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Getting better recording for PCs without audio-in slot

Discussion in 'Computing' started by Rii Nagaja, Jun 24, 2013.

  1. Rii Nagaja

    Rii Nagaja Active Member

    Hello, it might be that this forum is probably a bit too professional for me to be here, but I couldn't resist signing in for the question, as I feel like I can be pretty sure that I'll get the answer here, if one exists.

    I have the problem that my older tower PC broke down a while ago, which I still used for audio recordings in Audacity. That means I can only record my e-piano with my laptop now, which, despite being a quite satisfying multimedia notebook otherwise, doesn't have an audio-in slot. Of course I could just make the connection with the existent microphone slot instead, but the quality on that is naturally poor, and not at all what the instrument originally sounded like.

    So I wonder if there is some way, whatever nature it might be, to improve on these limited conditions, without me buying an extremly cheap tower PC again for the sake of recording alone.duh
    I don't know anything about the possibilities here (/otherwise, why should I ask to begin with?), but maybe there is some adapter for USB to get an audio-in afterwards, or maybe you can change what these 3.5mm slots represent afterwards (replacing the microphone with audio-in maybe?), or there is a way to run it over USB entirely without quality loss somehow.
    ..I am just playing through some desperate ideas - I recognize they sound unlikely. Whatever you have or know to improve on the bad recordings would help me.
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Hi, and welcome!

    You don't give the make and model of your keyboard (e-piano) or say what outputs it has. You would need some sort of audio interface to record from the keyboard's headphone socket but maybe a different interface to record from an S/PDIF output, if your keyboard has that. You also don't say how you are listening to the replay of the recordings (headphones, monitor speakers, hi-fi unit...), as that should be taken into consideration when deciding what audio interface to buy.

    Assuming that it's the keyboard's headphone output you are recording, then a USB interface is the simplest option, and something like the Focusrite 2i2 would be a good choice. This unit has audio output that can be blended between the keyboard input and the replayed tracks, so you can monitor what you are playing without the delays in the sound (latency) that you would get if you just listened to the recorded sounds.
  3. Rii Nagaja

    Rii Nagaja Active Member

    I have a Yamaha CLP-370: CLP-370 - Clavinova CLP - Yamaha - UK and Ireland
    Currently I am only using one of the headphone slots to connect -which worked fine with audio in-, but maybe I could use the rest somehow, yeah.:rolleyes:
    Here is my notebook if that is of any use: N55SF - Notebooks & Ultrabooks - ASUS

    Though the notebook rightfully boast with having speakers that sound like a full stereo set, I normally switch between a pair of good headphones, one of which I also use for the piano, so the quality difference is unmistakable. Additionally I used to burn DVD's of audio+video recordings with my PC before, and I can definitly confirm the quality loss now after I made one with nothing but the laptop at hand. ..It just isn't receiving the very original sound like the PC before, but a version that was distorted through the microphone slot.

    Thanks for the concrete suggestion there. I need to understand how it works first though. -I can basically use this as an adapter, so that I plug it into USB with the laptop, and then I have multiple slots of many kinds, including one audio-in?

    That with the elimination of delays is neat to have, though I don't really need it for recording. I used to record anything in advance with the pianos function alone (it only saves the raw MIDI input ofc.), and then I would let it replay everything while my PC listens.
  4. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    As the product name implies, the USB-interfaced Focusrite 2i2 has only two audio channels in and two out at the same time, so if you use it for recording the headphone output from the keyboard, there are no inputs spare for anything else. If your keyboard has two stereo headphone sockets, then it's easy to record via the 2i2 and listen on headphones at the same time. However, when you come to overdubbing (tracking), or if you should want to play duets with yourself, being able to listen to a mix of your playing and what you have already recorded is vital, and it's where boxes like the 2i2 can really shine.

    The 2i2 is not the only interface unit available, nor is it the cheapest, but it is a quality product and should work well for you in this application. If you give us an idea of how much you would be prepared to spend on an interface box, we can give you some further suggestions. I can say that I would avoid products from a manufacturer beginning with B based in your country.
  5. Rii Nagaja

    Rii Nagaja Active Member

    That sounds good. I was going to look into two piano or multi instrument recording anyway, so it would solve this upcoming problem too.
    What I still don't understand though, is how this device interacts with the computer. Is the USB connection directly transmitting it to the PC, so I can record with audacity? Or maybe I confuse the whole concept, as it sounds like the device would record in itself already. ..Is it that? I can practicly download the finished recording in some format afterwards?
  6. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    One half of an audio interface such as the 2i2 takes audio signals, digitizes them and sends them in digital form to the computer. In the case of the 2i2 it's via USB, but other devices may use different connection methods such as FireWire or Thunderbolt. The other half of the 2i2 does the same in the opposite direction: takes digital data from the computer and converts it to analog audio. The input and output processes can run concurrently. All the digital data storage is done in the computer - there is no data storage in a simple interface device like that. For two-channel data capture on the computer you can use Audacity, but if you wanted to go to more than two channels at any one time you would need a better package such as Reaper.

    I'm a little concerned when you said you may want to go up to two pianos or more instruments. If you want to do this while retaining stereo recording for each piano, it would be better to look at a device with more input channels from the start, as a 2-input device would constrain you by having only the capability of a single stereo pair in and out. Focusrite have a new 6i6 that gives you 4 analog inputs, but if you give us some idea of what you would be prepared to spend we can give you some better targetted advice.

    If you are instead thinking about devices that have storage capability, there's far less choice once you go above two channels. The Zoom H4N will capture 4 channels, and then there are various higher-bracket interfaces such as the RME Fireface UFX or the JoeCo Black Box that can record directly to USB memory sticks or disk drives.
  7. Rii Nagaja

    Rii Nagaja Active Member

    Thank you for all your informations and consultation. I think that covered all I needed to know, especially the part about the 2i2, which will be just right as it seems.
    Don't worry, I didn't plan to set up a whole orchestra or something.:eek: I was just planning to combine seperate recordings from the same instrument, and there are some technical challenges if I had to use nothing more than the piano.(it is possible, but tedious) But in any way, I was not going to use more than one stereo input.
  8. CoyoteTrax

    CoyoteTrax Well-Known Member

    If you visit Focusrite's website, go to the product page for the 2i2 and download the user's guide you'll get all the info you need, which will also include a great diagram that shows how you'd be connecting the device to your computer and how you would connect instruments like your keyboard, microphones, guitars, etc. to the 2i2 itself. User guides are a great way to learn about the technology and how you use it. I have a 2i2 for my laptop and love it. I also have a much more complex permanent setup in one of the rooms of my house. The 2i2 is fantastic for laptop situations in my opinion.

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