Basic Home Recording V

Jim Goodman

Part 5 – Simple 2 Channel 1 Track (stereo) Recording Software

All Windows PCs come with a simple .wav recorder called Sound Recorder. Sound Recorder is an extremely limited utility that was designed to allow Windows users to make their own .wav files to use on their PC to customize their desktop sounds amongst many other programs and uses. When you see .wav this is referring to the file extension of waveform files or simple uncompressed audio files.

To use Sound Recorder simply refer to the help files within the program itself. There is a length limit to Sound Recorder recordings in Win95/98/98se and the default record time on other Windows platforms is 60seconds, but you can add more time by creating and inserting blank .wav files to make 5 minutes or longer, but only in 60 second increments. Definitely a pain, but it is free. Here is a Microsoft Knowledge Base article on how to add time to Sound Recorder, http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;82215 .

Fortunately there are more flexible alternatives available on the net, as shareware and/or freeware that can help you make better and easier recordings. One such program that is a favorite of many is a shareware program called GoldWave Digital Audio Editor http://goldwave.com . Note: (Before downloading any software verify the system requirements and look for special notes or bugs).

This program not only allows for recording in CD quality, but also advanced audio editing which allows you to edit the .wav file. Editing is important when it comes to doing some basic mastering (gainups, overall eq and basic sound polishing) of stereo or mono files when we get to multi-track recording. This program also allows for saving and converting .wav files to Mp3 with the free LAME encoder plugin. I know many people that use GoldWave as their audio editor of choice. I tried GoldWave but have settled on Wavelab Lite as my basic audio editor of choice.

A freeware program that is out there is called Audacity http://audacity.sourceforge.net . It is an open source project that seems to be gaining popularity. I have not used this program, but from all appearances it does seem to be an interesting prospect.

There is a huge variety of software recorders available, some commercial, some shareware and some freeware. The adage you get what you pay for does apply here. A commercially produced program generally will have been tested on a variety of configurations and would have generally better support, but not always.

Also most programs come with help files and tutorials. Spend sometime familiarizing yourself with these valuable guides and if there is a tutorial go thru it as it will payoff in the long run. I can’t say enough about support pages and user forums – these are often your best places to get the low down on software and finding help from people who are using the programs.

Recording Quality

For some programs, like Sound Recorder they express quality in terms of how you want the audio to sound.

Open up Sound Recorder select file, properties. You will have a detail tab, below that tab you will see format conversion and by default it displays All Formats in the Choose Format drop-down box. Your choices here is All Formats, Playback Formats, and Recording Formats. Leave All Formats in the box and press the convert now button.

Now you will see another set of drop down boxes. Under Name you will have some common names for selected audio quality types. Telephone Quality (sounds like you are on a telephone), Radio Quality (more like AM radio), CD Quality (the best quality). Within these quality types there are a variety of bit-rates and bit-depth.

Below that you will see Format and Attribute drop-down boxes. These are important to understand as you begin audio recording. If spend a few moments browsing the selections you will see a wide variety of choices. Simple put there are a wide variety of audio applications and different formats and related attributes produce differing signal-to-noise ratio settings. At this point feel free to stop and plug a mic into your sound card “mic in” and record a 10-20 second clip and experiment with these different settings. Make your last recording at CD Quality and hear the difference.

Since we are dealing with music audio we will look at PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) only. PCM is the uncompressed method to represent audio in a digital format. CDs operate at 44.1Khz at 16 bit depth, stereo with an audio data rate of 172 Kb/s. This setting no matter what program you use will produce a CD quality recording. In fact if you record at higher setting you have to convert that audio to 44.1/16 before you can make an audio CD for your CD player. You can use lesser or greater settings for internet audio, but not for a CD you can play in your player. This is also important if you plan on sharing your files for collaborations using differing software and hardware platforms.

If you don’t quite understand these basic concepts, I do recommend you visit your local library or bookstore and obtain a book on digital audio recording. I would also make sure you look at a book that has an edition or revision of no earlier than 2002. The basic standards haven’t changed but many other important details and useful features in the books may have as technology changes so rapidly.