FAQ:Recording - How To's

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How can I record in stereo?

Audacity by default should already be set to record in stereo. If this is not the case, use Device Toolbar to select the playback and recording devices and to set the channels to "2 (stereo) Recording Channels".

Alternatively you can open the Audacity Preferences, choose the “Devices” section on the left, then in the "Recording" panel, change the number of recording channels to "2 (Stereo)".

Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7 and Windows Vista: Many USB recording devices, even if stereo, are seen as "microphones" so set by Windows to record in mono. If Audacity is set to record in stereo this will cause both channels to have the same content as one of the channels. To set Windows to record the device in stereo:

  1. By the system clock, right-click over the Speaker icon > Recording Devices then right-click over USB Audio Codec > "Properties"
  2. On the "Advanced" tab, in the "Default Format" section, make sure the dropdown menu is set to "2 channel 16-bit 44100 Hz".

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What is an optimal recording level to aim for?

Using the Recording Volume Slider on Mixer Toolbar to adjust the level, aim for a maximum peak of around –6 dB on the Recording Meter (or 0.5 if the meter is set to linear scale). This should ensure that clipping will be avoided. The recording will only show a maximum peak of around 0.5 on the default waveform display, but given how the ear hears sound, this is actually much louder than apparent "half volume".

You can boost the level if necessary after recording and editing by using Effect > Amplify or Effect > Normalize.

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How do I record from vinyl records, cassette tapes or MiniDiscs?

  1. Set Audacity to record in stereo.
  2. Plug one end of a stereo cable into the "Line Out" or "Headphone" connector on your tape deck, MiniDisc player, or stereo system. Plug the other end into your computer’s "Line In" port. If you do not have a suitable cable, you can find one at an electronics store.
  3. Choose "Line In" as the recording source in Audacity's Device Toolbar or Devices Preferences.
  4. Press the red Record button. While Audacity is recording, start playing your tape or disc. When you have captured the audio you want to record, press the yellow Stop button. You can also press the blue Pause button to pause recording, and Pause again to resume recording on the same track.

For a detailed tutorial, see Copying tapes, LPs or MiniDiscs to CD. This covers all the steps from recording your records, cassettes or MiniDiscs to exporting as an audio file and burning to an audio CD.

Vinyl or shellac records can also be recorded into Audacity with a special type of turntable that connects to the USB port of your computer. These turntables need to be set up differently from those that connect to line-in. See Recording with USB turntables or USB cassette decks for setup instructions, then Basic Recording, Editing and Exporting in the main tutorial.

Connection hints:

  • Do not connect a turntable directly to your computer. The signal from a turntable must be passed through a phono pre-amplifier or a receiver with a “phono” input that provides phono amplification. Otherwise, it will be too quiet and will also sound "tinny" due to incorrect equalization.
  • Do not plug stereo equipment into your computer’s “Microphone” port. This port is usually designed only for low level, mono microphone input. It will produce distortion if you connect phono amplified output. Use the “Line In” port if you have one (on some laptops or other portable computers, the "Mic" port can be switched to a line-level input). See further help.

See also:

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Can I play a track while recording a new one on top of it?

This is known as recording an overdub to create a multi-track recording. It makes it possible to record harmonies with yourself, or add new instruments or vocals to an existing recording. To do this in Audacity, follow these instructions:

  1. Select the recording device you are plugged into (probably microphone or line-in) in the Recording Device menu in Device Toolbar
    • If you do not see your required recording device, enable it and make it default in the operating system's mixer, then in Audacity, choose Transport > Rescan Audio Devices
  2. Import or record the first track
  3. Choose Transport > Overdub (on/off)
  4. Press the Record button Record button image .
If you are recording from a microphone, make sure you use headphones so that the microphone picks up only what you are recording. Detailed, illustrated instructions on how to make overdub recordings are in Tutorial - Recording Multi-track Overdubs.

See also:

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Can Audacity record YouTube, internet radio or other streaming audio?

  • With most Windows and Linux audio devices, it is possible to record whatever sound the computer is currently playing, including internet radio streams.
  • Mac users can capture streaming audio using third-party standalone applications or system extensions.

See the Recording audio playing on the computer tutorial for details, following the link thereon for your particular operating platform.

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What is the maximum recording length?

Audacity does not restrict the maximum recording length beyond the practical limitation that recording takes space on your drive so you can only record while the drive still has space available.

When you start to record, Audacity shows a "Disk space remains for recording" message in the Status Bar at bottom left of the Audacity window giving the current recording time available. With default Audacity settings, stereo recording takes 1.2 GB of space per hour.

After recording you will still need space to export the recording as an audio file for your computer. Editing the recording before export takes extra space. Each edit of a region requires as much extra disk space as was required to originally record that section.

To get more recording time:

  • Delete your old files and folders (especially your old Audacity Project files and _data folders when you have finished with them)
  • Select an alternative drive that has more space in the Directories Preferences (but do not record to an external USB or Firewire disk because recording needs disk access to be as fast as possible)
  • Record in mono instead of stereo (settable at "Recording Channels" in Device Toolbar or in Devices Preferences)
  • Set the "Default Sample Format" in Quality Preferences to 16-bit instead of 32-bit (this is a good choice for a "quick recording" which you export at once without editing).

See Recording length for more details.

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Can I set Audacity to record at a certain time?

Yes! See Timer Record in the Transport menu.

You can also make Audacity stop recording after a certain time limit without using the Timer Record feature, by following these steps:

  1. Turn on "Overdub: Play other tracks while recording new one" in the "Recording" section of the preferences (you can also turn Overdub on or off in Transport Menu)
  2. Choose "Add New > Mono Track" from the Tracks menu (even if you will record in stereo).
  3. Zoom out if necessary, then click and drag to select the amount of time you want to record.
  4. Start recording. Audacity will stop recording automatically when it reaches the end of the selected area.

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Can I record from a multi-channel device (more than stereo)?

Yes, but this is not simple; typically this does not work "out of the box" on Windows consumer systems, and always requires use of appropriate hardware and device drivers. There are some known Audacity limitations in channel selection and channel-to-track allocation. It is essential that sample rates are matched in all places (Audacity, the operating system and the device). See this Wiki article for more details.

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Can I record from two microphones (or even two soundcards) at the same time?

Audacity can only record from one sound device at a time, but here are some solutions.

  • If your sound device has separate left and right mic inputs, connect the separate microphones to those inputs.
  • Connect the separate microphones to a mixer and record from the mixer.
  • If these are dynamic microphones that do not need extra power, buy an adaptor that has two inputs for the microphones with a single 1/8 inch TRS connector for the computer microphone port (this will usually only give you a combined mono input).
  • Record each track to different computers.
  • If you have two USB microphones or any other separate sound devices you can aggregate them as a single device for recording in Audacity, or use other recording software to record the two devices to separate tracks.
    Separate audio devices such as two USB microphones or devices on different computers will have separate clock speeds (in the absence of a master clock to synchronize to). Therefore the two inputs may drift apart over time.

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    |< Index of Frequently Asked Questions

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