Sound card (or mixer?) recommendation (two inputs required)

Hello all.

I am looking for a recommendation for some equipment – and answers to several questions. Sorry, but I figured might as well pollute my one post with all this than make several posts all over the place and pollute the whole board.

Here is the situation: I am making a podcast with two people using separate microphones, and I would like to be able to play sounds as we record as opposed to inserting them post production. I would like these to record on three different tracks if this is something Audacity can do.

I must preface this by saying I really am working on a budget. I know many answers are that “If you want to do it right, you’ll have to spend,” but I am truly looking to spend as little as possible.

I am ashamed and embarrassed to say that I can not figure out what kind of sound card I have. It only says Soundblaster X-Fi in my Device Manager.

The rear of the card looks like this:


So… dumb question: Does my card have two inputs already since it has a digital input there on the far side? If so, could the standard jack and the digital input record two separate tracks? And if so, could I find a headset mic that has an optical/digital input cord instead of the standard jack (or some kind of an adapter?)

If any of this is possible, it’s clearly the most economical of my options so I would prefer it.

If my sound card is not capable of doing what I want, but Audacity is with a mixer, should I go that route? If so, does anyone have a recommendation about a (cheap) mixer that I could use to do what I would like to do?

When I first got started doing this research, I discovered that I cannot use Stereo Mix as a recording option. I’ve tried the standard “Right click speaker in taskbar > Click Recording Devices > Right click and select Show Disabled Devices” but it is not an option. I only get two microphones and a Digital In Creative SB X-Fi.

This seems to be a question with no answers on the vast internet, but I figured it was worth asking as well

My apologies if some of my terminology is confusing. I am not well educated in this field at all (if that isn’t obvious already). If there is something I left out that I should have better explained, please let me know.

Thank you,


You can record up to 2 mono inputs at a time (onto separate tracks) with Audacity using just about any soundcard, providing you have a mixer that allows you to “pan”.

Connect two microphones to the mixer - pan one microphone to the extreme right, and the other to the extreme left. Plug the mixer output into the “Line” input of your audio card.
In the Creative Mixer, set the recording source as “Line In”
When you record (record 2 tracks stereo) you will get one microphone on the left track and the other microphone on the right.
You can split the stereo track and set each track to mono (so that they play through both left and right) by clicking on the drop down menu on the left hand end of the track (near the track name).

The digital input will only accept a digital input, so it is unlikely that you will use that unless you have equipment with “digital out”.

Creative SoundBlaster cards usually have a “Creative Mixer” installed with the drivers. You should use that for selecting the recording inputs rather than the standard Windows Mixer". If you do not have the “Creative Mixer”, check your driver installation disk (or download from the Creative web site).

If you need to record more than 2 tracks, you will have to spend money on a soundcard with multiple audio inputs.

Inexpensive mixing desks with lots of features are made by Behringer and offer a great deal of Bang for your Buck. Shop around to get a good deal. Here is an example of the kind of thing (note that it has “Phantom Power” which means that you can use condenser microphones with it, and also has “Line” inputs for instruments, CD players or other equipment with a relatively high signal -

The microphone inputs on soundcards are usually rubbish (unless you have an expensive soundcard or a Mac), so you will probably be better using a little mixer and recording through the “Line In”.

Thanks very much for the information stevethefiddle! :slight_smile:

I would like clarification on one issue, however. What would I need to do in order to record the two mic tracks AND a track of sound effects played directly from my computer?

I know that you said I’d need a sound card with several inputs, but the sound effects played on track 3 would be coming from the computer itself. So would I still need a sound card with those multiple inputs, or is Audacity capable of taking the two inputs from the mixer AND the sounds played directly from files on my computer? I really want to make this possible because it would be a huge time saver for me.

— I do not want to send a line out to a line in just to record these sounds because I’ve heard quality will not be good.

EDIT: However, the sound quality would be ok if I sent this to the mixer then back to the sound card, correct? I am going to get a new sound card anyway because of my need to get the “Stereo Mix” option to work on Vista. With that said, could you recommend something that would have the basics of what I would need (more than one input)? If I had a sound card with 3-4 inputs, would there still be benefits to the mixer?

BTW, I do have the Creative software installed, but there is no place to select “Stereo Mix” or any equivalent. It seems like it must be a limitation of the Vista drivers for this (and apparently many other) sound cards.

Thank you once again for your help. I know that it’s difficult explaining these things to someone with little experience :exclamation:

On the Creative Mixer, “Stereo Mix” is called “What You Hear”.

Selecting Stereo Mix (What You Hear) will record everything that comes out of your speakers, so it would be possible to record both the microphones and wav playback from an audio player on your computer, but you would get the music mixed in with the microphone recordings and there would be no way to separate them.

A much better way to do what you are asking for is to Import the background music into Audacity and then record your microphones. If you want to be able to hear the music while you are recording the voices you need to select “Listen to other tracks while recording new one” from the menu “Edit->Preferences->Audio I/O”.
This will be just as quick and even easier to do as you can precisely line up the audio clips and adjust levels to get a perfect mix. You would also use the “Line In” connection which will probably give a cleaner recording than using the stereo mix, and you will only need a stereo input. (You win all round doing it this way). :slight_smile:

The “Line In” input of most soundcards is usually acceptable quality (even cheap ones). I’d recomend that you get a little mixing desk first and only upgrade the soundcard if you really need to. If you are on a tight budget, the money saved on the soundcard could go towards your microphones.

This is the best vocal microphone under £30 GBP that I have come across:

You will probably also want a couple of microphone stands and pop shields.
A pop shield prevents you from blowing on the microphone and is a huge benefit for close up recording of voices.

For a budget pop shield you can make one from a wire coat hanger and cover it with a couple of layers of ladies tights (not fishnet).

For a bit more money, you could get studio condenser microphones which are a lot more sensitive and great quality for quiet vocals:

An alternative would be to record on a “Zoom H2”, then import the recording into Audacity for editing.

There is no “What You Hear” or “Stereo Mix” for me anywhere, unfortunately. :frowning: A google search reveals that it’s a common problem.

This is the common suggestion to solve the problem:
As you can see from other comments, however, it just does not work for some people. So chances are I am going to get a new card anyway in hopes that the problem will be solved. It kills me to walk into electronics stores and easily enable this feature on their computers but not be able to enable it on mine!

Thank you for the advice on the microphones. I know it will make you shudder to hear this, but I have a few headsets that I am going to use for now. :slight_smile:

My only option may be to import the sounds and move them where I want them to fit, but I really would like to be able to hit play while recording. For example, while recording I could say, “Now it’s time for Segment B of the podcast” then just click the audio file to introduce Segment B. That way I can be sure that I pause appropriately and even can speak over parts of the track where appropriate. This does seem to be an odd desire of mine as everyone is telling me to just import the sounds and line them up later! I hope you don’t think I’m completely nuts for wanting to do this :slight_smile: And I could live with having the music track merged with one of the mic inputs even if what I would most desire is to have it as a separate, third track. Given a choice between the two options, I would rather have real-time control of the music and effects than have the music and effects as a 3rd track.

As for a mixer, I am looking at this one which seems very similar to the one you suggested before:

Is there anything that I don’t see looking at that?

Thanks again for your thorough feedback and input.

This place is the bee’s knees!

I’ve come across some very good headset microphones, but I’m guessing that if I saw the ones that you are going to use then I would. :smiley:

No that’s not weird, but can still be done (sort of) as I suggested:

  1. Import the tracks that you are going to use and set the track to “mute”
  2. Start recording your podcast
  3. When you get to “Now it’s time for Segment B of the podcast”, press “Stop”
  4. Drag the imported track to the appropriate position and un-mute it.
  5. Continue recording your podcast.

The main drawback with your method is that if you mess up in any way (you get tongue-tied while talking over “Segment B”, or you click on the audio file a bit too early, or a bit too late, or the audio file is too loud, or the audio file is too quiet, or…) then you are stuffed and you have to go back and do it all again.

The mixer that you have found is very similar to the one I suggested - it is the “Xenyx” version rather than the “UB” version. The list price of the Xenyx is very slightly higher, and the EQ is slightly different. The UB series is now being phased out in most parts of the world in preference to the newer Xenyx, so the short answer - yes that should do you fine.

:bulb: Ah, I was kind of foolish not to think of that method of importing and then stopping to align.

Very good idea. Thanks very much!

And I won’t tell you what headset I’m using. :blush:

Thanks again! :smiley:

EDIT: Is there any way to continue recording on the same track once I click stop and then click record again?

Only if you Pause rather than Stop.

But you can always start a new track timed after the first one - just move the Cursor to the end of the original track amd then start recording. You can mix the two tracks into one if required (with Qickmix in 1.2 or Mix & Render in 1.3). You don’t need to mix though as Audacity will do the mix any way on Export to WAV/MP3.


But you need to be “Stopped” rather than “Paused” to be able to move the other track, so pressing “Stop”, then make sure that the cursor is positioned where you want to resume the recording. As WC said, it’s not a problem that when you start recording again it will be a new track as you can do a Quick Mix (or Mix and Render), or just have several tracks until you Export.

Sounds good – thanks again for the advice, guys.

Anyone want to weigh in on the cheapest option for a sound card with at least 2, ideally 4 inputs?

I am trying to do the exact same thing as this genleman. I want to create podcasts using my headset for speech, but want to queue up sound effects on my PC that are mp3 and wav files.

The stopping and moving of audio files to create these effects really isnt a viable solution because I want to talk over some of these sound effects, not pause completely then queue the effect. In most audio program Ive found you need to choose one recording device input and one only. Obviously this becomes a problem because you need mic and integrated functioning at same time.

How do podcasters do this? They have to cross this hurdle every day. Should be very straightforward. I cannot figure it out in audacity.

Talk for a bit and record your voice - when you get to a place where the music will start, continue recording (pretend that the music is playing) until you get to a natural pause, then stop the recording.

Add your music to a new track - position it exactly where you wanted it to start playing.

Wind back a bit and start recording - listen to the last bit of your talking and hear the music begin at exactly the right moment (sounds like you are a pro radio DJ) then start talking (over the music if you wish).

Continue in this fashion until you get to the end of the show.

You can now adjust the levels of the voice and the musical extracts to get a nice balance. You may want to use the “Auto Duck” effect so that the level of the music drops while you are talking over the top of it (just like in a real radio show).

Then, mix the show to a stereo track and apply a little dynamic compression to level out the volume (either the “Leveller” effect included in Audacity 1.3, or the excellent plug-in “Chris’s Dynamic Compressor”).

Finally, Normalize the entire show to about -0.2dB and Export in your preferred format (and a WAV copy as a backup).