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 easiest way to set aup your audio inputs and outputs in Audacity is to use the Audio Setup Toolbar.

Instead of using the Audio Setup button you can use Audio Settings Preferences if you prefer.

Click on the Audio Setup button in the the top tooldock

Audio Setup Toolbar.png

Here you can make your device settings, for details please see Audio Setup Toolbar.

Device Toolbar alternative

As another alternative you can use the old Device Toolbar which is not displayed by default in Audacity. To enable it, click on View > Toolbars and check on Device Toolbar.



Decide if you want to "monitor" your recording, that is hear it played back as you make it.

Audible input monitoring

Using Audible input monitoring you can route the input to the output through the computer enabling you to hear what you are recording. All such methods have latency and cause extra load on the computer.

  • In Audacity for all platforms: Choose Audible input monitoring in Recording Preferences or under the Transport > Transport Options menu.
  • Windows: 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 Audible input monitoring.
  • Linux: Most modern Linux systems use ALSA and Pulse Audio with no Audible input monitoring module installed. ALSA has the optional alsaloop playthrough module in alsa-utils and PulseAudio has an optional module-loopback, but these modules may have noticeable latency and audio breakup. Linux distributions specifically for music or media applications are likely to have JACK pre-installed, in which case low latency Audible input monitoring can be configured in QjackCtl. </ul>

Hardware playthrough

If hardware playthrough is required, usually only needed for overdubbing, it is best to use an external USB or FireWire audio device that has a headphones jack for no-latency monitoring (such as the Behringer UCA 202 USB or Zoom H2 USB).

Set the volume level of your recording input

Left-click on the microphone icon or right-click in the Recording Meter and click "Enable Silent Monitoring".

Recording Toolbar in use.png
  • If the Recording Meter is not visible, click View > Toolbars and check Recording Meter Toolbar.
  • While playing a loud part of your tape or record, adjust the Recording Slider on the Recording Meter Toolbar so the Recording Meters are almost reaching the right-hand end of the scale.
  • Do not let the meter bars actually reach the right edge, or the red hold lights to right of the meter will come on, indicating you will have distortion in the recording.
  • Try to aim for a maximum peak of around minus 6 dB (or 0.5 if you have your meters set to linear rather than dB).
  • Enlarging the Recording Meter Meter Toolbar by clicking and dragging the resizer on the right edge of the toolbar helps with this task. See Customizing Toolbar Layout for more details.


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