Is there a cable that connects audio output (DVR) to audio input (MacBook)?
February 12, 2008 1:01 AM   Subscribe

can I go directly from my earphone plug on my digital voice recorder to the microphone port on my Mac laptop?

I bought my SECOND digital voice recorder without a USB port for transfering files. Is there a cable I can buy that would connect the earphone and microphone ports? Help me before I buy the wrong thing again!
posted by flowerofhighrank to Technology (4 answers total)
Yes you could - you'll need the 3.5mm jack on each end of the cable, which you should be able to get from any Radio Shack-type shop. One of these should be fine.

Not sure how good the sound quality will be though - it will all depend on how good the sound card in your Mac is. You might find that the recording is a bit distorted.
posted by awfurby at 1:32 AM on February 12, 2008

Yeah, get yourself a 3.5mm jack to 3.5mm jack cable, mono if possible, and you'll have to play with the levels pretty carefully. You will have to set the output volume on the voice recorder pretty low, and also set the mic input volume on the laptop pretty low, and work from there, increasing the volume if things are too low, or drowned out by noise.

There are naysayers who will tell you OMG don't connect a headphone-level output to a mic level input, but they're the same sort of people who put toilet paper on the toilet seat before sitting down, so they can't be trusted. It's never failed me yet, a bit of loud distortion is the worst that can happen.
posted by Jimbob at 1:37 AM on February 12, 2008

Well, let me be that nay-sayer.

Yes, it will work, but mac line in ports (at least on the Pro line, and I think on the non-Pro line, too) are expecting an amplified audio signal. They do this because they figure if you're using that port, you're probably trying to do "serious" audio, and you'll have your own amplifier and don't want to rely on some crappy laptop amp. The upshot of this for you is that your signal is going to be very quiet. Like, almost inaudible in my experience. You'll want to crank the output volume up as high as possible on the recorder and set the input gain on the computer as high as possible too. This will amplify (in software) the signal as much as it can, but since the signal is so quiet to begin with you're going to get a pretty messy signal when you're done. This isn't just a personal attitude issue - the quality is going to be very noticeably worse. That might not be a problem for your purposes, but if it is you're going to have to find another way to do this.

I'm not totally sure how you would do it, though. I think the proper way is to get an external amplifier. I don't know much about audio equipment (we've just got a box lying around the office that does this - I've never shopped for them), but I think you would want something like this.
posted by heresiarch at 6:22 AM on February 12, 2008

heresiarch is correct in staying that the inputs on most Mac motherboards (the ones that have an analog input) are expecting a "line level" input, rather than the more common (on PCs, anyway) "mic-level" one.

But this shouldn't present a problem for you -- a headphone jack's output is generally much closer to line level than mic level. Once you get a program for recording audio installed on your Mac, e.g. Audacity, and the voice recorder hooked up, you'll just need to adjust the volume on the recorder so that you have a solid input that doesn't redline. Then you can record.

For hardware: assuming your Mac has a line-in, you'll just need a 1/8" to 1/8" stereo patch cord. However, a lot of recent Macs (non-Pro) don't have analog inputs, and will require something like a Griffin iMic in order to attach an analog audio device. Check the back of your computer to make sure before you head out to Radio Shack.

The patch cord will only cost you a few dollars so I say go for it and see if you can get things to work. However, if you plan on taking a lot of notes, I have a feeling that you will find the whole procedure (hooking it up, recording the audio off in real-time, then saving and compressing the file) a PITA. You may want to seriously consider cutting your losses, selling the recorders that don't have a proper USB connection, and buying one that does.

You have to be very careful with Olympus products, because they mix total crap in with some real gems. (E.g. even the ones that have USB aren't all the same; there are a handful of recording formats and a bunch of incompatible interfaces -- only a few are any good and Mac compatible.) I have a DS-330 which works well and you might be able to find used. A lot of recent ones are WMA -- crap, avoid like crazy -- but the DS-2 is still available new if you wanted to go that route.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:02 AM on February 12, 2008

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