Is there any way to just "listen" to the mic input on a PC?
August 6, 2004 11:33 AM   Subscribe

ThisCan'tBeThisHardFilter: Is there any way to just "listen" to the mic input on a PC? [more inside]

I've got a line running from my cable box to my laptop's mic input, and I just want to be able to listen to the TV as I'm doing other things on the PC. (This is primarily for night-time, when I'm using headphones to work/play on PC, and want to be able to listen to the TV next to my desk. With the phones on--even my nice "open-air" Sennheisers--the set needs to be on louder than I'd like for me to hear it.)

I know it's hooked up fine, because any of those little apps that let you record analog inputs will digitize the TV sound for me just fine. I don't want to digitize the sound, though--I just want to hear it. Surely, that can't be so hard?

I've tried _everything_ I can think of--settings in various control panels, seeing if third-party apps will just let me monitor the mic input, lots of Googling--and nothing. Any ideas?
posted by LairBob to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
Double click on volume icon

option/properties/check "mic"

adjust volume on mic fader, make sure "mute" is unchecked

das it
posted by signal at 12:47 PM on August 6, 2004

I think that all you need to do is this (assuming you're using windows):

Open the play control panel (the windows mixing board which you can probably find by double clicking the little grey loudspeaker icon on the taskbar).

Click options>properties

In the properties menu, make sure the box to the left of "Microphone" is checked off.

Go ahead and close the properties menu.

You should see a new Volume/Balance control in the main window. If it's muted, un-mute it. Adjust the volume as desired.

I hope this works.
posted by Evstar at 12:47 PM on August 6, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks, but that's all I thought I had to do at first, too. I'm using XP, and that "Properties" dialog actually has a master set of radio buttons: "Playback" and "Recording". "Line In" appears as a "Playback" option (even though the laptop doesn't actually have a "Line In" jack), but "Microphone" only appears under "Recording". I've had that checked off (and unmuted) from the beginning, but it doesn't seem to make a difference. (The only other "Recording" input option is "Stereo Mix", and that doesn't work either.)

Like I said, though, I know the "Mic" input is working, since I can record from it just fine. I just can't figure out how to make it "play through".
posted by LairBob at 1:54 PM on August 6, 2004

Response by poster: Aaaaahhhh!!! This is what I mean...

skallas, thanks so much for the suggestions, but I've looked into them, and unfortunately, they don't seem to work either:
- PGPfone is apparently not being distributed any more (the MIT site says "It's too old--give it up", and the download links on "" are apparently out of date)
- Goldwave costs $50, which I guess would be OK if I get really, really desperate, but it still requires you to actually be _recording_ the mic input to listen to it--I can't find a way to just monitor without digitizing
- CoolEdit is now Adobe Audition, and costs $300 (and also still apparently requires you to digitize to listen)

I really don't mean to be snarky--I very much appreciate the input--but this is just one of those things that's gotten under my skin. I just cannot believe that's it's this goddamn hard to do something this friggin' simple.
posted by LairBob at 5:40 PM on August 6, 2004

AFAIK this is not a software issue, i.e.: you don't need a special app to listen to the sound from your mic or line-in. If your volume is configured properly, I can only think of a sound card problem. If you have a few bucks, pick up the cheapest sound card you can find, drop it into your box and see what happens.
posted by signal at 7:16 AM on August 7, 2004

In other words, I disagree with skallas, but will gladly be proven wrong.
posted by signal at 7:17 AM on August 7, 2004

If you don't mind using WinAmp, there's a plugin that will let you play back audio inputs. I've used it to bring in input from my XM radio before, so it should do the trick.
posted by sysinfo at 8:32 AM on August 7, 2004

On every sound card I've had (and I'll only buy Creative), you can have passthrough on everything (except on my old Sound Blaster 2 back in the early 90s). I'd second the 'get a proper soundcard' argument. I didn't realise you could even get cards that didn't do this nowadays.
posted by wackybrit at 12:17 PM on August 7, 2004

Response by poster: Hey, sysinfo, that WinAmp plug-in works great. There's a tiny bit of lag--as the sound is digitized, I presume--but it's totally livable, since the whole point is that I'm using this when I'm just keeping half an eye on the TV. Thanks!! (And while I can appreciate the suggestions on the sound card, I couldn't really imagine going that far--I have no qualms popping open a tower to replace a card, but cracking open a laptop is a whole 'nother thing.)

Thanks again for the input, everyone.
posted by LairBob at 3:08 PM on August 7, 2004

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