Ask the Experts: How to Capture Analog Audio on a PC

Question: I have a MDS-JE440 I want to put the music that is on mini discs into my PC. How do I accomplish this? Do I require a software program to get the songs into my computer and in the mp3 format via the mini disc player itself?

-submitted by Songbird

Answer: Believe it or not, just about any PC should be able to do exactly what you're looking for with little to no extra software installed. I've frequently do audio capture when recording telephone interviews, for example, or catpuring game music when building my own custom ringtones.

The advice I'm going to give below is pretty generic for analog audio in general, but will work for your MiniDisc player, too. Some people have portable MiniDisc players that can interface directly with a PC over USB, allowing users to check in or out songs via Sony's (arguably terrible) SonicStage Software. Since your home deck doesn't do that, I can only assume you're trying to convert a commercial MiniDisc, or you captured audio from another source.

To get started, your PC must have a 1/8" (3.5mm) stereo audio input jack. Most desktops and laptops do. If not, you'll need a USB soundcard or other audio capture device.

Assuming you do have an audio input, you'll also need a 1/8" stereo to L/R RCA cable (two RCA plugs on one end, a headphone plug on the other). Connect the RCA cables to your MiniDisc deck and the headphone plug to the line in.

In Windows, launch the Sound or Audio pane in Control Panel and tab over to "Recording" or launch whatever program manages your audio settings.

If you have something plugged in, it should let you adjust it. The goal here is to disable things like Microphones and set the recording volume for your line input, that way your mic won't interfere with your capture. 

You can capture the audio with Window's Sound Recorder, although the default file format will be WMA on Windows 7 or WAV on Windows XP. I highly recommend you download a free program called "Audacity" to handle your capture, and it will output your audio in whatever format you want.

The general idea is to press play on your MiniDisc player (or whatever your source is) and press record in your program of choice to record the audio. When finished, you can carve up your audio file into separate tracks (if you grab an entire MiniDisc at once) and save the files off in an MP3 format for use on just about any audio device you own.

Instructions for Mac isn't much different, although you can use Garage Band as your audio capture program if you already have it. If not, Audacity is available for Mac, too.

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you are amazing, thank you so much for your information, I do have all the cords required for this.


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