I’ve been really happy with my Dell Dimension E510, which I’ve had for almost a year. It is a solid machine and much faster than our 1998 350MHz Compaq Presario. The Presario has now been relegated to the kid PC and serves as a typing tutor, Spanish teacher, and all around home school computer.
The E510 is for all the processor-intensive tasks like editing video or sound and pretty much running any program that 350 MHz would gag on.
The one thing that I’ve been disappointed in has been the sound card. It is the motherboard-embedded cheap sound card which uses Sigmatel 92XX C-Major drivers.
It’s not that I’m looking for good sound, I really don’t care that much. I’m not a gamer, and I don’t use the PC to watch movies or anything, so just a basic sound card is fine. However, it doesn’t have a system mixer.
What’s that? you say. Who cares? you say. The system mixer is the thing that allows you to record just about any sound that comes into the PC. Streaming audio or any sound from a program that would play through the PC speakers, you can record with a program like Audacity and a system mixer. This is a must have feature because like to record streaming audio programs that I could listen on my MP3 player later.
But my sound card doesn’t have drivers with a system mixer. I had resigned myself to thinking that I was going to have to spend money on a sound card, but that seems drastic, when all I’m looking for is a software solution.
But this week, I’ve found a program, Total Recorder, that fixes all that. It installs a virtual sound driver that intercepts the signal going to and from your sound card. So basically, anything that your computer can play through the speakers, you can record and save to an audio file of various formats (WAV, WMA, MP3, Ogg Vorbis).
It can also record on a schedule, so you can record for a specified period of time or start and stop at a scheduled time. I downloaded and tried it out this week and it works great.
It does cost $18, but is cheaper than a sound card, and I don’t have to install any hardware!