My Windows XP laptop has a sound card that's integrated with the motherboard.

I've tried doing some recording directly into Audacity using my headset microphone, but I always get an unacceptable level of noise when I record that way. Using the Roland EDIROL R-09HR I have results in a much, much cleaner signal, but I lose the convenience of recording directly into the computer that way.

Short of adding an external sound card, are there any ways to reduce or eliminate the noise I'm getting from my sound card?

Audacity can get rid of it in post-processing, but it also warns that the Noise Removal tool can have negative effects on the audio.

My primary use case is to record batches of words for a software project that I then slice up into files using the Sound Finder and Export Multiple tools.

(I just know someone's going to say "get a new laptop" or "replace the motherboard" or something like that...)

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  • Thanks all. Sounds like if I want to start recording directly to the machine, I'll need to invest in some hardware. Marking as resolved; doesn't sound like there's much to be done without some new equipment. – dgw Dec 15 '10 at 1:10

Anything inside a computer chassis is exposed to a nightmare of electrical interference. The CPU, bus, hard drive and other components all emit electrical fields in the kilo, mega and gigahertz range. On top of that, most integrated and internal sound card vendors aren't that serious about efficient shielding, so you're generally much, much better off with external A/D-D/A converters with proper shielding.

Also, your investment in a good external USB or firewire audio interface will last you several laptop upgrades.

  • Coming from IBM PCs I was impressed by the mac audio inputs. I could get a usable signal into the computer without hard drive noise and nasty buzzing. Just took a little $50 behringer mixer and a rca to mini plug. – Sam Greene Mar 15 '11 at 1:58

You have largely answered the question yourself in your parenthetical. Updating your sound card drivers if you can might help a little, but the main problem is that the sound card is not protected from the electromagnetic effects of the rest of the computer (plus it's probably not a great card, onboard ones rarely are).

The new HP laptops with Beats Audio are really interesting. The sound chips are shielded from the rest of the computer and there are separate chips for low, mid, and high frequency sounds. The output is supposed to be amazing and I'm sure it would have similar effects on the input.

  • I figured as much. I don't think there's much I can do except upgrade the hardware, but I thought I'd see if someone else can come up with a better solution that doesn't involve dropping money on new equipment. – dgw Dec 14 '10 at 6:43
  • @Voyagerfan5761, laptop sound cards are meant for really basic audio needs. It is far cheaper and easier for the manufacturer this way. You won't get good quality from any internal card. Sure, some are better than others, but if you want quality, you need to go external. Plus, you'll have an audio interface for the next time you get a new laptop. – Brad Dec 14 '10 at 14:38
  • Good points all around. I think I'll save up for some equipment upgrades and follow the advice from this question when I have the funds and a really killer reason to pull the trigger on a new investment. Thanks! – dgw Dec 15 '10 at 1:12

(I just know someone's going to say "get a new laptop" or "replace the motherboard" or something like that...)

I wouldn't, because you would probably end up in the same situation after some time. Profesionally speaking, if such a component breaks down, I would say: stop working with it. Instead, get your hands on a not too expensive USB interface. Probably even less expensive than getting your motherboard replaced...

//Edit: you already stated that as an option in your question. Can you elaborate why you are actually searching for an alternative way?

  • I'm cheap, and low on money, so I was wondering if I could do something besides upgrade my hardware (which costs money) to fix the problem. I guess not, so I think I'll keep using my current workaround (the R-09HR is actually quite nice) and save up for a better system in the future. – dgw Dec 15 '10 at 1:11

There is something to be said for getting a mixer which will output the proper signal level and using the proper cables. You can get a passable signal into some on board inputs. You can also pick up usb interfaces on the used market for under $100. You're cheap and have other methods of recording, so you can wait for a good deal/auction ;)

You can also unplug your laptop from the wall and sometimes get rid of the noise.

  • Ha, yes I am quite frugal. ;) Hey, unplugging it is a good idea! Makes me wish the battery in this machine wasn't shot. (If I unplug it, it dies. The battery's that dead.) – dgw Mar 18 '11 at 18:19

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