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Input Devices Media Music Entertainment Hardware

Is the Line-in Jack On the Verge of Extinction? 411

SlashD0tter writes "Many older sound cards were shipped with line-out, microphone-in, and a line-in jacks. For years I've used such a line-in jack on an old Windows 2000 dinosaur desktop that I bought in 2000 (600 Mhz PIII) to capture the stereo audio signal from an old Technics receiver. I've used this arrangement to recover the audio from a slew of old vinyl LPs and even a few cassettes using some simple audio manipulating software from a small shop in Australia. I've noticed only recently, unfortunately, that all of the four laptops I've bought since then have omitted a line-in jack, forcing me to continue keeping this old desktop on life support. I've looked around for USB sound cards that include a line-in jack, but I haven't been too impressed by the selection. Is the line-in jack doomed to extinction, possibly due to lobbying from vested interests, or are there better thinking-outside-the-box alternatives available?"
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Is the Line-in Jack On the Verge of Extinction?

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Monday March 22, 2010 @08:00PM (#31577556) Journal
    My netbook (months old) has a line in jack. My motherboard (1 year old) has a line in jack. In fact, the software drivers for my motherboard allow me to decide what I plug into each of the three jacks even though it's Realtek crap software. Hell, I think I could have three line-in 1/8" jacks if I wanted to. From what I can tell, the most popular Dell desktop is the Inspiron 560 [dell.com]. I hate to sound like a salesman but not only do you get 7.1 surround sound at $350 but you also get a line in jack [dell.com]. They even suggest you "Use the (blue) line-in connector to attach a record/playback device such as a cassette player, CD player, or VCR. On computers with a sound card, use the connector on the card."

    So that leaves us with some interesting cases:
    1. Something is very rotten in the state of Australia and their recent Think of the Children campaign has gone to new lengths to prevent people from transmitting sexy audio.
    2. You are very adept at selecting some models of computers that have no line-in jacks from a sea of computers with line-in jacks.
    3. You actually have a line-in jack, you just are confused with the colors (please don't take this as an insult, I've helped family members through this before). You also might have better drivers allowing you to make one of the jacks a line-in jack but you don't realize it.
    4. Look closer at your sound card. Does it say "Sorny" or "Panaphonics" on it? Buying computers from a kangaroo in an alleyway will get you what you pay for.
    5. Your tinfoil hat is on so tight you can't see the back ports on your computer.

    Look, if you could give us more information like what operating system you use and what motherboards you're using, I'd be willing to track down the manuals on them and verify there's no line-in jack and take a boomerang to the head if I'm mistaken. But couldn't this problem have been solved with a couple bucks [arc.com.au]? My eeePC netbook has a line-in. I really don't see them disappearing at all.

    P.S. If you're looking for something a little more professional, external Audigys and M-Audio Pre USBs are useful for what you're doing though they are pricey ($200 USD).

    • by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) * on Monday March 22, 2010 @08:07PM (#31577624) Homepage Journal
      SOLVED. [thinkgeek.com]

      Now give me +5. Of course, there are many other ways to record a line-in, but it sounds to me like submitter is very finicky and used to doing things one specific way. I have family who use a dual-deck CD burner because they're used to the whole tape-deck way of recording. They would rather make a mix CD by sticking 1 CD at a time and burning track-by-track than simply ripping all of their music to their $800 laptop(which they use only for internet and OpenOffice) and burning mix CD's from the library. I'll get off your lawn now.
      • by Pojut ( 1027544 )

        ^^^Pretty much this. There are other options out there just for vinyl [amazon.com] if you are concerned about noise from using an analog input.

        • by tkrotchko ( 124118 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @04:06AM (#31580416) Homepage

          I've purchased that turntable, tried it and given it away to an enemy.

          I'm not a crazy stereophile by any means, but the quality of this turntable was so poor that you would not use this for any collectible vinyl, or anything worth keeping. The quality of construction is poor, the cartridge is utter crap, it was difficulty to set up the anti-skate, it tracked marginal vinyl not at all. In short, don't get this.

          Instead, just buy a used turntable in good condition (so many are available), or I realized my 40 year old Dual turntable ( http://www.dual-reference.com/ [dual-reference.com] ) was still head and shoulders above this unit. Couple it with a reasonable phono preamp ( http://www.zzounds.com/item--ARTDJPREII [zzounds.com] ) and send it through your line in. Combine it with very nice free software ( http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download [sourceforge.net] ) and you have a solution, possibly for as little as $50 and you'll have a turntable that won't ruin your good vinyl, and get excellent sound as well.

      • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Monday March 22, 2010 @08:18PM (#31577748) Journal

        SOLVED. [thinkgeek.com]

        That's sold out, $35 and possibly not available in Australia. However, after viewing that, it has occurred to me what has happened here. The submitter is used to (what I learned to call) RCA jacks in stereo. These I guess are two jacks looking like this [racketboy.com]. I believe what the submitter needs is only one of these adapters [avforums.com] that will run you a few bucks at your local store (unless you're finicky about quality which I'm guessing he's not if he's doing this on that old of a computer).

        Yes, the large RCA version of it is going the way of the buffalo and probably has for some time. Similar to the new video out ports looking smaller and smaller but being essentially the same standard.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by EvanED ( 569694 )

          That seems extremely unlikely... I've only seen a couple computers with RCA ports ever.

        • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Monday March 22, 2010 @09:08PM (#31578164) Journal

          I don't recall ever having an RCA line-in jack on any vanilla computer, unless I installed a high-end consumer sound card like some of the "pro" Sound Blasters or an actual professional sound card like an RME Hammerfall or M-Audio Audiophile or Delta.

          Because I'm a media producer, I've got all sorts of devices for inputting audio into computers, from simple 1/4" to USB guitar cables (no kidding!) to multi-thousand dollar Apogee A/D converters. You can now get a device that will do 24bit/192kHz sound recording for a computer for less than $100 (and throw in a phantom power microphone preamp to boot). The choices have never been greater.

          And yes, unless you're hung up on the shape of the little gizmo that plugs into the little hole, every computer from laptop to Mac Pro has a way to input audio (aka "line-in") jack. Sometimes, the jack actually does double duty as mic-in and line in, and the little mixer applet that comes with it will attenuate or boost the signal accordingly.

          • by bemymonkey ( 1244086 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @03:43AM (#31580346)

            And yes, unless you're hung up on the shape of the little gizmo that plugs into the little hole, every computer from laptop to Mac Pro has a way to input audio (aka "line-in") jack. Sometimes, the jack actually does double duty as mic-in and line in, and the little mixer applet that comes with it will attenuate or boost the signal accordingly.

            The trend in the last few years has been to forego the Line-In functionality. Often it's still mentioned in the tech specs, but try finding the software switch for activating the Line-In. Hell, the Realtek audio on my old Toshiba NB100 had a Line-In that only worked with certain driver versions... all of them would give you the pop-up for selecting whether you were using the jack as a line-in or mic-in, but only one of the drivers actually switched to stereo and padded the input (or turned off that nasty nasty preamplification).

            I don't get it - these laptops all have microphones built in. Why would you need a godawful preamp built in for an external mic that probably sounds just as crappy? It's not like there are any mics out there that sound any better and have a 1/8" TRS jack...

            Now an actual balanced 1/8" TRS connection with phantom power... that I could go for. But this crap is useless. Bring back the line-in and kill mic-in!

        • by mirix ( 1649853 )

          TFS seems to be rambling on about laptops though, and I've never seen a laptop with RCA connectors, ever.

          That said, every:
          A) Motherboard with onboard sound
          B) Soundcard
          C) Laptop
          I've ever purchased has a line-in jack on it, so I'm really quite confused as to what the problem is.

        • My SX-64 doesn't have an RCA in, or an audio input of any sort. The Commodore 16 has an RCA jack, but that's video out.

          The only machine I've seen with an RCA jack for input is my Thinkpad Type 2635. It has an RCA jack with a microphone icon next to it (a general "line in", I guess).

          My Adlib card has a 1/4" phono jack, though, which is amusing.

          Alright, that's just blabbing about amusing hardware history.

          Is the submitter really talking about RCA jacks? I don't think so.

      • Perhaps he just needs to upgrade to a better soundcard, geared towards semi-professionals and professionals. For example M-Audio is a company known to produce produces quality soundcards with multiple input and output jacks and break out boxes.
        Here's the category page: http://www.m-audio.com/index.php?do=products.family&ID=recording [m-audio.com]
        You can find PCI cards, USB sound cards and even Firewire devices on that page.

        Otherwise, there are still plenty of sound cards with line-in, including USB ones: http://www.n [newegg.com]

      • No shit (Score:5, Informative)

        by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @08:48PM (#31578024)

        Seriously, anyone who can't find analogue sound input for their computer hasn't bothered looking very hard. I can find it for you USB, Firewire, PCI, or PCIe. Stereo, 8 channel, 128 channel, whatever you like. You name the kind of audio capture you need, someone out there makes a product for it. All of them will be better quality than the line-in jack on a laptop, which generally has really poor filtering and thus lots of noise.

        The parent is absolutely right in terms of the Behringer as a good, cheap solution. Need something better? You can get something like the M-Audio MobilePre (http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/MobilePreUSB.html) which has pretty good converters and some features you don't need. Still not enough, have to have no holds barred? Get yourself an Benchmark ADC1 (http://www.benchmarkmedia.com/adc1/) converter, which is just about as good as it get.

        No matter what the level, from a highly adequate $35 USB audio interface, up to a $1,700 dedicated converter, you can get something that'll meet your needs, and do so online.

        The only reason line in is dying on soundcards is people aren't using it much. On laptops, space is also a premium so why bother? Many desktop cards still have it, as they've got the space for more inputs.

        • Re:No shit (Score:5, Informative)

          by spisska ( 796395 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @09:03PM (#31578132)

          The parent is absolutely right in terms of the Behringer as a good, cheap solution.

          Beware of Behringer gear. Yes, it is cheap. Yes, it is decent when it works. But the build quality is quite shoddy. It will do the job, but something will break or burn out fairly quickly. I was warned about this before I bought a mixer from them, but I figured that it would be in a fairly decently controlled location and not moved around. Barely two years later and it's already blown one channel strip and the headphone-out.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by clifyt ( 11768 )

            I've met several folks from Behringer over the years, and talked with them about their manufacturing processes and otherwise. It is amazing the stories you hear from people in competition to them, only to work for them later...if the truth was there in the first place, why did they go to the company?

            The fact is, most of the complaints are unfounded...they automated the process that most companies had to have hired skilled workers to assemble and match. This pisses off a LOT of people in the audio world th

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by luder ( 923306 ) *

        Oh, man... Look what I just found in one of the suggested products page [thinkgeek.com]:

        Pull it out, and give it a twist, and a super-bright highly focused white spotlight shines into the darkest corners.


      • I like how he is complaining that it is not a stock option anymore. Maybe there was a time when every one wanted one and manufacturers replied with giving it to them. Why should the manufacturer include it when it is not important to peoples choice in computers. Its like floppy drives being phased out. Its not some CD cartel conspiracy. Just manufacturers responding to consumer interests. I have one on a computer I bought a year ago, but thats a media computer. Still I would say you can get one if you want
    • by Bengie ( 1121981 )

      my Realtek, recent within 2 years, EVERY port works as either a mic or stereo out, and it's not mono mic, but supports stereo in. It auto detects the ports and lets me configure which port does what.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )
      He's buying notebooks, no laptop I've seen has ever had a line in jack, most have microphone jacks but no line in. There's probably a few models with them but none I've seen.

      However almost every ATX mainboard I've bought over the last few years has had line in and line out. mATX usually don't but a few do have line in.
      • My laptop has a microphone jack and a line-in. Of course, it's a ThinkPad, so YMMV.

      • Most laptops, the mic-in doubles as the line-in. Give the person asking the question a "-1 didn't RTFM" and a "-1 didn't try the obvious."

        Just because it isn't an RCA jack doesn't mean it doesn't do the same job. What next "OMG - none of the 4 laptops I own have an CGA/EGA port so I can't plug an external monitor into it"? "How come I can't plug my old Nintendo cartridge games into my Wii?" "Where's the cassette tape interface to load my BASIC game?"

  • All motherboards have em.

  • Uh no... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anrego ( 830717 ) * on Monday March 22, 2010 @08:02PM (#31577572)

    More likely, line-in is just not a feature used by enough mobile users to make it worth putting on a laptop.

    Most laptops don't come with 7.1 surround sound output either.. and it's not because surround sound is fading into the sunset..

    Any desktop motherboard with integrated sound will probably have one though.. and just about any add-on sound card will as well.

    _AND_ any decent external sound "card" will probably have one.. have a look at terratec's produce line. The DMX 6Fire USB has a whole plethora of inputs.

    Even cheap mini-itx boards (MSI Wind for instance) have line in.. just get yourself one o` those...

  • audiophiles (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheSHAD0W ( 258774 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @08:04PM (#31577590) Homepage

    There's inevitably some noise that creeps in with a line-level jack on your PC. It's not much, but it drives audiophiles to distraction. Moving it to a USB device helps reduce the noise by an order of magnitude or so. That may be one thing driving the change.

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      I would also say the ADC on most laptops are likely pretty low fidelity. I concur that a good USB device would be best. There players that have a USB output built in. It also seems that my video camera has a audio input, and can transfer directly to the computer.
  • by Anonymous Freak ( 16973 ) <prius.driverNO@SPAMmac.com> on Monday March 22, 2010 @08:09PM (#31577646) Journal

    My latest three desktops have all come with a line-in, as have my latest two notebooks, including a netbook. Only my wife's MacBook doesn't have Line In, of my most recently purchased hardware.

    Also, there's the Griffin iMic, a quite cheap device with line in. (Switchable between mic-level and line-level in, even.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Quarters ( 18322 )
      Macbooks ship with a line in jack. Macbook Pros use the same 1/8" jack for either input or output. You just have to go to the Audio preferences and set it for the mode you need at that time.

      It's much the same on any modern motherboard. The line out jack is also a line in jack. You just need to configure it as such.

  • by Phat_Tony ( 661117 ) * on Monday March 22, 2010 @08:09PM (#31577648)
    Yes, a lot of new laptops have neither a microphone nor line-level audio input jack. Most people will never use it.

    One easy solution is just to get a USB line in adapter [dak.com] for around $40, rather than having to keep an entire dinosaur computer around for just one function.

    I don't know how well it works, but here's a $10 adapter [ebay.com] on Ebay that does video too. There are other similar products around.
  • load the cassette tapes into my Apple ][+ if you take away my line-in port?

  • All the new desktops still have line-in jacks, as far as I've seen. If you're specifically looking at a portable platform intended to reduce size & weight, then of course they're going to be dropping jacks that are rarely used in a portable situation. However, line-in is still all over the place, and is great for consolidating media devices into 1 nice display & audio setup based around a non-portable computer, as well as the platform shifting purposes you're describing. I don't think the jack is

  • Not a conspiracy (Score:3, Informative)

    by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @08:15PM (#31577732)

    It might be less of a conspiracy and more of a supply-and-demand thing. Most people have no use for and could care less about line in (I am not one of them, however). Since you are talking about laptops, anything that reduces space is often omitted, if it isn't really needed.

    On desktop machines, I have not seen line-in disappear at all. And I bought a laptop last year, and it has mic/line-in, too.

  • I still am unsure of the difference between line-in and microphone-in, other than audio level (sensitivity).
    • by NNKK ( 218503 )

      It's not sensitivity, it's power.

      When you plug an already suitably-powered audio device (pretty much anything that has an independent power source) into an inevitably-amplified microphone jack, what you get is going to be badly clipped audio (assuming you don't just blow out the sound card). Even if you manage to get the power so low on the input device that you avoid clipping while still having a usable signal, running through the second amplifier is still going to add unnecessary noise/distortion.

      • by Deorus ( 811828 )

        My motherboard's microphone connector has a DB boost setting for the microphone, and I recall my Sound Blaster 16 (first generation) having that too. These days you can pretty much set everything up using software since the hardware is a lot more dynamic than it used to be. For example, when I plug something into my desktop's front mic connector it always asks me what kind of device I've just plugged in and adjusts itself accordingly.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Farmer Tim ( 530755 )

        Three characteristics matter, actually: phantom power, impedance (Z) and sensitivity.

        Most PC mics are electret (condensor) types, which typically require a low power DC supply to operate. Fine for a mic, but when you try to connect a line in the DC offset is superimposed on the signal, which can cause half-wave clipping if the output of the device feeding it isn't properly isolated. Most line outputs are DC isolated with capacitors, so this generally isn't a problem, but you can never be sure.

        However, the p

  • There are lots of USB devices out there with a line-in jack.

    Here's one I like a lot. Unfortunately, Turtle Beach has discontinued this product; fortunately, there are some still out there, so buy one now before it's too late.

    http://www.turtlebeach.com/products/audio-advantage-srm/home.aspx [turtlebeach.com]

    P.S. This is discontinued... does anyone know where I can find anything remotely similar that is not discontinued?


  • My question is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by proxima ( 165692 ) on Monday March 22, 2010 @08:53PM (#31578056)

    Why don't all car radio setups come with a line-in jack? Even many of the aftermarket ones don't have them (on the front, at least). Such a cheap part, and yet so many people use their ipods via FM tuner or tape adapter.

    • Because up to the advent of the iPod car makers wanted to lock you into expensive in car players. Once the entire world gave up "discs" they had to come around. I'm just amazed how much they can charge for a 1/8 stereo jack and some wire. Makes Monster Cable look like the dollar store.
  • There is no conspiracy. Most people don't need line-ins on a laptop. Either:

    1. Find a larger laptop that has the jacks
    2. Purchase an external sound device (i.e. USB)
    3. Use a desktop

  • Use Mic jack (Score:3, Informative)

    by BobPaul ( 710574 ) * on Monday March 22, 2010 @09:14PM (#31578234) Journal

    I've yet to buy a computer with fewer than 3 jacks (out, line in, mic in generally alternatively selectable as out1, out2, out3 for surround). But if you really don't have a line in, use the Mic jack and uncheck the "Microphone Boost" option. The +20dB boost is the difference between mic level and line level.

  • Where will I plug in my high-fidelity stereo aux?

  • Then you need a USB turntable:

    http://www.usbturntables.net/ [usbturntables.net]

    Many decent ones available in the $100 US - $200 US range.
  • I'm a DJ, so I've got lots of various audio gear lying around. I've got a Numark mixer with USB out/in, an M-Audio MobilePRE USB, an M-Audio Connectiv, a Stanton ScratchAmp, a Creative X-Fi Notebook Expresscard, and an old Creative Extigy...and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM sounds orders of magnitude better than the integrated audio chipset in my laptop when it comes to recording audio. While I agree with some of the other posters that many laptops these days have ports that pull double duty based on software, i

  • My Toshiba satellite only has a mic input, but when it senses that you have plugged something in, it pops up a dialog to ask whether you have plugged in a microphone or a line level audio source, and then configures the levels appropriately.

    Yours may be similar. Try plugging into the mic input and see what results you get. If it doesn't work, you'll get horribly distorted audio. In that case, you'll need a USB audio adaptor.

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