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March 15, 2018

Getting Sound Into the PC

Filed under: Main — Tags: , , — admin @ 12:01 am

Audio is an important part of the sensory experience, yet how often have you turned off an interesting video because the audio was terrible?

When I work at Lynda, they pay a lot of attention to the audio. Top-notch equipment is used. Sound is tested and checked. Even for my own YouTube videos, I want to ensure that it sounds good. I spend quite a bit of time recording and editing the audio even before I record the video. Video production can be excellent, the content top-notch, but if the audio is horrid, the student goes elsewhere.

The problem is that many computers, specifically laptops and PC Tablets, lack audio input options. Even when output options are plentiful, such as jacks for multiple surround sound speakers, you may find only one audio input jack — if that.

Desktop PCs traditionally feature two types of audio input jack: Mic and Line In. The difference was that one is amplified and the other not; I forget which. But you’d use the Mic input for a microphone or headset. This is the option that survives on many systems. The Line In jack was used for other audio sources, such as a phonograph or cassette player. That way you could “rip” antique music or other audio.

Today, most PCs retain the Mic input jack, but many laptops don’t bother. Instead, laptops and tablets use a built-in microphone, usually found near the display. This pinhole microphone is fine for capturing audio during a video chat, but for anything else the quality is poor. This setup leaves someone who desires quality audio input with no other native option — but you’re not completely out of luck.

I received an email recently from a reader who wanted to transfer audio from a cassette player into his computer. Effectively, he’s digitizing the audio, which is a smart thing to do. His problem was that his All-In-One desktop PC lacked a Line In jack. It had only one audio jack labeled “input/output,” which is weird.

I kept hours of recording from my old computer radio shows back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I regret tossing them out before I had a chance to copy them over to a digital format.

Many solution are available to capture audio, almost all of which use a USB adapter of some sort.

At the high end, you can get the USB Pre audio adapter, though not many consumers would be willing to fork over the $1,000 for one of those units. Instead, you can opt for a less-expensive USB converter. They’re available at Amazon, and they provide basic analog audio input to a USB port: Search for usb audio or usb audio adapter. Most of them are in the $8 to $15 price range.

I have no specific recommendations for an adapter, though ensure that the audio jacks on the adapter match whatever jacks you have on the audio gizmo. You might also need to obtain the audio cable to connect your phonograph or cassette recorder to the adapter; links on the Amazon webpage provide options.


  1. Hmmm,
    I have checked my PC’s they all have the generic TRS 3.5mm jacks for Mic/Speakers, mind you the newest is probably 3 years old and came with Win 8.0 (its an HP) Mind you there does seem to move away from Jacks, the latest Iphone for example. I know I’m very much a stick (if something works, and their is no prblem why ‘upgrade’ it?) I think the current trend is more to with costs rather than anything else. Jacks either have to be hand placed after the board is wave soldered or machine placed/soldered post flow soldering. I stupidly placed a head phone jack on a board a shoved it through the oven (set the fire alarm off). Not including them is a way too keep cost down.

    Comment by glennp — March 17, 2018 @ 6:25 pm

  2. I did a quick survey of newer model laptops and All-in-one PCs. Only one headphone jack. I suppose they assume we don’t use microphones anymore or that people who are serious about audio will get an adapter.

    By the way, does the Mic In jack work on your PC? I’ve had a terrible time getting it to work on all my systems. I use USB audio input instead.

    Comment by admin — March 17, 2018 @ 6:50 pm

  3. Like you, had trouble with the jack couple of years ago, bought a USB and clean, only one of my PCs an elderly (but very nippy) Win 7 machine, I had to do a Skype interview for a job borrowed a combined Mic & headset worked fine…

    Comment by glennp — March 18, 2018 @ 5:42 am

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