Clipping Problems

Fellow Musicians:

My student group purchased several Senal USB microphones for our track-by-track recording project. Most of these microphones are well-matched to the instruments that we are trying to record.

However, I play tenor saxophone, and after multiple attempts, I am unable to use this microphone without clipping. I have the microphone gain turned down to the lowest setting and my saxophone is too loud! Unlike an electric guitar, there is a limit to how softly I can play. I have bought a USB extension cord and put the microphone at the other end of my room and I am still too loud.

I am investigating the purchase of a different microphone, but I am looking for other solutions that may work.

(1) Is there something I can do in Audacity to reduce the clipping? I have reduced the recording volume in Audacity, but that does not seem to effect clipping.

(2) Is there some device I can put between my USB mic and my computer that will fix the problem? For example, a mini mixer.


Which model number?


I am using the UC4-B microphone. I am using the Cardioid set up and recording using mono on Audacity.

I just completed a chat session with an audio tech from the company that I purchased the mic from. He said he thought Audacity has a built in compressor plugin, you can be used. If this is true, will it help me, or was he wrong.


Are you sure that the “Gain” on the microphone is turned down to minimum?
If you do a test recording of your voice (just normal speech level), does the Gain knob make any difference?


I just checked the gain knob on the mic. At normal speech volume, I made a dramatic change in the size of the waveform between low gain and high gain, but could not get it to clip. Then I used a load voice, with low and high gain. At low gain–no clipping; at High gain–completely clipped.

So the gain knob on the mic seems to work.

Another suggestion by the microphone company is to buy a dynamic mic. He seems to think that a dynamic mic is less likely to clip. I have no idea what will work.

I have done some studio recording. It is my recollection that I played about 1-2 ft from the mic at full volume, so clearly this can be done.

I appreciate any help in fixing this. I don’t mind buying a different mic or a mixer if this is what I need to do.


How low will it go? With your voice, can turn it down so far that the waveform becomes a flat line?


No. At the lowest setting on the gain, it never goes to flat line for spoken voice or load voice (Yell).

I have attached a PDF with how the four conditions look on Audacity.
Clipping Problems.pdf (49.9 KB)

It seems that the manufacturer’s missed a trick. If they had designed it so that it could be turned down lower, then that would probably have solved it for you. Given that they didn’t do that, I agree that you need to use a different microphone.

A dynamic microphone, such as a Sure SM58 (and most other dynamic “stage mics”), is certainly capable of handling the level from a saxophone, but you also need to be able to get the signal from the microphone into the computer. Plugging it into the computer’s microphone input is unlikely to be adequate. USB dynamic microphones are available, but you could still hit a problem of the microphone overloading it’s built-in pre-amp.

Traditional (non-USB) dynamic microphones don’t have a built-in pre-amp, or any other “active” (powered) components, so they need to be plugged into some kind of pre-amp. That could be a “USB microphone pre-amp”, or a “USB mixer”, or a non-USB mixer connected to the computer via a “line level USB interface”.

I use the last type of setup (mixer + line level USB interface), which is the most versatile and supports mixing multiple inputs and recording the mix to a stereo (or mono) track.

A USB microphone interface + conventional dynamic “stage” mic provides quite a lot of flexibility. USB mic pre-amps often support up to two microphones, which can be useful, especially if you want to record a stereo sound with two microphones, such as recording an ensemble. They are usually switchable to “Line level”, which would allow you to add a mixer at a later date if you wanted to. Also the conventional microphone could be used as a stage mic should you ever need one.


You have been a lot help. I really appreciate it.

One more clarification. I have access to two regular stage mics. I don’t think they are dynamic mics.

If I just plug them into something like:
the Scarlet Solo 3rd Gen
Behringer UM2 Audiophile USB Audio Interface with Mic Preamplifier
Ultra Mobile Guitar/Microphone USB Audio Adapter

Should these all work with a non-dynamic mic?

Many Thanks,

Most stage mics are dynamic mics. Do you know the make / model?

I wouldn’t recommend the last one as it doesn’t appear to have an XLR socket (the big round 3-pin microphone connector).

I would expect either of the other two to work.

If you think there’s a chance that you may want to use two microphones some point in the future, it could be worth considering the Behringer UMC202HD. It costs a bit more than the UM2, but has 2 mic inputs rather than 1, and they are claimed to be better pre-amps than the UM2, and it is cheaper than the Scarlet Solo.

Either of the Behringers, or the Scarlet should work with any mic that has a standard 3-pin XLR connector.
This is what an XLR lead looks like: