Recording from Turntables to Laptop causes heavy distortion


When trying to record a mix from my vinyl turntables, to my laptop, I'm getting heavy distortion, especially during the heavy bass sections of the mix.

I'm running my turntables into a 3 channel mixer, then outputting via RCA "Record" ports, to a small headphone jack into my laptop's microphone port.

My mixer is a Numark DM2050 3 Channel Mixer

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I've tried using Windows Sound Recorder and Audacity, but these both produce heavy distortion.

How can I avoid the heavy distortion caused? Someone has told me I'm supposed to use "line-in" on my laptop, but I only have headphone and microphone ports. What is the difference with "line-in" and is this what I should be using?


Posted 2012-03-08T15:10:05.490

Reputation: 153

what is the laptop model? – None – 2012-03-09T15:54:07.893

I'm not certain to be honest! It's about 3 years old now, its a HP. – None – 2012-03-09T16:03:54.923



The 'mic' input on your laptop is designed for a microphone's low level input. It has a preamp to boost the signal to 'line' level hence if you are feeding a line level signal into a 'mic' input it will be amplified into clipping aka distortion.

Assuming that your 3 channel mixer has "phono" level inputs and line level outputs, it would be good to get yourself a USB line level input device for your computer. Here is an example of such a device:

Disclaimer: I have not used this product and do not have any recommendations regarding its performance.

It appears there are tons of devices like this one, choose wisely and test to be sure it does what you expect it to before you purchase it.


Posted 2012-03-08T15:10:05.490

Reputation: 1 594

1the OP probably will probably need to adjust the output levels from the mixer OR the input levels on the pc to ensure the outputs are not peaking, correct? – None – 2012-03-08T22:03:52.307

I would adjust the mixer output levels, as the input adjustment on the PC may be too late if distortion is happening on input. – Rory Alsop – 2012-03-09T08:35:15.533

@horatio Assuming that your 3 channel mixer has phone level inputs and line level outputs. I'm not certain whether my mixer has these levels. I've attached a link to the mixer in my question. Can you see whether it does? Cheers! – None – 2012-03-09T09:14:23.750

@Curt On the mixer, make sure you're using the inputs that have an associated "Phono" mode switch, and set that switch. – None – 2012-03-09T12:09:34.077

@KevinReid Cheers, can you see where this switch is on my mixer? (image and link provided in question) – None – 2012-03-09T12:14:54.740

@Curt They're right in the picture, and that's all I was basing my remark on — see the slide switches above the right-side jacks of Ch 1 and Ch 3. Whichever one you use, slide the switch to the Phono position and use the jacks below it (marked with a line to the switch). – None – 2012-03-09T12:17:05.330

@KevinReid Ah you're referring to the inputs on the mixer? These are both set to "Phono" and I have Studio Monitors connected to the "Master" output, and this works fine. So I don't think this is the issue – None – 2012-03-09T12:18:25.500

@Curt OK, that sounds fine; I misunderstood what your question in response to horatio was. (Any input or output not marked as something else is probably line level.) Given the current info, I agree with filzilla's answer that the problem is probably using a mic-level input on your computer (these usually have a symbol of a microphone) rather than a line-level input (usually marked with an arrow pointing into a circle), and that the Right Answer is to get a line-level input peripheral. – None – 2012-03-09T12:23:57.787

@KevinReid So to clarify I would need an RCA-RCA cable going into a USB audio device, which my computer then reads from? – None – 2012-03-09T12:26:24.103

1@Curt Yes, though it isn't guaranteed to be RCA — line level can be found on 1/8" connectors as well (line level is close enough to being the same as "headphone" connections for "consumer" purposes) — but you probably want a good interface which will probably have RCA inputs. – None – 2012-03-09T13:38:43.153

Typo alert. I used the word 'phone' level originally in my answer, when I meant 'phono' level. I have fixed this in my answer. Path should be phonograph into phono level input on mixer with mixer line level output through line input USB to computer. – filzilla – 2012-03-09T20:04:42.653