Troubleshooting Recordings

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This page explains how to troubleshoot common recording problems by identifying the symptoms of the issue then fixing its cause.
For more general advice and information on all aspects of recording, see our Recording Tips.
Most answers link to the Frequently Asked Questions for the current Audacity 2.x version. Using the current version is strongly recommended for all users. Separate information is given for those using legacy 1.x versions of Audacity.


Contents


No waveform recorded behind the cursor

If the red recording cursor moves across the screen but no waveform is drawn behind it (only a flat line), you need to start from the beginning and set up your recording device and input source properly.

Current Audacity

For current Audacity see this page in the Audacity Manual's FAQ section.

Legacy versions of Audacity

Step 1: In legacy Audacity versions prior to 1.3.8 explicitly select the Recording Device you are using in the Audio I/O tab of Preferences.

Also choose the input source in the same section of Preferences, for example the device: source combination "Realtek input: Microphone". (In legacy versions of Audacity 1.3.12 or earlier, running on Windows 98/ME/2000/XP or on PPC Macs, choose the input source in Mixer Toolbar as described in Step 3 below).

Step 2: In the same section of Preferences, set the Recording Channels to mono or stereo as required.

Step 3: In the Mixer Toolbar, turn up the input level using the slider that has the "microphone" symbol.

If the Audacity input slider does not control the recording level of the device, use the slider in the operating system instead. This is usually accessed by a loudspeaker icon near the system clock.

Warning icon Mixer Toolbar selector greyed out in legacy Audacity 1.2 or 1.3 versions:
  • The selector is redundant on Windows Vista and 7 - choose the recording device and input source in Audio I/O Preferences as per Step 1 above.
  • On OS X, you must make your required recording device the default at Finder > Applications > Utilities > Audio MIDI Setup.
    1. Click the "Audio Devices" tab. On the left-hand side. set your required device (for example, "Built-in Audio") in "Default Input" and "Properties for".
    2. In Audio Input under that, set the "Source" to your physical input (for example, "Built-in Mic"). Turn the volume slider up.
    3. Set the sample rate in "Format" to the Project Rate bottom left of the Audacity window.
    On OS X 10.1 or earlier, there is no Audio MIDI Setup. Select the correct recording device and input source in Apple Menu > System Preferences > Sound instead.
  • Devices such as a USB-connected turntable, microphone or interface will not have choices of inputs. You can ignore Mixer Toolbar in this case.

Further Help:


Red recording cursor stuck

Current Audacity

For current Audacity see this page in the Audacity Manual's FAQ section.

Legacy versions of Audacity

  • Try rebooting the computer.
  • Additionally on Linux, try turning off Software Playthrough in Preferences.
  • If you are recording from a USB device, see these tips.


Distortion due to excessive volume (clipping)

Current Audacity

For current Audacity see this page in the Audacity Manual's FAQ section.

Legacy versions of Audacity

  • Try lowering the recording level using the Audacity Mixer Toolbar or lower the output volume of the recording source (like the tape player, turntable or microphone).
  • You can use Effect > Clip Fix in Audacity to improve already clipped audio. If Audacity does not include this already, download Clip Fix here then install it according to these instructions.


Small pieces of recording missing/silent or recording jitters

Current Audacity

For current Audacity see this page in the Audacity Manual's FAQ section.

Legacy versions of Audacity

See Managing Computer Resources and Drivers for a comprehensive list of ways to avoid skips and dropouts when recording.


Background hum or hiss

See Improving Recording Quality and Reducing Noise.


Left/Right channels of stereo recording are not equally loud

Current Audacity

For current Audacity see this page in the Audacity Manual's FAQ section.

Legacy versions of Audacity

  • Make sure that Audacity is set to record in stereo (open the Audacity preferences, in the "Devices" section, change the number of recording channels from 1 (mono) to 2 (stereo)), that connections are tight and the system and any recording device balance controls are set centrally.
  • Use Effect > Normalize to correct the imbalance in existing recordings (choose "Normalize stereo channels independently" if this option exists).


Click at start or end of track/waveform not centered on the horizontal line at 0.0

Current Audacity

For current Audacity see this page in the Audacity Manual's FAQ section.

Legacy versions of Audacity

See this page for an explanation of DC offset and how to remove and prevent it.


Periodic noise every 6 - 12 seconds

Current Audacity

For current Audacity see this page in the Audacity Manual's FAQ section.

Legacy versions of Audacity

This happens when Audacity writes audio data to disk. You probably want to upgrade your sound card or its drivers or make other changes such as preventing virus scanning of the Audacity temporary directory. See Managing Computer Resources and Drivers for more help.


Overdubbed recording drifts out-of-sync, or produces error or poor quality

Current Audacity

For current Audacity see this page in the Audacity Manual's FAQ section.

Legacy versions of Audacity

  • See Why isn’t my new track in sync with the previous ones?.
  • For quality problems, make sure the Audacity project rate bottom left of the window matches the rate of the pre-existing tracks (as shown above the Mute/Solo buttons) and matches with the rate in the system mixer and in the hardware or its control panel. To resample each track to the project rate, select each track in turn then choose Project > Quick Mix.


Stereo channels swap over, or errors jump from one channel to the other

This is occasionally reported by people using Linux who have ALSA installed natively, but are using a version of Audacity that only supports OSS. See Linux Issues for details on ALSA support.


Speed variation while recording

This is rare, but if you have this problem, it's definitely not an Audacity issue, rather the audio hardware or its drivers. See Improving Recording Quality and Updating Sound Device Drivers.

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