Better quality sounds from a laptop?


New member
Hi all

I'm using Ableton to flesh out my bands live sound by sequencing various keyboard sections which our drummer keeps time to via a click track.

I do all of the programming on my desktop and do all of my sound tweaking on that computer before transferring the Ableton file (the whole shebang ... patches and samples) across to my laptop which is the computer I use at rehearsal.

The laptop is plugged into our mixer via its stereo audio out jack into the mixer's aux in but the quality of the sounds I get are very poor (thin) compared to what I hear on my desktop setup (I'm just using the bog-standard sound card that came with my computer... definitely nothing too special and my speakers are simply a set of surround sound computer speakers ... I'm not using near field monitors).

My questions are: what is the best way to use a laptop in a live setting? Do you rely on the internal sound card of the laptop or is it better to use a souped-up external sound card and does this affect latency? Also, what is the best way to connect a laptop to the mixer to get the best sound ie. do you use the 3.5mm audio jack or a different method?

many thanks for your help everyone :-)


Boring Old Git
External sound card is the only way.

The internal sound card in every laptop I've ever met is a single chip worth about 39 cents and designed for Skype calls and Youtube videos.

If money is an issue, Behringer have a cheapie USB that will give you -10dBV unbalanced phono outputs to go into your mixer. Not great but okay for the money and streets ahead of your internal card. For more money you can get fully pro quality with balanced +4dBu outputs.

The "best" way is obviously a two channel interface with balanced out but the Behringer with RCA/Phono jacks (and the right cables to take that into your mixer) would be okay in a live setting.

Latency won't be an issue for live playback. It only becomes a factor when recording when your audio is doing a round trip via the computer--and an external interface (especially a "good" one with ASIO drivers) will have considerably less latency than a built in if you do decide to recordings.


New member
Yup, all built-in internal soundcards on ALL laptops and desktops have chips worth less than one of these:


They are NOT worthy for music production and always need to be replaced.


Boring Old Git
Those Hershey bars don't have much headroom either, at least not after I start nicking pieces to eat! Or is that clipping?