Mic Input on Laptop, how good is it? - diyAudio
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Old 9th October 2011, 03:45 AM   #1
diyAudio Member
Join Date: Oct 2010
Default Mic Input on Laptop, how good is it?

I have an old Dell Inspiron 4100 laptop. I would like to use it for making mp3s from line-level analog audio. The only audio input is on the side, and is marked with a microphone symbol (the manual does say it's stereo). I've tried it out and it seems to work, but I'm a bit troubled with this input. For one thing there is no level control for it. The mixer panel has no slider for this input. (But there is one for the non-existent Line input. ) I assume this microphone input must have built in AGC, otherwise the line level would be overloading it. My recording program has colored VU bars that say the level is good.

Is the mic input capable of decent fidelity? I'm shooting for 128 Kbit mp3s into earbuds.

Bobby Dipole
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Old 11th October 2011, 05:26 PM   #2
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Join Date: Oct 2011
Default Have you considered a USB Condenser or Dynamic Microphone?

An "Electret" microphone is usually what is used in the inexpensive headsets. They require very little power and are everywhere in computer usage.

But, there is a whole new movement out there to bring standard condenser and dynamic microphone technology to the computer. There are many USB connecting devices. They usually come with their own software and can get enough current from the USB connection to power the microphone. The electret form of microphone has distinct audio limitations and these new microphones sound so much better that anyone can tell the difference.

Some of the popular ones are: Blue brand "Snowball", AKG, Shure, Audio Technica. Some are less than fifty dollars and can give good sound. It may be what you need for ear buds.
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Old 11th October 2011, 06:26 PM   #3
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Join Date: Oct 2011
I believe that I have misread your original request. You do not want to use a microphone for singing or instrument input. You want to use the 3.5 mm input for feeding it audio from another device? In that case there also are USB devices that convert audio line level input into digital information. The Behringer UCA202 is one possible example. It can take line level input and then feed it into the computer. It is 25 dollars but then the sky is the limit for these devices.

This is not the question you were asking and that would be the question as to whether the mic input is good enough in quality. If you have the time you could run a rightmark analyzer on it to see what the sound frequencies look like.
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Old 12th October 2011, 04:50 PM   #4
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Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Germany
"Decent" fidelity, maybe. I wouldn't expect any real miracles from a craptacular old Sigmatel AC97 codec in a notebook though. Even the little UCA202 should be much better suited.

BTW, no 128 kbit/s CBR any more please. Go for VBR -V 6 instead if you need smallish MP3s for a DAP.
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Old 13th October 2011, 03:53 AM   #5
dangus is offline dangus  Canada
diyAudio Member
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Vancouver Island
There could, possibly, be a way to switch that input between mic and line input, if you have the right drivers loaded.

Another decent USB audio interface is the ADStech "Instant Music", although similar to the UCA202 it just does line in (with no gain control) and out (plus optical S/PDIF in and out). You should consider the "ART USB Phono Plus v2" box, since it has both phono and line inputs, and a gain control to adjust analog levels. Also S/PDIF in and out, and a headphone output for monitoring recording or playback. It appears to be very well thought out, and good value for about $100 shipped. Local music stores may have it, or there's eBay and the various online music stores.

And as sgrossklass said, there's no reason to use 128k CBR. I've only encountered one 10 year old MP3 player that couldn't handle VBR. And in this decade, minimizing space shouldn't be an issue... I recently got a 4G Sansa Clip+ (used) plus an 8G uSD card (new) for a total of $35. (That's something like 1/100 the cost/meg of my first flash player.)
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Old 16th October 2011, 09:21 PM   #6
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Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Jackson,michigan
This unit here is what I would suggest if you are looking for quality on the cheap as it is 24bit 96khz there are cheaper ones but you get what you pay for.




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