|This page explains how to view and adjust playback volume, and achieve smooth playback quality.
Viewing and adjusting playback volume
- The volume of audio output which will be saved in an Audacity project or exported as a finished audio file can be seen in the green VU playback meter in Meter Toolbar:
- If Meter Toolbar is not visible, go to
- This volume level can be modified with the -....+ gain slider on the Track Control Panel of each track. Note this does not affect the volume level stored in the audio data and represented in the waveform, but is a modification on top of it. Avoid accidentally moving the gain slider away from centre when exporting an audio file. If the slider goes too far to right, this may lead to excessive volume and therefore distortion in the exported file. If it goes too far to left, the file may not be audible.
- The left-hand output volume slider on the Mixer Toolbar controls only the volume at which you hear the tracks in Audacity. It does not affect the VU playback meter. Only moving the gain slider, or changing the track volume by editing will affect the meter.
- If multiple tracks are played simultaneously, their volume is combined. You may need to move the gain sliders leftwards on each Track Control Panel to reduce the combined volume. To keep the current balance between all the tracks, move each slider to left by the same amount. To judge if you have distortion, look at the green VU playback meter. If the green bars are hitting the right-hand edge of the scale and so bringing on the red hold lights to right of the meter, you have distortion in the output and must reduce the gain.
A project with a track lasting several hours or multiple tracks of any length will eat a lot of computer resources. To play many tracks simultaneously you will likely need far in excess of Audacity's stated minimum requirements (mentioned on the download page for each operating system). Think of 500 MB RAM and 1 GHz processor speed upwards, depending on the number of other running programs and processes, and the number and length of tracks you have. In the current version of Audacity, you can click to run a test that gives an approximate idea of how many tracks could be played simultaneously.
Generally the more RAM you have the better, though Windows 98 and ME have a bug that may cause problems if you have more than 512 MB installed RAM. There are suggested fixes for this problem here.
Try all these other tips if you are having problems with uneven playback:
- Try exiting and restarting Audacity or rebooting
- Close as many other programs as possible
- Set the project rate (bottom left of the Audacity screen) to 44100 Hz or 48000 Hz. Higher rates will give the computer more work to do and will have to be resampled if your sound device does not support those rates, leading to worse quality
- Go to and set the Default Sample Format to 16-bit, which halves the work the computer needs to do to play the tracks
- Zoom out (CTRL + 3) or
- Don't use a network drive for your Audacity temporary folder or project _data folder, or for storing uncompressed files for import into Audacity - it will be too slow
- On Windows, keep your drives defragmented, so the data files can be accessed quickly and efficiently. Instead of the Windows defrag utility, try fragdown.This will give you a replacement shutdown button that will automatically defragment all detected disks, then shut the system down.
- Consider enabling DMA on your drive if it is not already
- Ensure your sound device drivers are up to date
- Consider reinstalling Windows if updating your sound drivers does not help - Windows problems can lead to erratic sound behaviour especially when the CPU is busy
- See the tips at Managing Computer Resources and Drivers
- Muting the tracks you don't need to hear may help slightly
- Select areas of tracks rather than the whole, in order to hear what a mix sounds like
- If you need separate Audacity tracks, select all of each track in turn (by clicking in the Track Control Panel where the mute/solo buttons are) and ( in 1.3.2 or later) - this may help playback by ordering the audio data files more logically
- Consider mixing some tracks together (again with or ) as soon as you no longer need them to be separate
- Consider cutting tracks you are not currently working with into a new project window ( ). This will make a big difference.
- If you are recording sections one at a time, use Pause in the same Audacity session to keep the recording on one Audacity track
In the current version of Audacity:
- You can always hold SHIFT and click RECORD (shortcut SHIFT + R) to record at the end of an existing track, even when re-opening a saved project
- On slower machines, try right-clicking over the Meter Toolbar, hit "Preferences" and choose a lower refresh rate
- Try increasing the default "Audio to buffer" setting of 100 milliseconds at . This might lead to smoother playback on slower machines. The disadvantage would be that playback would take longer to start, and there would be more delay in laying down and monitoring recordings.