Setting up and using Audacity with your USB turntable
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Ensure the Audacity software is up to date
- 3 Ensure your manufacturer's guides are up to date
- 4 Set up Audacity to record from the turntable
- 5 Playing records through the computer speakers
- 6 System sound needs to be reset on Windows computers
- 7 Troubleshooting
These instructions relate to turntables that connect to the computer via its USB port and so (unlike conventional turntables), do not require a line-in port. Several manufacturers of USB turntables now bundle Audacity with their product, notably Ion Audio, Numark and Lenco, but these instructions should be generally applicable to using Audacity with any makes of turntable that connect to the computer via its USB port.
Ensure the Audacity software is up to date
Make sure you have a current version of the Audacity software as the software provided on the turntable manufacturer's CDs can be out of date. Note that neither the version number of the CD nor that of any guides produced by the manufacturers relates to the version of Audacity that you have. You should always check the current version of Audacity you have by clicking Help > About in the program (or Audacity > About if you are on OS X). Then go to the Audacity download site and if needed, grab the latest Audacity download for your operating system.
Ensure your manufacturer's guides are up to date
There can be confusion about the guides provided with the turntables, which are written by the turntable manufacturer rather than by Audacity. Sometimes the guides supplied with the turntables are out of date, or have errors. These are the main errors that you may come across:
- You don't need to select "stereo mix" on Audacity's Mixer Toolbar dropdown input selector. The dropdown selector is always greyed out when the turntable is correctly selected as Audacity's recording device.
- Audacity Preferences are not under the "File" menu except in the legacy 1.0.0 version of Audacity which is only appropriate for Mac users on OS 9. Preferences are under the Edit Menu, except for users on OS X where they are under the "Audacity" menu.
- You do not need to select "Monitor Input" each time you launch Audacity. Monitoring the input is optional and allows you to hear the turntable through the computer speakers just like an ordinary turntable whenever it's playing. If you want to select "Monitor Input", you need to have the Meter Toolbar enabled (note: NOT the Mixer Toolbar that current guides state). Instructions on this are below.
If you wish you can download current manuals in .PDF format here:
Note: Numark users can also download these guides, as Numark turntables are identical to Ion models except they have an additional variable speed slider.
To read or print PDF documents you need a PDF reader.
Set up Audacity to record from the turntable
After installation, set up Audacity by going to the Audio I/O tab of Preferences and:
- 1. Select the "USB codec" as the recording device and your inbuilt sound or soundcard as the playback device.
- 2. Enable "software playthrough" if you want to hear the turntable through the computer speakers either while it's recording, or at any time that it's playing
- 3. Set recording channels to "2 (stereo)" if you want to record in stereo
- 4. If you are on OS X, you should also click on the Mac hard disk, then Applications > Utilities > Audio-Midi Setup, and select the "USB Codec" in the "default input" and "properties for" dropdowns. If you are on OS X 10.1 or earlier, do the same at Apple Menu > System Preferences > Sound.
- 5. Then, ignoring any instructions in the manufacturer's guide to select "stereo mix", simply press the red Record button in Audacity to start recording from the turntable.
Playing records through the computer speakers
The turntables can be connected with the provided RCA output cables to the turntable input of an amplifier or "home stereo" with attached speakers, so you can always listen to records when the turntable is playing, without having to record. But you cannot automatically play records through the computer speakers unless you are recording, because the turntable has been designed primarily as a recording turntable.
If you do want to play records through the computer speakers without recording, the simplest way is to use Audacity to do this (which means of course it must be running). Click on the downward pointing arrow in Audacity's right-hand (red) recording VU meter and click '"monitor input"' (or '"start monitoring'" in 1.3.2). Then (providing you've enabled "software playthrough" on the Audio I/O tab of Preferences) you will hear the turntable whenever it's playing without having to record. If the VU meters are not visible, go to the Interface tab of Audacity Preferences and check "Enable Meter Toolbar". In 1.3.2, instead click View > Toolbars > Show Meter Toolbar.
According to your equipment, there are other ways you can get the turntable to always play through the computer speakers, without having to launch Audacity.
(1) attach its RCA output cables to any CD or AUX input you may have on your computer, and set the turntable level switch to line.
(2) attach its RCA output cables to the RCA inputs on the HiFi speakers that are included on some recent multimedia computers, and set the turntable level switch to phono.
(3) On Windows or Linux computers only, attach its RCA outputs to a phono amplifier, set its level switch to phono, run a cable from the headphones out of the amplifier to line-in on your computer, then unmute line-in as a playback device in your system mixer (e.g. Sounds and Audio Devices on Windows XP or earlier).
System sound needs to be reset on Windows computers
If you are on Windows, system sound won't be available while the turntable is plugged in at the USB connection. This occurs because due to a driver problem, the turntable switches the system's default sound playback device away from your sound device to the turntable (which of course is not meant to be a playback device for the turntable). You will have sound in Audacity but not in other applications that simply use the current default device. System sound will be restored as soon as you unplug the turntable at its USB connection, but if you need system sound for other applications while the turntable is plugged in, do this:
- Vista: right-click over the speaker icon in the system tray > Playback Devices and set the inbuilt sound as the default device. You can also access Playback Devices from 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 playback tab.
- 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 Playback" panel, and set the inbuilt sound as the default device.
If you make this change just the once and then leave the turntable plugged into the USB port (but not of course plugged into the mains), it will not turn off system sound next time you start it up for another recording session.
Turntable not recognised by operating system
If the USB codec is not recognised in Audacity's recording devices list in the Audio I/O tab, you cannot record from it. Make sure the turntable is plugged into the mains and switched on. If that does not help, close Audacity, switch off and unplug the turntable at the USB connection and at the mains. Plug it back into the USB port, and switch it on. Wait a couple of minutes then completely shut down the computer and restart. When the computer has finished rebooting, open Audacity and see if the USB device is in the recording list in Audio I/O. If not, you will need to request technical support from the manufacturer.
- Remove the cartridge/headshell from the tonearm and reseat it tightly and securely. A loose cartridge is a known source of white noise.
Recordings freezing up
Reports of recordings freezing with USB turntables are not that uncommon, and generally they are not caused by Audacity! There are a number of known potential problems you should check:
- Check the USB cable for tightness and try using a different cable instead
- Always use a spare USB port, not a hub
- Limit USB bandwidth whilst recording by using other USB devices sparingly e.g. simply disconnecting from the internet may help if you use a USB modem for internet access.
- Check for any system warnings (e.g. in Device Manager in Windows) about the Universal Serial Bus Controllers.
Generally, if you find you can record into Audacity without interruption from another source such as a microphone, this clearly implicates the turntable or USB cable. To check if other sources record satisfactorily, you need to change the recording device on the Audio I/O tab of Audacity Preferences to your inbuilt sound. If recording from other sources works fine, or if you have concerns the turntable is not working properly, please contact the manufacturer for support.
However if recordings from sources other than the turntable are also freezing, there could be problems with your having insufficient computer resources, or if you are using "software playthrough", there may even be problems with your inbuilt sound device as that will be used to play back your recording. Please look at our list of tips for Avoiding Computer Resources and Sound Driver problems for help.
Turntable playing too fast or speed erratic
This can be due to a belt that is improperly installed. If the belt slips out of the groove when the turntable is rotating and is able to ride up or down on the spindle, the platter will spin too fast. You'll need to adjust the position of the belt on the inner ring of the platter. The inner ring of the platter is quite a bit wider than the belt itself. The belt should wrap around the middle part of the inner ring. If it is wrapped too high or too low around the inner ring, it could cause the other half of the belt to ride up or down on the spindle. Follow these steps to check the belt for proper alignment:
- 1. Remove both the record and the slip mat from the turntable.
- 2. Rotate the platter so that you can see the brass motor spindle through one of the holes in the platter (it should be located in the bottom-left corner of the turntable).
- 3. Reposition the belt so that it is wrapped around the spindle's groove.
If adjusting the belt does not help, please contact the turntable manufacturer for support.