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.

Audio I/O tab Recording Device

It is often assumed that Audacity controls the sources displayed in the input selector, but in fact the sources offered 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).

So the first step towards rectifying input selector problems is to go to the Audio I/O tab of Audacity Preferences and check that the playback and recording devices are explicitly set to the correct sound device you want to use, for example you may have multiple sound devices such as built-in sound and an external USB adaptor, so you need to choose between them. If you are on Windows and experiencing 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 to digital converters (ADCs) for the different inputs such as microphone and line-in. Where this is the case, these inputs are treated as separate recording devices (e.g. Line-In: Realtek, Microphone: Realtek) and should be selected in the Audio I/O tab, not in the Mixer Toolbar selector, which will be greyed out. In a similar way, Windows Vista always treats recording sources as "devices", so on this operating system the selector will always be greyed out and input sources must be chosen in the Audio I/O tab. See below for more explanation.

Special information regarding notebook computers and Vista

I needed to record audio streams, particularly iTunes, but I could never get it enabled. The following is one method I found that works:

In many cases, Windows Vista will not display all the audio devices and you will first need to display them, then enable them before they can be recognized by Audacity.

To do that:

1. Start > Control panel > Sound. 2. When the sound dialog displays, right-click and select 'Show disabled devices'. Typically, this will display Stereo Mix - Realtek High Definition Audio or something similar. 3. Right-click that icon and select Properties, then ensure that the device is selected as enabled. That is in the Device usage section on the drop down list.

The device is now enabled and will be available to Audacity.

Back in Audacity:

1. Select Edit > Preferences. 2. Under the Recording section, Device dropdown, you should now see the device you enabled in 3. above. 3. Select that device (also you will likely click the Stereo checkbox). 4. Start iTunes and select a track or radio station and get it playing. 5. In Audacity click the Record button. The stream should record OK.

USB and Firewire recording devices

Note that if your selected recording device is a USB or Firewire device, these normally do not have multiple input sources to choose from, 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, USB turntables and a wide variety of USB and Firewire mixers and interfaces.

Device already in use

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, though issues with some applications are known. For example speech recognition in Word and the Fraps screen capture software are known to prevent other applications from using the sound device to record from a microphone.

Further help

If you've got this far and the problem is not solved, go to the appropriate section below your operating system:


and then if you still have problems, go to our page on Updating 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, then on Applications > Utilities > Audio-MIDI Setup and select your required recording source (e.g. Line In) in the Audio Input section so that it becomes the source that Audacity will use. This is how Audio-MIDI Setup looks in OS X 10.4:


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 (currently 1.3.3) 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 "Recording Device" dropdown in the Audio I/O tab of Preferences).

Windows Problems

Mixer Input Toolbar Selector Disabled and Silence Recorded

On Windows XP systems with RealTek audio hardware and up to date drivers, Audacity may not show the mixer drop down control or it may be disabled. Recording while playing a song records silence, regardless of what is chosen under the Audacity I/O preferences.

This can be remedied as follows:

- Go to the control panel and launch the "RealTek HD Sound Effect Manager". Access the Mixer Toolbox (via the wrench icon). Check the "Enabled recording multi-streaming" option (that is the key). This will create a new sound device (and also lock up anything playing music at that time, so close them first). You want to see a volume for "Stereo Mix" that should not be disabled. If it is disabled (red cross over its volume icon), enabled it. Nothing will change in Audacity, but you will now be able to record what is being played!

- In general remember that you can also go To Start, Accessories, Entertainment, Volume Control. Use the Options to access all the settings or flip between recording and playing. Make sure nothing you need is muted or has its volume set to zero. Do note that if you have a microphone plugged in, you may want to mute it to record something playing from the internet for example, just dont forget about the fact that you muted it here. These settings can usually also be accessed via the "RealTek HD Audio Manager" which can be set to appear in the system tray.

In Audacity, for Audio I/O Preferences you can simply use the defaulted "Microsoft Sound Mapper" select for playback and recording device. You may consider changing the "Recording Channels" to "2 (Stereo)".

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.


The latest Windows operating system called 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 always be greyed out by default. Some users report that input sources can be made to appear in the input selector by running Audacity in compatibility mode for Windows XP. To do this, right-click over audacity.exe in Windows Explorer, then click Properties, then the "Compatibility" tab. This isn't a generally recommended solution.

Instead, select recording inputs at Edit > Preferences: Audio I/O tab, in the "Recording Device" dropdown. In Audacity Beta, recording devices can also be viewed in Device Toolbar. To enable this toolbar, click View > Toolbars > Device Toolbar. Here is an example of recording inputs in the Audio I/O Preferences for two different physical devices (an inbuilt sound device and an external USB sound card):

Microphone: Realtek HD Device

Line-In: Realtek HD Device

Microphone: USB Audio

Line-In: USB Audio

Stereo Mix: USB Audio

If selecting a particular input does not work, or you don't see the input you want, try selecting it in the Windows Control Panel (see the next section below).

For more information on Vista and Audacity please see Windows Vista OS.

Using the Control Panel

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.


There is often confusion over what source to use for recording sounds the computer is playing, and worse, this source is often hidden by default in the system mixer. The required source can go by various names such as: "Stereo Mix", "Wave Out", "Sum", "What U Hear" or "Loopback". The exact name (and even if you have such a source option) depends on the drivers of your sound device. Try to enable and select a suitable option in the system mixer as described below, then if needs be try our help page on Updating Sound Device Drivers. If all else fails, you can connect a cable from the line-out (green) port of the computer to the line-in (blue), and choose the line-in as recording source. If you need to hear what you're recording, you can buy a single stereo to double stereo adaptor that will give you a spare jack to plug the speakers into. Alternatively, try Freecorder  which is a virtual sound driver distinct from your sound device and installs as a browser plug-in, or buy an external USB soundcard, which normally offer a "stereo mix" type of option.

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.


Simply click to highlight the input you want to use. Note that the "Recording" tab may not automatically show all the potentially available inputs. If you cannot see the input you're looking for in the list, right-click over any listed device and put a check mark by "Show Disabled Devices" and "Show Disconnected Devices". To enable any device that now shows in the list, right-click over it and put a check mark by "Enable". Lastly, click on the Properties tab for the input you selected, then the Levels tab, and ensure the volume slider is turned up. Note that all devices shown as enabled in the Recording tab above should then be listed in Audacity's Audio I/O Preferences tab, but may still show as "currently unavailable" in the Windows "Recording" tab if they do not have an active input.

On XP or earlier, right-click over the speaker icon in the System Tray > Adjust Audio Properties. Or you can click Start > (Settings) > Control Panel > Sounds, Speech and Audio Devices > Sounds and Audio devices. Please note that this Control Panel applet is called "Sounds and Multimedia" in Windows 2000 and ME, and "Multimedia" in Windows 98, so looks slightly different to the image below.

First, click on the Audio tab, and in the "Sound Recording" panel, select the correct "Default device" from the dropdown list and click "Volume":


and select your input by putting a mark in the check box, and turn up the volume slider:


Note that input sources are sometimes available to use, but hidden. If you cannot see the input you're looking for, 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 input 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 available or made to work , or if you want the convenience on XP or earlier of selecting your input in Audacity's Mixer Toolbar , see the Updating Sound Device Drivers page.

Linux-specific issues

Entire Mixer Toolbar missing

If Audacity's entire Mixer Toolbar (i.e. the input 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. This 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. If you click on Help > About in Audacity, you should find the version of PortAudio that has been used 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 want to compile Audacity with PortAudio v19 (which gives native ALSA support) and also want to have a Mixer Toolbar, you must use the unstable 1.3.x series of Audacity (currently 1.3.3). There may not be a 1.3.x 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, sliders present

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/server like esound (ESD), aRts or PulseAudio 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 Audacity 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, there are three main points. Firstly, any other applications using the sound device must be disabled, unless you use:

  • the aRts daemon with the OSS device, in which case you can use the wrapper provided by aRts and run:
      $ artsdsp audacity

      Note: some users report recording issues when doing this.
    • PulseAudio with a recent Ubuntu-supplied Audacity package including an "alsa: pulse" device. Otherwise, Audacity must be run with padsp to run PulseAudio with OSS, or pasuspender to suspend PulseAudio. Here is more information about Audacity and PulseAudio.

    Secondly, if you use OSS, you must check that /dev/dsp (the OSS device) is present. If you use ALSA, you must install the OSS emulation for ALSA, unless you are using Audacity 1.3.x which supports ALSA natively.

    • To load the installed OSS emulation modules for ALSA, you can launch Audacity from the command line as:
        $ aoss audacity

      Thirdly, on many distributions you must add your user to the "audio" group to give them permissions to access sound devices.