Sound File Formats
Windows Sound Recorder
Ideas and Applications
Microphones and Mixers
Elsewhere on this site:
Included below are methods of recording or converting sound to digital
format. The principles remain the same regardless of the intended
end-product, though if your intent is a CD of music or sound, the highest
quality standards should be maintained throughout.
Microphone to Computer:
ordinary computer microphone plugged into the sound card will record live sound
or music direct to WAV using either Windows Sound Recorder or MusicMatch
. . . poorly! For better results,
you’ll need a better-quality microphone placed near your source, and at least an
impedance matcher/transformer (see Microphones and
Sound Recorder is very awkward to use, especially for long excerpts. In general, record at 44,100 bytes per second stereo (CD
quality), and convert later for posting on the Web – unless you intend to
record over a few minutes, in which case you need bigger guns.
also will record from the mike input on the sound card.
From the “Options” menu, click on “Recorder/Source” and select
You can, of course, record to tape and then digitize later – with some
loss in quality. If you intend to record an entire concert, and do not have
access to a CD recorder or such, tape is your best option.
Line-In to Computer:
your music source is already recorded, you can simply use the line-out on your
device (tape deck or other) and record through your line-in on your computer
sound card. (Don’t “line-out” from a CD player for this – see below.)
You’ll need an RCA (standard audio) to 1/8” mini-plug adapter.
The process is otherwise identical to using a microphone. It is
also possible to use a sound mixer, and send the results to the "line
in" on your sound card, with better results than using a microphone
CD to Computer:
process of digitally converting a standard audio CD into computer files is
called “ripping” (a term coined, I’m sure, by an adolescent).
MusicMatch will rip CDs for you to any format with any bit-rate you
choose. Of course, you can also
record CDs using Windows Sound Recorder (see above), but the process is long and
tedious, and the results must be converted anyway.
using MusicMatch to rip CDs, make sure your CDROM drive is supported by
MusicMatch. If it isn’t, or
MusicMatch locks up your computer when you try to rip something, or the
resultant files are flawed, you’ll need to rip using the MusicMatch analog
setting – go to “Options/Settings,” and click on the “General” tab.
The setting you’re looking is in the lower right hand corner – click
on “analog.” See Sound File Formats for
a discussion of MP3 settings.
course, there are legal implications for using someone else's music. See Fair Use and
Copyright under Presentation/Web
for a discussion of this.
Converting file types with
“File/Convert.” Select the
source file type, and format/quality of the target file, click “Start,” and
sit back. If converting to MP3, don't forget to set quality! See Sound
File Formats for a discussion of MP3 settings.
Recording to CD/DAT:
far the easiest, and best quality, method of recording digitally is to have a
digital-format recorder. DAT (Digital Audio Tape) is much less common, and
the results of DAT recordings not so universally transferable. CD
recorders record directly to CDR disks in CD format, and the files can be
instantly converted for editing or other uses by any computer with a CD drive
and free software. The only shortcoming is that CD recorders are not
cheap - usually, over $500.
Recording to Computer using
a Digital Converter:
main disadvantage of direct-to-computer recording (either by line-in or
microphone-in through the computer's sound card) is that the sound card does the
conversion to digital and 1) most computer sound cards are not very high quality
digital converters, and 2) they're located inside a very electronically noisy
environment. This is why such recordings usually have a lot of hiss and
other artifacts. You can take care of the first problem with a better
sound card, like the M-Audio Audiophile 2496 PCI Digital Audio Card (about
$150). However, a better solution is an external digital
converter. CD recorders and DATs, of course, have such converters, and
their quality is much better than cheap sound cards. Stand-alone
converters for use with computers are not cheap (the MIDIMan Flying Cow at right
is about $350, but requires a digital I/O card as well - another $100), and add another piece of
hardware separate from the computer.