How to Record Audio Through a Laptop Microphone Input

Updated February 21, 2017

Home audio recording makes it possible to create entire albums on a tiny budget. For best results, you should always connect your instruments and microphones directly to your PC for recording, because if you try to record live through your internal microphone, you will find yourself with poor audio quality. If you cannot afford to buy an external sound card, you can connect your hardware directly to your "Line-In" port or microphone input port.

Install a recording program on your laptop. Before you can begin recording audio, you will need to enable your laptop for recording. While a professional production program like Pro Tools, Logic or Cubase will allow you to turn your laptop into a full recording studio (assuming you have the processing power), you can use a free program like Audacity, Ardour or Power Sound Editor for basic audio recording.

Connect your instrument or microphone to your laptop. Music supply stores carry instrument and microphone cables with 3.5mm plugs, specifically optimised for computer recording. As a cheaper alternative, you can also connect a 3.5mm adaptor to the end of a quarter-inch stereo cable (like those used for guitars and other analogue instruments), and connect the adaptor to the "Line-In" port on your laptop. To connect a standard tape deck, you will need an RCA-to-3.5mm cable.

Open your recording program and locate your "Preferences" or "Options" (usually found on the menu bar). Under your "Audio Options" or "Input Options," select the appropriate input. Depending on your operating system and driver configuration, you should select either "Core Audio," "Built-in Audio" or "ASIO." This will designate your laptop itself as the input source, rather than an external sound card or other hardware.

Click "Record" and begin playing your device. This can include speaking through a microphone, strumming a guitar or pressing "Play" on a tape deck. When you complete your recording, press "Stop." If you cannot hear any sound through your speakers while recording, locate the "Monitoring" option on your project window (sometimes under "Options" or "Tools") and set monitoring to "On."

Layer your recording. If your program supports multi-tracking, you can record multiple instruments or audio sources on top of one another by creating additional "tracks," or layers. Each track will look like its own horizontal row. Locate and select the "New Track" option (often found on the menu bar), return to the beginning of your time line and create a new recording. Repeat this process as many times as necessary.

Things You'll Need

  • Digital audio software
  • Microphone
  • Instrument
  • 3.5mm adaptor
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