One for you audio folks...

Alright, so I’m plotting and scheming up the Next Big Thing ™ in college radio. And one element of that is the ability to record things out in the field.

I’ve got the ability to record something to my laptop, with an arrangement that looks like this:

Source -> Mic port -> Audacity (

However, since I’m all for taking it to the next level, here’s my current plan:

Sources -> ??? -> Mic port -> Audacity

What I’m trying to figure out, in a nutshell, is how to do ??? on the cheap. Given my experience with headphones (and high school physics taught me they’re related) and the slider some have on them to control volume, I believe a potentiometer in series with a source could do the job. Put a few in a nice and neat project box, and I *think *it could work for the job.

Thus, I have three questions:

  1. Will such an arrangement fry my laptop?
  2. Will such an arrangement deliver audio I can play on the air without flinching?
  3. Is there a better solution for this?

what other sources do you want to record, besides a microphone?

what you need is a mixing board. Most have at least one stage of amplification built into each channel for isolation, so one input is not back-feeding the others.

You probabally can get a small battery powered mixer that is all analog. I cant recommend any off the top of my head.

Check ebay.

What exactly did you want this box to do? Did you want to mix multiple sources into your mic port?

What exactly is it that you want your final product to be? If all you want is to have multiple tracks playing at once, you could easily do it in audacity with out any additional hardware. If you wanted to have something like multiple microphones recording onto the same track at once, you can buy splitters that will run any number of devices into the one line-in. You can wire one your self, but my experience with audio wiring is that it doing it right requires a great deal of skill and probably more money then just buying something prewired.

I guess I would just like to know a bit more about what it is your trying to record.

-Andy A.

The idea is to record from multiple sources (essentially one or more mics, plus probably a CD or MP3 player) into Audacity at the same time. I’m adding an external music source, as opposed to just putting it in iTunes, to the mix for control purposes. Unless I’m missing something, Audacity only lets me get the whole mic input or the whole sound card output–and controlling the levels in software, where I only get one finger (the cursor) is a bit more cumbersome than being able to use the ten I was born with.

The simplest solution would be to use the splitters (I actually have one sitting on my desk right now), but since I can barely do an entire show without fiddling with levels in a controlled environment (the WUSC studio), it’d be hopeless out in the real world.

Of course, this would be a case where I forgot Dave’s old adage of stealing from the best and inventing the rest. (smacks forehead)

I went on eBay, and I found a possible candidate for a mixer:

Should I be looking for something similar, or am I not even close?


I am still unsure of what you are trying to record, so this may not apply. The “best” way to do it would be to record each source independently then mix them later in an audio editing program (I assume Audacity is one). This especially makes sense because it sounds like some of your sources are already digital (CD, MP3) and it would make no sense to play them back into a mixer then redigitze them. You will have better quality and more freedom to tweak the sound after the fact instead of trying to get it right at the time.


I think I see what you want to do. That ebay item does look like something that could be useful to you- assuming it has an output for the mixed channel. If not, you would need to do some wiring of your own to get the mixed channel that is feeding into the cassette to run to the laptop. It’s doable, but like I said before, custom audio work usually is poor compared to a professional.

-Andy A.

Here’s another listing for the same item–I believe it has an output for the master channel:

And Max, the software’s just to capture it so I can play it back. I’m not terribly worried if I screw up as I record, just as I’m not terribly worried if I punch the wrong button once in a while on the air. It’s the beauty of college radio–keep it clean, and everything will work out in the end (not that I don’t try to do a good show).

Check out sites like and the likes.

You can get usb digital audio interfaces that allow the hookup of many different sources and connection types, and some have built in mixers and other features. One of these would probably accomplish what you want.

You can also buy a small mixer, like a 4 channel one for under 100 bucks.

Hope this helps.


were you planning on doing this on battery power, or can you plug things into the wall?

That’s a good question. A few more…what type are your inputs and outputs? Are they RCA, 1/8", 1/4", XLR? Are they line level (coming out of CD players and ipods and stuff)? Do you want to mix a mic too? How many sources do you want to mix? Do you want to crossfade between the inputs?

That mixer looks a little elaborate for what you want to do, unless you want to record on cassettes too.

It sounds like you want a DJ mixer, that will give you RCA inputs and outputs, a headphone output, and usually a mic input.

For the most part, Behringer will give you the best bang for your buck. Here’s one to watch:

Here’s a couple new Geminis that are pretty cheap…

2 channel

4 channel

AND finally, if you aren’t gonna be doing any mixing, and you can get away with switching between the devices, just get one of THESE and just disregard the yellow video plug (only plug in the red and white).

Let me know about those questions and I should be able to help you more

Batteries would be great–but if push comes to shove, I can haul around an extension cord. (I’ll probably do so anyway–recording is kinda battery-intensive for my laptop.)

By default, the plugs I’ve got are 1/8", line level. However, there’s always adapters. Mixing a mic will be a must–for starting out, it will probably be a good computer mic due to cost. All told, I can’t imagine needing more than four sources (two music, two mic). I can do without crossfading–never used it in the studio, so I doubt I need it now.

Thanks for all the help!
That’s the only battery operated one I can find
That would be nice if you didn’t need batteries

Although I’m sure there’s probably a cheaper/more ghetto way of doing all of this too.

You should have started with me. I install broadcast audio for a living. The Tascam devices you are looking at on Ebay are really old, they are wrapped around a cassette recorder that in some models was confiqured as a four track device, only one side of the cassette. Depending on what you budget is, Mackie makes great little boards that have headphone outputs and lot’s of features like solo and sub-mixing. Behringer also makes some great gear as well. I would recommend you check out Muscian’s Friend, Sweewater or Full Compass. They all sell stuff for computer audio and there are many USB control surfaces that will turn you laptop into a powerful post production surface. There is one device from Digidesign that has two mic pre amps, and two line inputs and comes with ProTools software for I think about $400. Anything you might want is out there, and new is way better than used unless you know exactly what you want.

$400 is slightly out of the price range, but I think I’ve found a combination that should do the job for around $125:

It’d require a power outlet, but the more I think about it, the more I’d probably need it to keep from killing my laptop batteries anyway.

Am I getting warmer?

Bill neither of these devices have a mic preamp. They will only mixe line level signals like tape decks, CD players, etc. You can’t go wrong with the MBox or the Lexicon Omega package. There are other devices on this page…
At $59 bucks this little mixer could get you what you want with no software just a simple little mixer.

This one has faders for $119

DSK Roadie and FOH mixer

We use mics in drama class to record things into Audacity…it works just fine…oh but once it sounded really bad and it wasn’t until we’d finished the whole project that we realized the wires were like hanging out of the back of the microphone :S so just make sure your mic works and its plugged into the right thing and it should work…

That seems to be the winner there (and surely it’d work–how can you doubt a DSATKB roadie?)

Now to work out the programming side of things–lucky me, I have all summer!