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Tutorial - How to Connect Sound Source to PC?

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Introduction

This page helps you to connect your sound source to your PC so you can start using Free Sound Recorder.

You can use our software to record music on LP's, cassettes, tapes, minidisks or other sound carriers, being played back on a regular home audio set, cassette player, minidisk player or tape deck for example.

To record from either one of these sound carriers, you have to connect the audio output of the player to the audio input of the computer.

Cables with the right plugs on each end are sold at any appliance store for a couple of bucks.

This page covers the following topics:

The audio input on your computer
The audio output on the player
Connecting a turntable (vinyl record player)
What if I only have headphones or speaker outputs?


The audio input on your computer

You can look at your computer being a cassette or tape deck on which you want to record. You have probably done that before.

Desktop computers

desktop
The audio input on a desktop computer is usually a 1/8" mini-jack on the back panel, labeled Line-In or Aux, close to where the speakers will be connected to a similar type of jack.

The Line-In input is sometimes marked with the symbol line-in which is not to be confused with the speaker output marked with the symbol line-ou where the arrow points to the outside.
To record from the connected player, in the Sound Recorder window you typically select the sound source named Line-In or Auxiliary:

Sound Source Line In Laptop or notebook computers

laptop

Most laptop or notebook computers only have one 1/8" mini-jack input, marked Mic or Microphone, close to where a headphone can be connected to a similar type of jack.
To record from the connected player, in the Sound Recorder window you typically select the sound source named Mic or Microphone:

Sound Source Mic

(If your laptop or notebook (or its docking station) has a Line-In or Aux input jack as well, then it is preferable to connect the player to that input. In that case you typically select the sound source named Line-In or Auxiliary in the Sound Recorder window)
The plug that goes into the input of the computer, has to be a stereo 1/8" mini-plug, similar to the one for the computer speakers:

stereoplug
Note that this stereo mini-plug has two plastic rings at the tip and this is not to be confused with a mono plug that has only one plastic ring at the tip:

monoplug
Using a mono plug to connect the player to the computer, typically results in sound coming in on the left channel only.

The audio output on the player

What the audio output connection type on the player is, depends on the kind and model of the player.
It is usually marked Play-Out, Line-Out, Audio-Out or something in similar wording:

DIN connectors
This type of connector is usually found on older European-made audio equipment, like on this Uher tape deck:

tapedeck  DIN
RCA connectors
This type of connector is most times found on modern audio equipment, like on this JVC cassette deck:

cassettedeck   RCA
Mini-jack connectors
This type of connector is most times found on portable players, like on this Sony minidisk player:

minidisk

stereoplug

Connecting a turntable (vinyl record player)

To record from vinyl records, you will need a (pre-)amplifier connected in between the turntable and the computer.
The signal strength of the turntable output is most times too weak to be connected to the computer directly.
This is the same as when you record LP's to tape on a tape or cassette deck for example.
Your home audio set will have a pre-amp built-in, if it has a Phono input and a Rec-Out output, like on this Kenwood receiver/amplifier with a Technics turntable connected to it:

turntable phonodetail
Do not forget to also connect the ground-wire from the turntable to the amplifier. This wire eliminates hum (low-frequency noise), picked up by the sensitive pick-up element on the turntable.

If your audio set does not have a pre-amp built-in, or if it has no Rec-Out, Line-Out or Audio-Out output, then you can buy a separate turntable pre-amplifier. These are sold for approximately 50$ at any well-equipped appliance store.

What if I only have headphones or speaker outputs?

Some audio sets like boomboxes don't have audio output connectors other than for headphones or speakers.
The signal strength of these outputs is most times higher than desired for the input on your computer and their signal strengths depend on the volume control setting for that output.
Special care is therefore required to connect such outputs to your computer.

Before you connect the headphones or speaker output to the computer, make sure to set the volume control on the player at zero first! Headphones output

If your audio set has a headphone output connector, then it is preferred to use that one as opposed to the speaker output.

You will have to experiment with the volume control level for the headphones output, to see which level results in the best recording quality. The headphones volume control, in combination with the recording volume control in the Sound Recorder, determine the end-result.

As a rule of thumb we can say that the recording level peak meters in the Sound Recorder window should hover in the yellow zone during the loudest fragments.
To achieve this, set the volume control in the Sound Recorder window at approximately 75% of the full scale. Then slowly and carefully increase the volume control of the headphones output, until the recording level peak meters reach the yellow zone.

Setting the headphones output volume too high will result in distorted sound no matter how low you set the volume control in the Sound Recorder window.

Speaker output

If your audio set has speaker outputs only, then you need to take very very special care when connecting this to your computer.

Pre-manufactured cables for this type of connection are not for sale and if you want to connect this way anyhow, then you will need to create some wiring yourself.

Speaker outputs are designed to drive the speakers with relatively high signal voltage levels. These signal levels can be too high for the input on the computer, if the speaker volume is set too high.

These high signal levels might even damage the audio input of your computer!

For best sound quality results, the same rule of thumb applies as with connecting to the headphones output.

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