Mixer Toolbar Issues

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Input selector greyed-out, lacking the expected choices, or apparently not recording from the indicated source


One of the common problems encountered with the Mixer Toolbar is that its input selector can appear greyed out or lacking the expected choices, thus apparently preventing the user choosing the required recording source. The purpose of the selector is to link to the current mixing device (assuming this device 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 on the Audio I/O tab of Preferences. Drivers are a big issue on Windows machines, and it often happens that machines purchased new will only be supplied with generic Microsoft drivers. These may prevent the input selector from displaying all the possible inputs the device has (or any at all), or from linking properly to the system mixer (so that for example you end up always recording from line-in, or cannot apparently record at all, whatever source you choose on the input selector).

The first step towards rectifying Mixer Toolbar selector problems is to go to the Audio I/O tab of Preferences 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 some sound devices have individual analogue > digital converters for the different inputs such as microphone and line-in. If so, these inputs will appear in the Audio I/O tab as separate recording "devices" and should be selected in this tab, not in the Mixer Toolbar. The Toolbar selector would appear greyed out as there is no choice to be made for a separate microphone or line level recording source. Windows Vista (see below) always treats recording sources as "devices", so on this operating system you must choose sources in the Audio I/O tab.

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 the sound device is already being used by another application, Audacity may not be able to access it for recording and the Mixer Toolbar input selector will appear greyed or minimised. Generally, this is not a problem on Windows.

If you've got this far and the problem is not solved, read the appropriate section below for your operating system and then if needs be, Section 5 on "Updating the Sound Device Drivers".

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.

Windows Problems

  • Card Not Supported

Some high-end multi-channel cards on Windows systems don't use the standard Windows mixer interface and volume control, but instead supply 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 should work as normal with the card however.

  • Windows Vista operating system

Vista treats individual recording sources such as line-in, microphone and stereo mix" as recording devices in their own right. As a result, on Vista operating systems the Mixer Toolbar input selector will be greyed out and you select recording inputs instead in the Audio I/O tab of Audacity Preferences, in the "Recording Device" dropdown. Note if you have more than one physical device (e.g. inbuilt sound and an external USB soundcard), the inputs for each physical device will be shown separately e.g.

Realtek built-in HD: Microphone

USB Audio: Microphone

USB Audio: Line-in

If selecting a particular input does not work, try selecting it in the Windows Control Panel (see the next section below).

  • Windows Control Panel issues

Accessing the system mixer in the Windows Control Panel and trying to select your required source there may often allow you to record into Audacity, even if the source you want isn't in the Mixer Toolbar or Audio I/O "Recording Device" dropdowns, or isn't apparently recording properly.

On Vista, the quickest way to access the mixer is to right-click over the speaker icon in the system tray > Recording Devices. Or click Start > Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Sound (if you're using "Classic View" there's a direct link to "Sound" in the Control Panel), then click on the "Recording" tab, and click to highlight the input you want to use. Note that the "Recording tab" may not automatically show all the potentially available inputs. To view these, right-click over a device in the list, and put a check mark by "Show Disabled Devices" and "Show Disconnected Devices". To enable a particular currently disabled device, put a check mark by "Enable". Only available and enabled devices will show in Audacity's Audio I/O tab.

On XP or earlier, click Start > (Settings) > Control Panel > Sounds, Speech and Audio Devices > Sounds and Audio devices (or right-click over the speaker icon in the System Tray > Adjust Audio Properties). Then click on the Audio tab, on "Volume" under the "Sound Recording" panel, and select your input by putting a mark in the check box. Note that input sources are sometimes available to use, but hidden. To check this, click "Volume" under the "Sound Recording" panel again, then Options > Properties. Select your sound device in the Mixer Device panel, and ensure all the boxes in the window below are checked. Click OK. If the source you wanted was in the window list, it will now be available to select in the recording Volume Control, and you may find Audacity's Mixer Toolbar has now been re-enabled.

If the input you want cannot be made to work or made available, or if you want the convenience on XP or earlier of selecting your source in Audacity's Mixer Toolbar , see "Updating the Sound Device Drivers" below.

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) is missing this usually means that the version of Audacity you have installed has been built without PortMixer support. The could be because your Audacity version was built wrong, or because it's using an (experimental) v19 version of PortAudio 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. To enable Audacity's Mixer Toolbar, you can either install from a package which has PortAudio v18 or compile Audacity from the stable source code using PortAudio v18. For instructions on using the source code to compile Audacity, see CompilingAudacityForBeginners.

If you do want to compile Audacity with PortAudio v19 (which gives native ALSA support) and have a Mixer Toolbar, you need to use the unstable 1.3.2 version of Audacity. There may not be a 1.3.2 package yet for your particular distribution, but you can compile Audacity from the unstable source code. If you want native ALSA support in Audacity 1.2.6, you could compile it with PortAudio v19, but this is no longer supported, and means you will have to choose your input source and the input/output levels in ALSAmixer. If you can select sources in the Mixer Toolbar selector but cannot record, or you don't see the input sources you were expecting, you could try going to ALSAmixer and select the source you require there.

  • 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 audio program like XMMS is using the sound device

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

3. You have system sounds turned on in a desktop environment like Gnome or KDE

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

5. You are using Audacity 1.2.6 and are selecting the ALSA device but don't have the necessary OSS emulation modules installed.

6. 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. Many USB and Firewire Input/Output devices fall into this category.

So, any other applications using the sound device must be disabled. Or if you are using the OSS device and aRts, you can use the wrapper provided by aRts and run $ artsdsp audacity (some users report recording issues when doing so).

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.

On many distributions you need to add your user to the "audio" group so they have permissions to access the sound devices.

Updating the Sound Device Drivers

If your problem is not yet resolved, the sound drivers must be updated to the current version for your computer model produced by the card or motherboard manufacturer. For example, you can use Device Manager on Windows or System Profiler on a Mac to find information on your sound device drivers, then seek updated ones specific to your hardware from the internet. If you have a PCI or external soundcard you would go to the website of the soundcard manufacturer. If your sound is integrated into the motherboard, you'd try first at the website of the stated manufacturer of the sound device. Some device manufacturers such as Sigmatel and Soundmax however do not provide any support to end users, so in that case you would go to the website of the motherboard manufacturer. Use Google or Yahoo to search for the manufacturer's website.

  • Extra help for Windows users

Windows users are strongly recommended to try updating their drivers via Device Manager in the first instance, before looking for drivers on the internet. To access Device Manager on Vista with its default view: click Start > Control Panel > System and Maintenance, then scroll down and click on Device Manager. With Vista "Classic View", there is a direct link to Device Manager in the Control Panel. On XP and earlier, click Start > (Settings) > Control Panel > System, click on the Hardware tab, then on the "Device Manager" button on the Device Manager panel.

Then expand "Sound, Video and Game Controllers" by clicking on the + sign, right-click on the sound device and click "update driver".

After the update (even if more recent drivers cannot be found), right-click on the device again, click Properties and then on the Driver tab to check who the current "Driver Provider" is. You don't want drivers from Microsoft - these are only low quality generic drivers, and must be replaced with drivers made by the manufacturer of your hardware. If Device Manager has updated the drivers and the Driver Provider is not Microsoft, you could see if the new drivers cure the problem. Otherwise, note the name of the Driver Provider (if it's Microsoft, note the name instead of the sound device you right-clicked over), and visit the manufacturer's website. If you have integrated motherboard sound and the Driver Provider or stated manufacturer does not offer downloads, go to the site of the motherboard manufacturer for assistance. Most will offer driver downloads. In this case you may need to know details of your motherboard. If you don't have details to hand, the CPU-Z utility should help. Always look for a driver update which is specific to your computer model and version of Windows. If you are on Windows Vista, it's essential that the drivers are specifically intended for Vista.