background noise on record

I just downloaded Audacity and tried to record using the microphone in my computer. All was going well. Then, I plugged another external microphone into the input and the record level showed a loud hiss that was on the recording. How do I get rid of it?

What was the sound quality like with the laptop (is it a laptop?) mic?

Yes, Steve. It’s a laptop. The sound quality with the laptop mic was marginal, and there was no background noise. The noise appeared when I plugged the expernal mic into the laptop and I can’t get it back to the original quality. It may have been the mic. Probably not a USB. What can i do to reset it like it was originally?

The sound quality was fine with the mic on the laptop. But the background noise appeared when I tried to record with the external mic. Now, even with the laptop mic, the background noise is still there. How can I get rid of it? Rabbit

Responses to forum posts may take a little while as there are no paid staff. Audacity is free, created by and supported by volunteer enthusiasts.

My experience of laptop built-in sound cards is that they are cr@p. They are fine for casual listening of computer beeps, and even for playing music off the Internet, but microphone recordings are usually rubbish.

Recent versions of Windows (Vista/Win 7) generally have “enhancements” to try and improve the appalling recording quality, but often these enhancements will make the recording sound like it was made in a tunnel (see here: Sometimes they will succeed in producing a subjectively better sounding recording but there is usually a price (such as the recording level fading in an out).

I’ve not yet come across a laptop that can make good microphone recordings without a sound card upgrade.

My best guess is that you need to upgrade your hardware.

Thanks, Steve. I understand that, but the hiss I’m talking about suddenly appeared. I was playing with the Audacity that I just downloaded with the built in mic in the laptop (Windows Vista Home Premium) and it was working fine. No hiss. When I plugged the external mic into it and began recording, the recording level (red bar) showed a hiss about halfway across the display. I unplugged the external mic and tried it again with the internal one and the hiss (red bar) was still there. I think that there is something I can adjust to return it to its original state–that is, without the hiss. Rabbit

…a laptop that can make good microphone recordings…

Windows® laptop…

You didn’t seem sure whether your microphone was USB or not. Did it have a large flat connector or thin round one like the one on the bottom?

The flat one is USB, the round one is the analog connection.

Clear all the connections from your computer and restart it. If you try to record from your internal microphone and it’s still noisy, you’ll need to go into your Windows Preferences and look for an option called 20dB Boost associated with your microphone. I’m guessing it’s normally not selected if you’re running your internal microphone, but is almost certainly needed if you use an external analog microphone. That adjustment will increase the background noise – the hisssssss – if it’s selected.

I can’t get any closer than that because I’m on a Mac.

Just because people tend to leave out important details, did you just start to experience the joys of internet recording? If you were successful at it, it means you had to jigger your Windows Sound control panel and recording settings. That can cause problems. Internet Recording and local entertainment recording are fundamentally different and take different settings.


Do you know where your built-in microphone is? It can sometimes be remarkably hard to find. It’s been different on my three laptops. Set up Audacity to record, turn the laptop speaker volume down and scratch around your laptop with your fingernail until you hit something that makes the red recording meters go nuts. If you never hit anything like that, then you’re not recording your built-in microphone…


I’m not at all surprised about the hiss when recording with a microphone, that’s normal for a laptop. What I’m surprised by is that you ever got a recording without hiss, unless the “noise cancellation” was switched on, but the noise cancellation tends to make the sound quality bad in other ways (bubbly metallic and fading in and out).
What were you recording when it sounded “ok”? Do you have a sample that we could hear? Have you tried turning on “Noise Cancellation” (to turn on Noise Cancellation, do the opposite of what it says here about turning off enhancements )

Thank You, Steve! It took me a couple of days to get around to try your “fix,” but it worked perfectly. This is a new/used computer and I didn’t know how to get into the audio settings for Windows. When I read the reference you sent, I got it on the first try, rejiggled the settings and the noise disappeared. The recording quality is fine for my purposes. Again, Thank You! Rabbit

That worked! Thanks for guiding me to the entry into my Windows audio settings. I figured it out. It’s fixed! Thanks! Rabbit