Understanding mic vol and listening while recding

I am recording my old tapes. Unfortunately my tape player has no line out and my laptop has no line in so I have connected the tape players ‘headphones out’ to the laptops ‘mic in’ and I turn the volume on the tape player down really low.

I have reatec sound software and audacity allows me to choose the input device and output device between windows and realtek, but I’m not sure what difference this makes since adjustment of any levels in the realtek software also seems to automatically adjust the same levels in the windows volume dialog. Does any one know how I decide which device input and output to select?

While recording I find I need to turn windows mic level right down or I get disortion, and if I bring it down to zero level some sound still gets through to audacity (Does any one understand why?) and I then adjust the audacity mic level and the tape player volume til the wave pattern looks within 1 (the max for the sound file) so not getting chopped off. This is not perfect but seems not too bad under the circumstances.


  1. HOWEVER, with the windows mic level turned right down I cannot hear the sound through my headphones, even though its getting to audacity! Whats the best way to manage the level, as I am doing or some other way?
  2. Its debateable whether what I hear is exactly whats recording although it is a bit of a guide to the distortion, BUT if I turn on ‘software playthough’ I get what was originally heared through the headphones AND what the software is playing back after recording and this is then fed back inton the recording as feedback until I am recording howling. Does any one know how to JUST listen to the recording (delayed) and only record the recording?

This audacuty (very) newbie would appreciate any help or advice any one can give.

You might want to consider getting an external soundcard - see this sticky thread: http://audacityteam.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=9477

If you do get one do make sure that you get one with a gain (volume) control.


Thanks for your help.

I am a real newbie to this. To clarify, will having an external sound card on my laptop just improve quality or will this…

  1. Resolve the failure of ‘software playthrough’ to work properly (currently mixes in and out with feedback)?
  2. Make it easier to set an appropriate recording level to get the best balance between recording volume and recording quality, while I’m recording off the tape players ‘headphone out’ (no line out avaiable)?

Many thanks for your help again.

The mixing of in/out is most often down to mismanagement of the audio pathways - you need to get it right in both Audacity and in Windows (and windows doesn’t make this easy) - and on your soundcard.

Most laptops only have mic in and not a line in too (like yours) some of them can detect a line level input signal and adjust themselves accordingly (sounds like yours doesn’t). Do you have the Realtek HD software on your laptop to manage the soundcard? If so then see this thread: http://audacityteam.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=7690&p=30984&hilit=realtek#p30984

An external soundcard may make it easier for you to manage the signal level - as to quality, that depends on the quality of the soundcard in your laptop. Some folks do get electrical noise from soundcards in their computers, particularly laptops cos of all the staff crammed in there. But I’d try sorting out the audio pathways to see if you can get that to work - rather than just rushing out and spending money …