Problems Recording from a Cell Phone...

So I should state off the bat I’m doing something kind of weird. I’m trying to record my voicemails from a cell phone onto my computer using Audacity. I purchased a 3.5mm cord and I’m using that as a connector between the cell phone and the input jack on the computer.

At first when I tried to do it, I got an error message and figured out that I had to change the sample format to 16 bit since it’s all my computer can handle apparently. From that point on, it recorded but the resulting audio sounds really high pitched and distant. Kind of like some sort of creepy Soviet radio recording or something…

Does anyone have any ideas on what I’m doing wrong? Is that I had to scale back to 16 bit part of the problem maybe? I’d like the quality of the audio file to sound more normal at the very least. I can probably send a copy of the weird audio file to anyone who wants to hear what it sounds like. If that would help or anything.

I’m an indpendent filmmaker and I’m doing this for a specific project, so trust me in that what I’m doing is not for any crazy purpose. Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks!

from I’m doing this for a specific project

Specific projects can be illegal, immoral or fattening.
(Alexander Woollcott)

OK, you got your connector in the cellphone, but how did you get it into the computer? The “speaker” connection in a cellphone is line-level and you shouldn’t plug it into the Mic-In of a Windows machine.

Did you turn off Windows conferencing sound filters?

Try that and then if it’s close enough, you don’t have to go much further. If the sound is still crunchy and bad, then we need more work.


I actually did just plug the cord into the Mic-In. Should it be plugged into the headphone jack instead?..

No, not into the headphone socket in the laptop. That’s an “output” for playback, not an “input”.

I presume your computer is a laptop and not a full size computer?
If it is a full size (desktop/tower) computer, then there will probably be a “line in” socket on the back and you should plug into that.

Laptops can be a bit difficult for recording. Very often the only audio input is a “mic” socket designed only for use with a computer microphone. The output signal strength from the headphone socket of your cellphone is massively bigger than a microphone signal and will distort like crazy.

Some laptop computers have a dual purpose audio input that is suitable for either a mono mic signal or a (much higher level) “line level” signal. If your laptop has one of these then it may work, but be aware that laptop computers are notorious for having lousy quality recording inputs (not all, but the vast majority).

So it may be possible to record using the “mic” input socket on your laptop, but the usual advice is to use a USB “line level” audio device between the cell phone and the computer.

First things first - is your computer a laptop or full-size?
Which version of Windows?
Which version of Audacity? (look in “Help > About Audacity”)

The normal Windows laptop has two sound connections, headphones and microphone. They’re designed for Skype or other conferencing services.

Not recording from a Sound Device.

Some people have good enough quality when they get rid of those Windows settings.

In that case you got lucky.


There is a desperation method. The Olympus TP-7 and TP-8 are designed to plug into your laptop Mic-In (TP-7 with an adapter) and jam in your ear. Listen to the cellphone with that ear and don’t move around very much.

Oh, beans. I though I saved a sound sample of that. It comes out remarkably good. It will record both directions although sometimes the cell/radio part of the cellphone gets into the sound. No other connection. That’s it, and it works with any phone or computer with Mic-In.

That white USB thing is a Mic-In for a computer that doesn’t have one.