be able to hear it through your headphones. If you can’t, open the Windows Mixer from the loudspeaker icon in the taskbar and adjust the output levels so that you can hear the music playing. When you can hear the music playing, close the Windows Mixer and click “OK” on the “Sounds and Audio Devices Properties” window.
Are we OK so far?
Now to setup Audacity:
Open Audacity and Click “Edit menu > Preferences > Audio I/O”
Check that the Recording and Playback devices are set to your sound card.
On the “Quality” tab, set the quality for “16 bit” and a sample rate of “44100 Hz”.
Close Audacity Preferences and Import an audio file (or generate a tone from the Generate menu). When you play it, the sound should come out through your headphones - can you hear it?
Are we OK so far?
Hopefully this is all working. Now, if you connect an ordinary microphone into the microphone input socket of your computer, you should be able to record and play in Audacity. If you cannot record, then you need to select the “Mic” input for recording in the “Windows Mixer” (loudspeaker icon). Note that the Record settings in the Windows Mixer are on a different part of the Mixer to the playback controls that we saw before.
To open the Record settings on the Windows mixer:
- double click on the loudspeaker icon (or Right click and select "Open Volume Control)
- Click on “Options”
- Click on “Properties”
- Select “Recording” and click “OK”
You should now see something like this:
You will see here that the Microphone input is selected. I can adjust the recording level with the microphone recording level slider.
If you cannot see the microphone input, or if you are using the “Line in” and you cannot see the “Line input” control, or if you are recording from “Stereo Mix” and you cannot see the “Mix” recording control, then, in the Windows Mixer:
- Click on “Options”
- Click on “Properties”.
All available recording inputs are shown and the inputs that are selected here will be displayed in the mixer window.
Recording from a USB input
If you want to record from a USB input. Connect the device and wait a moment for Windows to recognise and connect to the device.
By default, Windows will set any USB asudio device as the default for recording and playback.
If you want to still listen to your computer through the headphones that are connected to your sound card, you will probably need to go back to the “Audio Devices” in the “Windows Control Panel” and set the playback device to your sound card because Windows will usually switch the output to the USB device (even if the USB device is not capable of audio playback).
In Audacity, open Edit > Preferences > Auidio I/O and set the recording device to USB and the Playback device to your sound card.