Recording sound in Vista suddenly works?

OK, I don’t know if anyone else who reads this blog has had this problem, but last year I got a new Dell Laptop with Vista on it. Everything seemed to work fine (putting aside my lack of RAM, which I have since dealt with), except for one thing: I couldn’t record the “Stereo Mix” sound – i.e. I couldn’t record “what I hear” coming from the computer.

This posed a couple of issues because a) for my podcast reviews, I usually use a short clip from the show I’m reviewing, so I need to record audio off of the DVD and 2) to grab OPs and EDs from shows, again for the podcast, I sometimes record them directly from a DVD or download.

I had wrangled with this over and over, without being able to find any way to make my computer record it. Downloading new drivers, or XP drivers, or drivers for other machines that seemed to work all failed. As a result, I’ve used my now 7 year old desktop computer, which is running XP, to do this job for me and then just transfer the audio to my Vista laptop.

Well, this has appeared to change today as I was once again trying to see if I could solve this problem. I once again tried a couple of drivers people had suggested online, but all that did was break my audio. So I restarted and allowed Vista to install the default driver as it usually does, reserved to the fact that I was going to have no Stereo Mix record capability.

However, a funny thing happened – when I went into my sound manager and looked under the recording tab, which I actually did because my machine didn’t prompt me for what type of input my microphone was supposed to be when I plugged it in like it usually did – Stereo Mix showed up as an option (along with Line In), albeit listed as “currently unavailable.” I couldn’t seem to be able to do anything to get it to say anything but “currently unavailable” but then decided “what the hell, let me set it as the default and see what happens.” Well, when I did that, it suddenly said that it was available and that my mic was unavailable. Apparently setting the “default” device in the sound panel is how you select from what source you wish to record.

Now, I still have an issue of it recording at a much lower volume than what my computer is playing at, but at least I can amplify that in Audacity to pretty much get what I want. Why these options suddenly decided to show up, I don’t know. Maybe when Vista was auto-installing the driver again, it found a new version online or something, or maybe it was able to install one of the versions I TRIED to install before but was unable to.

In any case, it looks like my Vista can now record it’s sound output, even if it is imperfect (having to go into the sound panel every time to switch from microphone to Stereo Mix is rather annoying), but at least it works in some capacity. Maybe finally I can start thinking about ditching this dinosaur which is sitting next to me as one of the last reasons why I was using it appears to no longer be an issue.