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Troubleshooting Audio Recording


I’ll cover all kinds of problems here, including noise, strange sound, “not working” and all kinds of issues.

But: Probably, if you are trying to fix something “weird”, you have probably overlooked something simple.

But be sure to write down some details before asking for help. You should tell whoever is helping you things such as:
► Are you getting SOME sound, NO sound, or bad sound? Was it working before and stopped working, or is this the first time you are trying to record?

Other articles: 1️⃣ Check out ALL home studio articles here. 2️⃣ Videos of how to use Audacity: Check out these videos. 3️⃣ Make sure you know the basics of recording in Audacity.

Otherwise, here are some tips, in rough order of usefulness. Of course,

A. Home Studio Acoustics

1️⃣ See our “Better Sound” tab on our Home Studio First Steps article!

B. “Weird Problem” Tips

1️⃣ Make sure your mic cable isn’t loose on either end! 2️⃣  If you are using a desktop computer that has multiple audio in/out jacks, you could have your speakers or headphones plugged into the wrong jack on your computer! 3️⃣ On some mixers/power boxes, you must turn on BOTH power AND phantom/48v power. If there is a button on the back labeled 48v, and you bump it, you may have just turned off power to your mic!

C. Sound too quiet?

1️⃣ The most common problem for new users with a laptop is that you only THINK you are recording through your voice over microphone, and you are ACTUALLY recording through your laptop microphone.

If you are using a laptop, start recording, and move over by your voiceover microphone, and then by your laptop microphone. If you are loudest by the laptop, this is your problem. Solution: In your software, refresh audio devices (In Audacity, Transport > Rescan Audio Devices), and choose your voiceover microphone instead of your laptop microphone. Try recording via every device possible if you can’t figure out which is which. If you get NO sound after not using your laptop microphone, you have a “no sound at all problem” (next). 2️⃣ If it is still too quiet, you need to make sure the recording volume is turned up near maximum in your software, and experiment with the controls on your mixer, speaker and or headset. 3️⃣ Still too quiet? Check your speaker/playback settings in software.

D. No Sound?

Make sure microphone and speakers are plugged in and have all on buttons depressed, and volume for recording and playback are both are turned up. Usually you have simply overlooked something.

E. Audacity Settings

1️⃣ Set Audacity (or whatever audio recording software you use) to show clipping (View > Show Clipping) so you can see if your settings are too “hot” (too much gain / too loud). 2️⃣ In Audacity, make sure Preferences > Recording > Sound Activated Recording is OFF (no check in the box). 3️⃣In Audacity, try Transport > Rescan Audio Devices if mic/speakers/headset are plugged in but you can’t get Audacity to “see” them. 4️⃣ Make sure the volume setting on each TRACK is normal. In Audacity, track volume is a small slider ON the track itself, to the left. The audio may be good, but sound wrong on playback or export if the track audio slider was moved accidentally.

F. Equipment

You must only use balanced equipment and cables. As MOST voiceover audio equipment is balanced, you rarely have to worry about this. But sometimes cheap equipment claims to be balanced and is not. Balanced audio equipment removes noise (here’s how).

G. Power

1️⃣ Plug into a grounded outlet. 2️⃣ Don’t bypass ground with a plug like the one shown at left! 3️⃣ Plug your computer power and microphone power in the same outlet. Easiest: Plug everything into one power strip. That avoids grounding problems, such as the classic electrical hum from a ground loop issue. If you have to plug into separate power outlets, you could be in for a world of problems. 4️⃣ Check both end of your power cable to see anything is loose if you don’t have indicator lights that let you know when something is plugged in! 5️⃣ Want to learn even more? Click here!

H. Cable

1️⃣ Use a four-conductor XLR cable (why?) and keep your power and audio cables away from each other. If they must get close, try to cross them at right angles.

I. Mouth Noise

1️⃣ Get a better or an additional pop filter, or get further back from the mic. 2️⃣ Frequently wet your lips and swish water in your mouth or use a mouth spray AND wet your lips. 3️⃣ Aim at the edge of the mic instead of the center to reduce breath sounds.

J. Mixer Settings

1️⃣ Don’t set the gain on your mixer or any controls feeding into your computer too high, or your audio could be clipping before it reaches your software. Audacity Effect > Clip Fix only can fix longer lengths of clipping if it is at the limits of the waveform. meaning you have to Effect > Amplify any clipping that isn’t actually at the waveform max amplitude limits. 2️⃣ You may want to try either downloading/updating the driver for your mixer/phantom power box, or deleting the driver, and seeing if the computer will provide one (can help if recording is too quiet).

K. Getting Rid of Static

Try the above tips first, but you can 1️⃣ wear a grounding strap (wristband that connects to ground) when you plug things together. 2️⃣ Unplug the mic after plugging everything in, and tap the end of the mic cable with your finger. You can do this during sessions as well. 3️⃣ Optional: Recording for an hour or so the first time you set up can dissipate static in your setup (you don’t have to be there, just let it record background sounds).

Avoid and reduce static where you can: 4️⃣ Wear shoes that dissipate static. Wear leather-soled instead of rubber-soled shoes. Some specialty shoes have conductive strands woven into the soles to discharge static electricity as you walk.
5️⃣ Cotton clothes are best, but will be too loud if very crisp or starched. Avoid wool or fur, polyester, nylon, rayon or silk. (Leather clothes are also fine, but probably too noisy for voiceover). 6️⃣ Reduce static on clothes: spritz with water (or hairspray); run over with a metal hanger; rub with a dryer sheet or simply wash with fabric softener.

L. Computer Problems

Probably you do NOT have a computer problem, but if you want to reset your computer anyway—it’s easy and fast! 1️⃣ Perform a “true cold boot”: Turn off and unplug your computer from the wall (or remove the battery from your laptop,)and HOLD the power button in for a few seconds. Yep—hold the power button while it is unplugged! That can cause internal static to dissipate. (Works on many electronic appliances too!) 2️⃣ Computer Settings Problems: Here’s a great article about messing with drivers and audio settings for truly weird issues.