How to set up Audacity

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If you are recording from a USB turntable, USB cassette deck or USB interface, please go to the set up instructions at Recording with USB turntables or USB cassette decks.

Setting Up Audacity

The Device toolbar is displayed by default in a new installation of Audacity. If the Device toolbar is not visible, click on View > Toolbars > Device Toolbar.

Image of device toolbar with annotations

You may want to expand the width of Device Toolbar by dragging right on the drag handle.

  1. Click on the Input Channels drop-down menu and choose whether to record in stereo or mono
  2. Set the Output Device and Input Device drop-down menus to the built-in computer sound device, or to the specific sound device your cable is plugged into.
    • Windows: Choose the line-in option for your connected sound device (for example, "Line-In: Realtek HD Device"). Do NOT select "Microsoft Sound Mapper" or "Primary Sound Capture Driver".
    • Linux: Select the connected sound device.
    • OS X: Select the "Built-in Audio: Line In" input device, or "USB Audio CODEC" if you are using an external USB audio adapter.
  3. If you cannot choose your input source as described above, or if the line-in input won't record, you can use the operating system mixer device to choose the required input. For instructions, see the further help for Windows, Mac OS X or Linux on our Wiki.


  1. Decide if you want to "monitor" your recording, that is, hear it played back as you make it.
    • Hardware playthrough: This is a method available on some Windows and Linux machines that lets you unmute the input directly in the sound device. To use this, open the operating system sound mixer, then the Playback section, then unmute line-in and turn the volume up. You can find the system mixer in the Control Panel at Sound on Windows Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8 or Sounds and Audio Devices on Windows XP/Windows 2000. On Linux, you can use ALSAmixer. Unfortunately on most Mac OS X machines, Audacity's Hardware Playthrough choice in Recording Preferences is not functional.
    • Software playthrough: If hardware playthrough does not work or the playback and recording devices in Recording Preferences are different, you can route the input to the output through the computer. All such methods have latency and cause extra load on the computer.
      • In Audacity: Choose Software Playthrough in Recording Preferences or under the Transport Menu.
      • Windows Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8: On some machines you can instead select your input in Windows "Sound", choose "Properties" then on the "Listen" tab, choose "Listen to this device". This usually has less latency than Audacity's Software Playthrough.
      • Mac OS X: If Audacity's software playthrough is not effective, obtain the free LineIn software playthrough tool from Rogue Amoeba.
  2. Set the volume level of your recording input. Click on the downward pointing arrow in the right hand (red) VU recording level meters:
    Meter Toolbar
    and click "Start Monitoring". While playing a loud part of your tape or record, adjust the Input Slider on the Mixer Toolbar so the recording meters are almost reaching the right-hand end of the scale. Don't let the meter bars actually reach the right edge, or the red hold lights to right of the meter will come on, indicating you'll have distortion in the recording. If the recording level meters are not visible, click View > Toolbars and check Meter Toolbar. Try to aim for a maximum peak of around –6.0 dB (or 0.5 if you have your meters set to linear rather than dB). Tip: enlarging the Meter Toolbar by clicking and dragging helps with this task, see this page in the manual for details,
  3. If the Mixer Toolbar Input Slider does not control the input level correctly, or is greyed out on maximum, use the input slider in the operating system mixer device to regulate the input level. For instructions, see the further help for Windows, Mac OS X or Linux on our Wiki.


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