Old Turntable Suddenly Won't Record Into Audacity

So, for a couple years, I’ve been using a 70’s-era turntable to record vinyl, through the turntable’s headphone port, to my laptop via Audacity. The cable I’ve been using has one of those 1/4" adapters on one end in order to plug into the turntable’s headphone port. For clarity’s sake, my set-up is as follows: 70’s turntable > 1/4" headphone jack adapter > mini-stereo cable > mini-headphone port on laptop running Audacity.

This always worked fine. Now, when I plug my adapter-wearing stereo cable, it causes a lot of static in Audacity. Like, a ridiculous amount of static. Using noise removal would be futile. That could mean a couple things.

First, I thought, hey, maybe this stereo cable is bad. So I took the adapter off of it, and plugged it into my iPod. Then I played a song on my iPod and tried to record that through Audacity. It was crystal clear. Not only did this tell me that the cable was fine, but it also made me think that my sound card is fine too. If my sound card was fried, it wouldn’t discriminate between recording off an iPod and recording off a turntable, right?

Second, I checked to see if the adapter was working. I popped it on my earphones, and plugged it into the headphone port on the turntable. It sounded fine. It had the distinctive crackle that vinyl provides, but there was nothing like the overwhelming static that Audacity was picking up. For good measure, I tried the adapter again on some headphones. I got the same result.

Thirdly, I plugged the adapter back on the original stereo cable, but instead of plugging the adapted end into the turntable, I left it out in open air and started recording. The static wasn’t happening. It was dead quiet, as one would expect, with little pops and cracks as I tapped the end of the adapter. Y’know. For fun.

Once I plugged it into the turntable’s headphone port, however, the static started again.

So. To recap. My adapted stereo cables hisses when it’s plugged into my laptop. When I adapt headphones with the very same adapter, I hear no hissing. When I record with the adapter outside of my turntable, there is, again, no hissing. Finally, when I record from something that isn’t the turntable, but while using the same stereo cable, there’s no hissing. It’s like God is angry with me, but only enough to annoy me.

What’s the problem, my lieges?

When did you get your new laptop?

Plugging into the headphone connection of the laptop should never have worked. Your old laptop must have had a Stereo Line-In. That would have worked very well. That’s the blue connection if you’re counting.


Most new computers have lost the Stereo Line-In in favor of just Headphone and Microphone like this:


Neither of those connections will be able to deal with the powerful, stereo signal coming from the turntable.

When somebody needs to do a stereo capture on a newer PC laptop, we recommend a Stereo-Line adapter from Behringer. The UCA-202. Other people make them.



I fear I wasn’t clear enough.

I didn’t get a new laptop. The laptop I’m using now is the one I’ve always been using. Literally nothing has changed in my set-up. Same laptop, same cable, same adapter, and same turntable. Now, Audacity suddenly picks up a ton of static from the turntable, even when the record isn’t going. Yet, the turntable doesn’t produce the static when listening to it through headphones. Furthermore, my laptop can pick up audio just fine from any other source. That’s why I don’t think the sound card is fried or anything.

I meant to say that I was plugging into the 1/8" microphone port on my computer. I thought “1/8"” and then my mind went to “MINI-HEADPHONE PORT!” So that was a typo.

I know a microphone port is not the best, but from what I read, so long as I keep the levels low on the stereo, it should be fine. And it was fine. For two years.

I reckon it could either be the headphone port on the stereo, the adapter on the cable, or my sound card. But there are counter-examples to all of those. The headphone port is fine when headphones are in it. The adapter is fine when headphones are plugged into it. The sound card can handle audio from all other sources.

Is any of that news to you?

Such as what? As a test, do you have an MP3 player or CD player that you can plug into the laptop’s microphone input (preferably using the same cable to plug into the mic input)?

Yes, exactly that. I used the same cable to record from my iPod, and that was crystal clear. Then I used the same cable again to record from a CD player/boombox. There was some dead air before I started recording, but it was fine otherwise. For both of these tests, I wasn’t able to use the 1/4" adapter that I use to plug into the turntable. To compensate, I plugged my iPod earphones into the turntable (using the 1/4" adapter) and it sounded fine. It had that vinyl crackle, but still.

I also want to point out that, once I start the turntable and begin recording the first track, the waveform (mostly) turns into a continuous, curvy snake-like shape. It loses the peaks and valleys one would expect. Secondly, when I record on Audacity, the vocals sound echoey. It’s as if the guy (Jerry Lee Lewis, for those who care) is singing into a thin metal bowl. That makes me think a setting someplace is set too high. I have the recording volume in Audacity set to .5, which is .2 lower than what I normally used when it worked. Is there any other setting that would be worth checking?

And one more thing: I just tried a different laptop (same set-up, going into Laptop 2’s mic port) and it worked better. There is still much more static than there used to be. The waveform maintains the “peaks and valleys” look on Laptop 2.

For further illustration of my point, I bear pictures. Here’s a screenshot of the waveform before the needle even hits the record.


Good - that rules out: Audacity, the laptop sound card (mic input), the operating system and the cable.

Let’s hope it’s the adaptor, otherwise it looks like the problem is the turntable.

Well shucks. I guess ~40 years is a good enough run.

One last thing: Just now, it occurred to me to record out of the RCA ports on the back. I have one of those cables that are RCA on one end and 1/8" on the other. I thought I’d bypass the borked headphone port by doing it that. Instead, I got the same static-y result. What’s the deal with that?

Could you post a short sample, just a couple of seconds in WAV format, to illustrate the problem.
See here for how to attach a file to a forum post: https://forum.audacityteam.org/t/how-to-attach-files-to-forum-posts/24026/1

Here you go. I had to upload in MP3 because I couldn’t get it small enough in WAV. The compression doesn’t hurt it any. First you hear dead air, then the needle hitting the record, and then the actual song. Now I’m noticing that the entire recording cuts out repeatedly; I think that’s new.

Definitely something broken.

My guess is that a component in the turntable has died. The fact that the same problem occurs from both the headphone port and the RCA sockets indicates that it is component in the circuit before the signal is split between headphone and RCA outputs.

That part does not make sense.
The only possibility that I can think of is that when you have headphones plugged in, you have the headphone volume much louder so that the problem is less noticeable, but I don’t see how the problem can just go away when headphones are connected.

I want to believe you so badly and be done with it, but I keep coming across contradictory evidence, hahah.

I listened to the turntable again through headphones, and I’m hearing some of that static, but it’s as if my computer is exaggerating the static as it records. Which is bizarre. Also, listening to it through speakers plugged into the RCA port is satisfactory. I know from my limited experience with recording equipment that hardware can “hear” differently than the human ear, so mayhaps that’s what’s confusing me. At least I’m convinced that my sound card isn’t broken. That was my main worry.

Anyway, you’ve done a lovely job of keeping me from going insane with worry. I’m going to get a new 1/4" adapter from New Egg or something and see if that changes anything (just in casies), and if not, I’ll get a new turntable. As far as you’re concerned, case closed. Many thanks.

Sorry that I took a while to respond to the last post. I didn’t realize the thread had leaked onto a second page.

Is the static completely absent, or is there a slight trace of it?

There certainly seems to be a trace of sorts. I didn’t notice it before because it was only coming out of the right speaker, and the left one was overpowering the crackle. (I know it’s the port and not the speaker itself, because I tried switching the speakers around.) After shifting the balance all the way to the right, I found it. Or I found something, at least. This could all be wishful listening on my part, but I’m fine with being optimistic at this point.

If I recall correctly you are recording into a microphone input? The main problem with that is that microphone signals are tiny, so the input is expecting a tiny signal, which is why you are having to record at a really low volume level. There appears to be a constant, low level noise from your turntable, that at normal listening levels is barely noticeable, but when amplified massively by the microphone input is becomes extremely noticeable.

Alright, that makes sense. But why is it so bad all of a sudden? Because a component somewhere along the line is tired?

My guess is that a component has failed, or is starting to fail. Although electronic circuits don’t have moving parts they still don’t last forever. Of course I can’t be 100% certain about that. If it is a hardware fault then that’s not the sort of thing that can be fixed on a forum :wink: