recording using alternative to mic jack on laptop

While copying old reel 2 reel tapes to my Toshiba laptop through the mic jack direct, (the OS is XP home and Audacity to record, of course), something happened between sessions and now everything I try to record through the mic jack is distorted horribly and not recordable. I’ve changed wires, adjusted all settings, etc until I’m blue in the face. I had success on the last tape, but not on the following tape. I tried the last tape again. Same thing. I decided to test in another way. I have a microphone that requires a USB connection and I tried that. The recording from this microphone was excellent. This leads me to believe that something from the jack to the sound board is amiss and that the computers sound board is really okay.

My question is, since the microphone/USB input worked so well, how about recording all my analog recordings through the USB port? NO, not using the microphone of course, but with proper cable hookup. Problem is, none of my source machines have a way to hook up by USB. I have mini jacks and 1/4 in. phone jacks as outputs from all the equipment I use as sources. I do a lot of transferring from old vinyl, reel2reel, cassettes and dictation devices. I need an interface to allow a USB port hookup. Or firewire maybe? Anyone?

See this sticky thread:

You should not be using the mic in with a line level device like you R2R tapedeck - the signal is about 1000 times higher in level than the mic input is expecting.


The UCA-202 has pretty much mopped the floor with the other variations. It’s cheap and it works well.


One note. Since this device has no provision for volume control, you can run into overload problems with a really hot (or broken) tape machine. in that case, adapt the headphone connection instead of Line-Out, turn it down and go.


or opt for the slightly more expensive Edirol UA-1EX or its successor a Cakewalk UA-1G both of which have a hardware gain control.


Thanks for all tips. I’ll look into those devices mentioned. I was not aware that the signal from the r2r was so hot coming in through the mic jack. Surprisingly, this is the first time in 4 years of doing these transfers that this has happened so I guess, I’ve been lucky. I failed to mention that I have always run the signal through an Behringer Eurorack MX802A and that allowed me to knock the incoming signal down dramatically. Then in Audacity, i had the mic setting at it’s lowest point. No adjustment was possible there. I always wondered why there was so little play. Anyway, the suggested equipment was all good. Thanks again.

Every time you do that “knocking down” thing, you increase the noise level. Yes it does work, but it’s not optimal. Many field people keep attenuators in their run bags in just the condition that they have a hot signal and the only way to get into the mixer is through the Microphone connection. Shure brothers makes a formal version.

It’s an emergency measure. We would never consider using this in a regular, planned production session.

You know the microphone connection is mono, right? It may show up on both stereo channels in Audacity, but both channels are identical and they both come from “Left” of your stereo show. That’s the less obvious problem with using the Mic-In.