Will this setup be okay & do i need to buy a soundcard?

Hi to anyone reading, thanks in advance for any replies:

I am going to digitize my vinyl collection and want the recordings to be decent quality to me, who I’d classify as the average listener so I’m more enthusiastic than demanding in this respect. My 5ish year old PC has Realtek AC97 Audio, which I’m assuming is onboard sound and that I dont have a dedicated soundcard. Will this be sufficient to give me decent quality recordings to burn onto CD’s/play on the PC or should I buy a dedicated soundcard?

Also after reading the forums and the problems people have with USB turntables I’m going to take the advice given to others and bypass those and use a ‘proper’ turntable deck. I’ve read that I need a preamp, I have access to a decent audio mixer that DJ’s use with two turntables - can this be used as (is this?) a preamp? I’ve played records through my computer with this method before deck–>mixer–>line in on PC before but is this setup okay for recording?

Thanks again to anyone who replies

The good turntable and DJ mixer is fine. You’re already head and shoulders beyond most people trying to do this.

If you have a “real” sound card with all three (or more) connections (pink, blue, and green) then you can get the appropriate sound adapter…


…or equivalent for a lot less money. Pick the blue (usually) connection on the sound card which is normally high-level stereo Line-In.

Configure your computer and Audacity and go to town. I make that sound so easy

You may find that the sound in your built-in card is noisy which is normal. The electrical radiation environment inside a computer is aggressively hostile. (“What’s that warbling buzz in the background?”) This is when you pop for an external USB sound card with Line-In connections.


Macs come with a terrific Stereo Line-In and it isn’t noisy.


Thanks for the reply, much appreciated

Have one of those cables somewhere, now where to find it? The link to the soundcard reviews is great and the advice to get an external soundcard to avoid the radiation inside the computer is really useful. Without it when I got the noise I’d have bought an internal one, tried to put the thing in, probably short circuited the national grid and then still got the same noise anyway!

Youve done me and everyone who shares my power supply lines a great service, thanks again.

usb TTs do not need to be a problem
any more than a usb audio interface

any pc device can be a problem though

if you use a real tt then be sure it goes through a preamp
with riaa eq and gives you line out
check your dj box to see if it does that

then put that output into the pc card line in
via the 1/8 3.5mm stereo connector
(you may need an adapter to the pair of rca outs on the dj box)

should be big enough signal from the preamp to overcome any noise issues

and yes, internal cards can be noisy, but not all of them in all machines. try it and see.

your realtek is a built in soundcard
dl the realtek manual from somewhere - you will want it

and note that they take over the win controls
so use it to set things up not the windoze panels
(worst case first find all the win places that diddle audio and max the volume and unmute if you dont get sound — then only use the realtek panel)

i would never buy another internal soundcard
for any reason

worst case buy an external usb audio interface
emu 0404 ea25ex or similar
comes with recording software
then use audacity to split tracks , diddle, etc
then burn your cds of the lps

but what you have should work fine

note that recording with realtek is odd - see their mixer option
mute all inputs you are not using to avoid more noise
note the wheel on the left they use for volume under the mixer
no sliders on the inputs - this is the mixed volume adjustment
cant find any other channel input adjustments unless the windows options still diddles with them somehow but you could adjust some of them before they go into the card eg if the preamp had a volume control. for just line in you dont care just mute the others.


Yes they do. They are almost universally terrible turntables because they are designed to be thrown out, not saved for years and carefully maintained. The elves have had very bad experiences with them and they appear on the forum often with one breakdown or another. If you have a known, good, working turntable already like the poster, we would never recommend a USB turntable.


It would be rough to imagine DJ mixer that didn’t, but yes do check. Generally, if the connector says “Phono 1 In,” it’s going to have all the right equalizer curves and amplifiers. There is one wiring thing you need to pay attention to. You need to make sure the little thin, usually black turntable grounding wire is connected to your mixer. Most turntables will not work right without it.

What are the turntables? SL1200s? I think I still have the service manual for those around somewhere. Who made the cartridge? Empire?


How many contradicting answers do you want?

USB Turntables:
Many of the cheaper USB turntables are predominantly of lightweight plastic construction. The light “platter” is a problem as it doesn’t have sufficient momentum to ensure rotation at constant speed and audible “wow” (pitch variation) can be a problem. Considering that these are made to a low price (cheaper than a good cartridge) it is not really surprising that many corners have been cut and there have been many quality and reliability issues reported. On top of that it appears that many of the early models used a USB chip that proved to be very low quality and very unreliable. Thankfully that chip appears to be no longer used, but it was in enough turntables to totally trash their reputation on this forum. On the other hand, my father has one of the more expensive USB turntables and it has a proper metal platter. While it is not up to the standard of his old Thorens deck he is pleased with it, finds the sound quality acceptable and likes the convenience for transfering his vinyl to CD.

Internal (PCI) sound cards:
While it is true that there is the potential for internal sound cards to pick up noise from the electrical workings inside the computer case, if the sound card is at least reasonably well designed that should not be a problem, though it is probably a good idea to try and mount the sound card so that it has a bit of space around it and is not jammed in between the power supply and the video card fan. I usually mount them in the bottom PCI slot so that there is only the bottom of the case along one side, and then, if possible, leave an empty PCI slot before the next card. Using these simple measures I’ve never had any problems with electrical interference affecting a sound card. “PCI sound cards are noisy” is largely an internet myth and the rest of the time due to faulty equipment (such as bad Earth connections) that may be inside the computer or in other equipment connected to the system. USB sound cards can be susceptible to noisy USB power.

PCI sound cards have some advantages over external USB sound cards:

  1. They typically require less CPU power
  2. Connection to the system is permanent - considerably less likely to suddenly “loose” the sound card (which can happen with USB devices)
  3. No extra boxes on the desk
  4. Typically lower latency
  5. Typically less expensive than an equivalent USB version

USB sound cards also have some advantages:

  1. Portability - you can move them easily from one computer to another
  2. It’s usually easier to access the sockets for plugging things in, though some internal sound cards have “break-out boxes”
  3. Easy installation - no need to take the side off the computer
  4. Can be used with laptop computers

Medium to high quality sound cards that are designed for music (rather than games/home theatre) are capable of excellent recording quality whether they are internal or external. For full size computers my preference is for internal sound cards and for laptop computers it’s USB.

On-board Soundcards: (built into the motherboard)
While these are OK for internet phone calls, casual listening to YouTube, playing games and suchlike, they are generally pretty poor when it comes to recording. The microphone inputs are usually terrible quality. Recently (Vista and later) it has become increasingly common that recording from “Stereo Mix” is disabled/unavailable when using an on-board sound card with Microsoft Windows.

usb tt - of course reliability and longevity issues
i meant it need not be a noisy recording or other recording problem

absolutely must ground the tt appropriately to avoid hum/noise

years ago i bought a box at ofc depot that took the tt and provided equalised line out to a pc via the usb port and digitised it with cleaning software - they sold it to copy records. nowadays there are similar devices but better options to look at.

Sorry for time taken to reply,

Just wanted to thank all for their help and input, got far more help than i could have expected and it is much appreciated. Have set it up turntable -->mixer—>line in on PC and can play LP’s through PC now and record them using audacity (have grounded TT to mixer). Have to say to others thinking of same this isn’t too difficult and seems to me that if you have a turntable and mixer there is no need to buy USB TT, just get the cable koz suggested.

Seems my on board sound will do the job but upgrading to get better quality
seems like the way for me to go. Deciding which one to get seems to be usual minefield of conflicting information you get with every PC component. Time to hit the reviews!!

Thanks again all

I agree wholeheartedly.

I actually started out with a USB TT the ION iTTUSB - after a short while I junked it as the very lightweight platter was giving far too much noticeable wow&flutter - most of these el-cheapo USB TTs have platters that are far too light.

So instead I rescued my old Technics SL-150/SME arm from the attic gave it a home service and treated it to a new cartridge - connected through my wife’s old Technics pre-amp and then on through my external USB soundcard. Much better results than the ION.


Not true that all internal (dedicated) sound cards are noisy… yes there is a lot of noise and interferences going on inside the computer case, but that’s also partially true for usb…

Today I connected the voltage output of my macbook’s usb ports to the oscilloscope and the signal was all but clean… still inside a computer case the electromagnetic fields are probably much worse… but a decend pci/pci-e soundcard with proper shielding should do fine… I speak for personal experience… I own an Asus Xonar Essence STX and I must say that, at least the headphones output is amazingly noise free… and inside my pc case it’s a very harsh environment… I bought this card because when I connected my headphones to the motherboard’s built-in headphone output I could hear what seemed like the sound of a chopper flying around my head

I’m not sure about the line-in on this card, my only experience was connecting my cd player line out to it a couple of days ago and that seemed to be pretty noise free too…

If you have high-end headphones (up to 600 ohm) and you’d like to connect them to your computer for listening to music I highly recommend the Asus Xonar Essence STX. You can find many very positive reviews of it on the web. You won’t find much info on the reviews about the line-in though since it’s a soundcard which isn’t tailored to that purpose, but I believe it should do fine at least in noise free matters…

I should be doing some more tests on that today or tomorrow. A friend of mine is bringing his tc electronic’s preamp to my place and I’ll be doing some tests connecting my mic to the line-in of the xonar through his preamp, I’ll post my findings later.

I agree - my laptop’s onboard soundcard (RealTek) works absolutely fine a tiny, tiny bit of DC offset - but sonically very good indeed.

Though I do have an external USB soundcard (Edirol) for recording on my main desktop PC.