Mixer Toolbar Issues

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Revision as of 20:23, 20 February 2007 by Windinthew (talk | contribs) (LINUX-specific issues)
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Input selector greyed-out, or lacking the expected choices


One of the common problems encountered with the Mixer Toolbar is that its input selector can appear greyed out, thus apparently preventing the user choosing the recording source. The purpose of the selector is to link to the current mixing device (where it offers a choice of input sources) and thus save the user going through a series of system menus to choose the source.

It is often assumed that Audacity controls the sources that are displayed, but in fact the displayed sources are governed by the drivers of the sound device that is currently selected as the recording device at Edit > Preferences > Audio I/O tab. Drivers are a big issue on Windows machines, and it often happens that machines purchased new will only be supplied with generic Microsoft drivers which may prevent the input selector from displaying all the the options that are available, or any at all.

The first step to rectifying a greyed out toolbar is to click Edit > Preferences > Audio I/O tab and check that the playback and recording devices are explicitly set to your sound device. Similarly if you have multiple sound devices (e.g. built-in sound and an external USB adaptor), you need to choose the ones you want to use in the Audio I/O tab. If you are on Windows and experiencing input selector problems, choose your sound device explicitly, not Microsoft SoundMapper (which is intended to map to the currently selected default Windows sound device, but does not always do so correctly).

Note that if your selected recording device is a USB or Firewire interface device, these normally do not have multiple input sources to choose from, and so Audacity's input selector will grey out. This is normal, and just means the selector is not needed. Any necessary configuration should be done on the device itself, or in any control software that comes with it. Examples of devices which will normally not require use of Audacity's input selector are the Griffin iMic, the Numark and Ion USB turntables and a wide variety of USB and Firewire mixers and interfaces.

Also check your sound device is not already in use. If you are on OS X or Linux and start to record with the sound device in another application, Audacity may not be able to access it for recording and the Mixer Toolbar input selector will appear greyed. Generally, this is not a problem on Windows.

If you've got this far and the problem is not solved, then read on below.

OS X-specific issues

OS X has a very different audio hardware interface to most other operating systems. As a result, there may be no (or greyed out) Mixer Toolbar, or only one audio recording source available to Audacity, which will be identified as "Default Source". You will need to click on the MAC hard disk and then click on Applications > Utilities > Audio-Midi Setup and select your required recording source (e.g. line-in) as the default one you want to use. In OS X 10.0 and 10.1 there was no Audio-Midi Setup, so choose your recording source at System Preferences > Sound in the Apple Menu.

If you are on OS X 10.3 or higher and want to try our Beta version (1.3.2 at the time of writing) this has a later version of our Portaudio interface and may enable you to select sources in Audacity's input selector or possibly in the Audio I/O tab of Preferences.

Problems mainly applying to WINDOWS

  • Card Not Supported

This applies mainly to high-end multitrack cards under Windows, where they don't use the standard Windows mixer API and Windows volume control, but a custom mixer application which Audacity can't hook in to. In these cases you need to select the recording settings and levels using the custom mixer application shipped with the sound card.

  • Recording device only presenting one input source

It's possible the sound device you are selecting as recording device in the Audacity Audio I/O tab is only presenting input source, in which case Audacity's input selector is greyed out as there are no multiple choices to select. This can occur on Windows because either the operating system or bad device drivers are hiding some of the recording options. If only one source is being presented, the Audacity input selector will grey out. To check this:

- Start > (Settings) > Control Panel > Sounds, Spech and Audio Devices > Sounds and Audio devices (or click on the speaker icon in the System Tray).

- Click on Audio tab

- Click on "Volume" under the "Sound Recording" panel

- Click Options > Properties, and select the sound device in the Mixer Device panel, and ensure all the boxes in the window below are checked.

- Click OK

You should now see the Windows recording volume control with all the source options that were in the window available to select. Hopefully these sources will now appear also in Audacity's input selector, but if they don't, you should still at least be able to choose your input source here in the Windows recording volume control.

You may also want to click "Volume" under the "Sound Playback" panel and similarly check the boxes in the window for those playback sources for which you'd like to have a volume control. For example if you checked "microphone" this would enable you to select this source as a playback device when needed so you could monitor your microphone recording.

  • Broken Drivers

If your problem is not yet resolved, broken sound device drivers may be the reason, as indicated above. To resolve this (mostly Windows) problem, you need to update the drivers to the current version for your computer model produced by the card or motherboard manufacturer.

In Windows you may be able to automatically update to the latest drivers from the manufacturer by going into Device Manager:

- Hold the WIN key while pressing Pause/Break

- Click on the Hardware tab then the Device Manager button.

- Expand the Sound, Video and Game Controllers category by clicking on the + sign

- Right-click on the audio device

- Click "Update Drivers".

Do not use any drivers from Microsoft as these are only low quality generic drivers. If you can only get Microsoft drivers, go to the websites of the sound device or motherboard manufacturers for assistance. Many will offer driver downloads. You should look for a driver update which is specific to your computer model and version of Windows.

LINUX-specific issues

Input Selector and input/output sliders missing

If Audacity's entire Mixer Toolbar (including the output and input level sliders and the input selector) are missing this usually means that the version of Audacity you have installed has been built without Portmixer support. This could be because your Audacity version was built wrong, or because you have an (experimental) Portaudio v19 version of Audacity which hasn't got Portmixer support. Help > About should give you both a version number and a list of which libraries were enabled at build time. Install from a package which has Portaudio V18 or compile it from source using Portaudio V18. You can download the stable source here: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/latest/audacity-src/audacity-src-1.2.6.tar.gz

or browse through it here http://audacity.sourceforge.net/community/developers#cvs

See here for instructions on using the source code to compile Audacity http://www.audacityteam.org/wiki/index.php?title=CompilingAudacityForBeginners

If you do want to compile Audacity with Portaudio V19 (which gives ALSA support in Linux) you need to compile with the unstable 1.3.2 source code http://audacity.sourceforge.net/beta/audacity-src/audacity-src-1.3.2.tar.gz

otherwise stable 1.2.6 source code will require that Portmixer is off. If Portmixer is off, you won't be able to select input sources in Audacity.

However if you want to compile from 1.2.6 source code using Portaudio V19 (or don't want to compile from source but install from a package) you can always choose your required recording source in the system mixer e.g. ALSAmixer .

Input selector minimised (so unable to select any sources)

If the selector just appears as a small lump but you have the input and output volume sliders, this usually means that there is currently no audio device available to, or recognised by Audacity for recording on your system. There are various possible causes for this. They include:

1. Another program like XMMS is using the sound device

2. A sound daemon like esound (ESD) or aRts using the sound device

3. You don't have the correct permissions to access the sound device

4. OSS emulation modules for ALSA are not installed.

5. The recording device you currently have selected on the Audio I/O tab of Preferences only has one input source, and so there is no choice that can be made. USB and Firewire Input/Output devices usually fall into this category.

If you use OSS, you need to check that /dev/dsp (the OSS device) is present. If you use ALSA, you need to get the OSS emulation for ALSA installed, unless you are using Audacity 1.3.2 which supports ALSA natively. You can launch Audacity from the command line as $ aoss audacity which will load OSS emulation modules for ALSA if you have them installed.

You also need to add your user to the "audio" group so they have permissions to access the sound device.