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Digital Audio: Window's Volume and Recording Controls

 

Prior to capturing and/or editing sounds on a Windows-based computer, it is important to get familiar with the settings and control windows that manage the way your computer's sound card works. This tutorial will use screen examples and terminology that would be used with a Windows 95 and newer operating system.

1. In the lower right hand corner of your taskbar (bottom of screen) you will find the "system tray". Next to the "time" display are usually several small icons. Locate the and click it once. This will display the basic volume control slider. Adjusting this slider will change the output volume of whatever is currently plugged into the "speaker out" port. This port is located on the sound card, which is accessible from the back of your computer. It may have speakers, headphones, a line to an external sound amplifier, or nothing, plugged into it. After adjusting it to the desired position, click anywhere else on the screen to hide it again.

2. Next, go back to the same sound icon, but this time double-click it. This will open the "Volume Control" window. It will look similar to this:

3. These sliders control the output volume for the "source" that is identified above each. The first (left-side) slider is usually the "Volume Control" master, which means it will adjust the volume to the output port (usually the headphones or speakers) in general. The other sliders are used to individually set output volume for only that particular source. For the beginner and average user, it is a good rule-of-thumb to set these sliders to approximately 2/3 - 3/4 maximum volume settings. This will help insure that enough sound is being outputted (sent) to the output port (spkrs., etc.) Normally, the only exception to this would be if you see a slider, with this group, identified as "Microphone". It is generally best to check the box below the microphone slider to "mute". The reason for this is to avoid "feedback" through your speakers or headphones, when you are using a microphone to record live sounds! If you do not see a slider identified as "Microphone", then you don't need to worry about muting it.

4. With the "Volume Control" window still open, go to the Options menu, near the top, and select "Properties". A window will appear similar to the one to the right.

 

5. Click in the bullet beside the word "Recording", near the top left of the "Properties" window. For general use, make sure that a check is present beside the words: Microphone, Line, and CD Audio. See below for an Example. (What you are doing here is telling the computer which "input" (sounds coming in) ports and sources you want it to be able to record from when designated.)

6.To gain access to the "Recording Control" window, make sure the bullet beside the word "Recording", is selected. Now click the OK button. This will open the "Recording Control" window. It will look similar to this:

7. You will notice that the "Recording Control" window is now displaying the sliders for the three "input" sources that we chose above. These sliders work just like the ones in the "Volume Control" window earlier, however, now you are adjusting the amount of sound that the computer is letting in (inputting) through the input ports, instead of the amount of sound it is letting "out" (outputting) to the speakers!

The same general rule, of placing all three sliders to the 2/3 - 3/4 maximum mark or higher, still applies. This time it is to help ensure that enough sound is being "inputted" (received) by the input port (microphone in, line in). Other than trying to record from a poor quality original, not having enough input sound strength (volume) level, is the most common reason for getting poor results when digitizing sounds!

Finally, you will notice that there are check boxes, labeled "Select", located under each slider in the Recording Control window. These are very important as they tell the computer which "input" port you want it to record from. Whatever is checked, is the only port it will "hear" or record from at that time, when you activate your recording tool software, such as "Sound Companion"! (This is also one of the more common issues to check on if you are experiencing problems when trying to record from a microphone or your internal cd-player!)

Therefore, to setup your Window's Recording Controls for recording with a microphone, you would check the "Select" box under the "Microphone" slider. Close the "Recording Control" window and proceed with your recording session. (See the section of this web site titled, "Recording "live" audio with a microphone" for complete step-by-step details on this.)

To setup for recording from an "external" source, like a jam box or vcr's audio, you would check the "Select" box under the "Line" slider. For preparing to record sounds from your computer's internal CD-ROM drive, then you would check the "Select" box under the "CD Audio" slider. (All of the scenarios have step-by-step details in their respective areas of this web tutorial.)

Happy digital recording!

This page last modified 7-11-05.

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