Recording Audio To Your Computer
Whether it be from a microphone, or directly from an instrument such
as a guitar or bass, you have several choice when recording audio onto
your computer. This article aims to cover the basic options for
connecting and recording audio onto your computer and the different
hardware solutions available.
1. Sound Card Input/Built in Microphone
Using the sound card input or the built in microphone is not ideal
for purposes of quality, but can be an easy and quick way to record
ideas. This method is good for when you are trying to keep a musical
idea notebook or take voice notes, but not good for production quality
tracks. You may need a 3.5mm male to 1/4″ female adapter to hook up your
instrument to your sound card’s microphone input. The signal will
probably come across on the quiet side - just be sure to use the
Microphone input, not the line in on your sound card.
2. USB to Instrument Cable
One of the more recent offerings to musicians looking to record an
instrument straight into their computer is a direct USB to Instrument cable. These handy cables plug
directly into your USB port on one end and into your computer on the
other. Your computer will see the cable as a sort-of virtual sound card
with which you can record.
Quality is a lot better than with built in sound cards, and these
cables offer a good balance between cost and quality.
3. External Audio Interface
An external audio interface is the best way to get sound from a
microphone or instrument into your computer. Audio interfaces can carry
a price tag of anywhere from sub $100 to many thousands of dollars and
vary in their quality on features. Firewire is the best, but most
consumer grade audio interfaces are USB or USB 2.0.
If you are planning on burning CDs of your recorded music, you want
to make recordings in better than CD quality. CD’s have a sample rate
of 44.1KHz at 16 bits. A good audio interface will have a sample rate
of 48KHz at 24 bits, and a great audio interface will
have a sample rate of 192KHz at 24 bits. Generally speaking, the more
you spend, the more channels you will be able to record at once. If you
want to record separate instruments one at a time, you only need a few
channels. If you plan on recording a whole band playing, you will need
a lot more channels.
4. External Recording Devices
Many standalone recording devices offer a way of transferring their
recordings to a computer. You can make recordings on a standalone 2-track, 4-track or 8-track machine for example,
and then burn your recordings to a CD, transfer them over USB, or use a
memory card to get that audio over to a computer. The method of
transfer depends on the feature of your standalone recorder.
If you are using banana plugs, remember to view our guide on how to install banana plugs.