Clipping/ Distortion

I just got a new computer and have installed the newest version of audacity 2.x on it (I was running the older one 1.x). However, when I try to record a vinyl record the distortion levels are so bad that I cant even really hear the music. I did not have this problem previously and have not changed any of the equipment set up. Any advice on settings etc that need to be adjusted to get back to normal here. Thanks

It depends on what Normal is. We can’t see your room, so you need to give us a push. How do you have your system connected and what is it?
You did change the software. There is a huge change between Audacity 1 and 2 particularly the early versions of 1. The hardware settings may not follow you through the upgrade.

I just got a new computer … have not changed any of the equipment set up.

What’s wrong with that picture? So yes, you did change the setup and that may be why Audacity couldn’t recreate the settings and adjustments.


I have my usb turntable connected to a pre amp and the pre amp is connected via usb to the computer.

I have adjusted to input levels on audacity when recording and playing a record but that doesn’t help the distortion much at all.

also wanted to mention that all other audio sounds fine (i.e. playing a song through windows media player etc…)

You may need to turn down the recording level using the operating system mixer.
On Vista / Win 7 it is often necessary to set the recording level for USB turntables extremely low.

See here:
and also:

Also, some USB turntables have a volume control hidden on the bottom of the turntable.

In addition, USB turntables typically deliver the USB audio bitstream completely corrected for RIAA distortion. Why are you going through another Phono Preamp? If the answer is Quality, then you shouldn’t be using a USB turntable to begin with. The mechanical shortcomings of those – bad tracking, skating, pressure – are legendary.

If the answer is you selected “corrected” for the analog turntable outputs and then you went through another phono preamp, that may be where your distortion is coming from. At the turntable, select “uncorrected” or “raw” cartridge" or whatever your turntable calls it.


Thanks alot Steve! I think you have helped me fix the problem. I really appreciate your input.

@Kozikowski… I am well aware of the shortcomings of usb turntables but that is what I have for now. And I knew it was a settings issue as Steve has pointed out and helped me solve because my exact same set up worked with the older version of audacity that I have used for years (again… with exact same set up)…

So my problem is still not completely solved. I have turned the gain on the TT USB down to the minimun and have to adjust the input volume input in audacity to almost zero (0.1) but my sound quality still has some distortion. Also it does not sound as good as it did with the old audacity and most definitely the recording volume is lower now vs the old audacity when i listen to something i have recorded. Any more advice???

Could you post a short sample of your recording - just a couple of seconds in WAV (not MP3) format will do.
Short audio samples can be uploaded using the “Upload attachment” tab below the compose message box.

here you go Steve… Thanks for your continued help. If need be i will post the same song that i previously recorded with the older version of audacity but is in mp3 format 320 kbps.

That is definitely clipped, but it is being clipped before it gets to Audacity. (Audacity will clip the data at 0 dB, but this is clipped much lower (at -5.5 dB).
Which version of Windows are you using? Modern versions (Vista and Win 7) have multiple places where the recording level is set so it can get a bit complicated.

windows 7

Go to System Tray > Recording Devices
Right click on the USB recording device
Click Properties then the Levels tab.
Ensure that the level is set low (but not completely off).

Ok I did that but the clipping problem still exists. That just seemed to lower the volume levels but not fix the distortion.

In that case the clipping is occurring before it gets to the computer.
Check the turntable volume again, just in case the the control works in an upside down manner or something strange like that. If the turntable volume is down at minimum then the record is just too loud for that turntable/cartridge combination.

I did check the gain on the turntable and it as at the minimum level. It is the same record I have played and recorded with the old computer and this same very equipment (turntable, cartridge, and needle) and it sounds fine. I can get you a clip of that to listen to if needed. It has to be an audacity/window 7 issue.

I don’t think that it is due to Audacity, but just to be sure, try recording a bit with the Windows “Sound Recorder” program and see if you can get an unclipped recording with that.

That sample is still clipping at 0.5 or 6dB down from maximum.

Our Win7 machines have a little green sound meter next to each active recording source in the Windows Control Panels. Do you have such a meter and does it overload? Does it act normal, except it never goes over a certain level?

Does your turntable have a switch that selects between needing a preamp and not? Line-Out and Cartridge-Out or something like that in addition to the volume control?

The distortion gets much worse when you turn up the turntable volume control, right? If you adjust the turntable to maximum volume, Audacity still clips at 0.5 right?


Steve, when I record with windows sound recorder I get no sound… just silence. Im not sure how to fix this to get you an audio sample. Can you explain that to me and then I can get you a sample recording.

Koz, Those green light meters seem normal to me. They never go over 3-4 bars on the meter and there are 9-10 on each meter.
My turntable does not have any of those options you mentioned.
Yes the distortion gets worse at higher volumes.

Thanks guys

In the Windows recording settings you need to set the USB device as the default recording device.