Sound Card Woes
If you have an external sound card, make sure it’s selected as the Default Recording device. Right-click on the Volume icon in the System Tray, select “Adjust Audio Properties”, and look under the Audio Tab. Under Sound recording, select your sound card as the default device.
A common hassle with microphones is the horrifying sound your speakers make the moment you connect them. This is called feed-back, and is caused by noise that is picked up by the microphone and output through the speakers, and this output goes back into the microphone again—effectively leading to the sound getting louder and hence a lot more irritating. The only way to avoid it is to keep the microphone a good distance away from your speakers, and turn down speaker volume a little when speaking.
If your voice recording is too soft to hear, first check the PC volume control by clicking on the Speaker icon in the System Tray. The Microphone’s volume control slider should be a good way up. Even if this is insufficient, most sound cards (both on-board and PCI) offer a “Mic-Boost” feature, which you can use to kick up the microphone volume. You can access this feature by right-clicking on the Volume icon in the System Tray, selecting “Adjust Audio Properties”, navigating to the Audio tab and clicking the Advanced button under Sound Recording. Be warned, this feature also increases feedback, and your microphone should be a good way away from your speakers for this to work well.
Aargh! Too loud and distorted!
When you connect an audio source to the line-in jack of your sound card, you need to know that first the analogue sound from your source is amplified and converted into a digital format. The amplifier is built to handle weak audio signals—anything too strong causes it to overload and leads to distorted sound. So when you connect a music player to your sound card, start at a lower volume and increase it till the sound is just audible. After that, use the recording software to increase the volume of the sound input. This way, your sound will have little or no distortion. If you have a file that you didn’t record, but would like to tone down the volume, use the Normalize function which any sound editor will have. It reduces the volume levels in such a way that the loudest part of the sound file will be just loud enough not to cause any awful distortions.
Just plain distorted
For a smooth, error-free recording, you need to maximise the memory available to your recording application. Close all unnecessary programs and try to perform as little activity as possible while sound is recording. You might also want to turn off System Restore on all drives while the recording is going on to improve performance.
Out of Space?
All recording is first done in the uncompressed Wave format (.wav), and this can really hog disk space. Most recording software let you specify a location to store temporary recorded files. Select a partition with maximum free space to avoid any hassles in this department.
Tearing your hair out trying to rip audio from CDs and DVDs? Every so often, you will find that your ripped tracks skip and click during playback. Check if the CD has any dust or scratches. A badly scratched CD won’t rip properly, and you will need to look elsewhere for that music. If the CD is just dirty, use a soft, non-abrasive cloth to clean it.
Secondly, try not to load your PC too much while ripping audio. It needs a lot of memory to do its job, so make sure it gets it.
If you still experience problems, rip the audio to the uncompressed (WAV) format. It takes less memory, but will result in huge files, so ensure that you have enough hard-disk space. After ripping, use an MP3 encoder such as Lame Encoder to convert these WAV files to MP3.