How to Record From a Mixer to a Laptop
By Quinten Plummer
While your desktop computer may be the heart and soul of your permanent studio, you don't have to limit your workhorse laptop to audio editing tasks. Hold recording sessions on your laptop while you're away from your studio and see your productivity rise. But, as with any other recording device, you'll want to ensure that a mixing board is set up as a buffer between raw sound input and your laptop. Without a mixer, you risk damaging your laptop's sound card. Perfect the steps of setting up a mixer to your laptop and deploy a makeshift studio anywhere you'd like.
Ensure that your mixing board is powered off and set all of its volume controls to "0" or "Off."
Locate your mixer's master outputs, often labeled "Master Right" and "Master Left," to determine what type of cable is required (see Tips).
Select an audio conversion cable that includes a 1/8 inch stereo connector on one end and a mixer-compatible connector on the other. Match the conversion cable's left and right connectors to the "Master/Main Left" and "Master/Main Right" inputs on the back of your mixing board. For stereo cables, insert the 1/4 inch end of your conversion cable into the "Master/Main Out" port on the back of your mixing board.
Connect the 1/8 inch end of your conversion cable into the "Line In" port on your laptop, or plug the connector into the Mic port if the first option is not available. Check the back of your mixing board for an equalization switch or button, often labeled "Output Level," if you connect to the Mic port.
Connect your mixing board's power cable into a power outlet and then power the unit on. Connect your peripherals to the mixing board via XLR or 1/4 inch stereo audio cables. Insert one end of the cable into the peripheral's audio output and plug the opposite end of the cable into one of the numbered "Audio In" ports on the back of the mixer.
Launch your preferred audio editing utility or use Windows' native Sound Recorder app, found in the Start menu. Type "Sound Recorder" into the Start menu's search box and then click on the Sounder Recorder icon from the search results.
Click on your audio app's "Record" button and start playing audio from your peripheral. Raise the volume on the mixing board's "Master" Channel to your liking and adjust the volume on the channel to which your peripheral is attached.
Click on your audio app's "Stop" button, stop your peripheral device and then play to review your recording. Tweak the levels on your "Master" and peripheral channel until you're satisfied with their output.
Click "Record" when you're ready to begin recording your first session.
- Phono cables are often red and white with shielded connectors, XLR cables feature three prongs, and stereo cables fit a single input. Mixing boards commonly incorporate 1/4 inch stereo cables into their builds, rather than the 1/8 size found on laptops.
- USB audio outputs are generally labeled. To set up a USB cable connection, plug the female end of the cable into the USB port on the mixing board and plug the male end into a USB port on your computer. The use of a USB cable may require the installation of software drivers beforehand. Install your mixing board's software on your laptop before connecting the mixer to your computer.
Quinten Plummer began writing professionally in 2008. He has more than six years in the technology field including five years in retail electronics and a year in technical support. Plummer gained his experience in music by producing for various hip-hop acts and as lead guitarist for a band. He now works as a reporter for a daily newspaper.