Clipping When Importing Audio

I’m new to Audacity and I’m having a problem with extreme clipping when I import an audio track to Audacity. I have messed with the recording levels in the Stereo Mix as well as other recording levels within Audacity but regardless of what I do I can’t control the level I’m importing! It’s always clipping to the max and I can’t for the life of me figure out how to tame the darned thing. Any help would be much appreciated.

I’m running Windows 8.1 :unamused: and Audacity 2.1.1 and I used the .exe installer. Thanks.

It sounds as if you have clipping when the signal enters your computer. What are you using as audio interface? The line-in on your computer?

Chances are, this isn’t a line-in, but a (mono) microphone input. If you run a tape recorder, or another device in to that, it’ll distort heavily.

Line level is from 100 mV to 1.000 mv.
Mic level is from 1 to 10 mV.

So could you please tell us what you are recording? (Music, voice, tape, vinyl…)
And with which interface? (line-in on the PC, USB mic…)
And maybe also what the goal is? (archival of vinyl, audiobook, CD production…)

I’m having a problem with extreme clipping when I import an audio track to Audacity.

When you import, you get the file you’re importing. If it’s clipped before any editing/processing, it has nothing to do with Audacity.

You can clip your analog-to-digital converter when recording, but that’s different from importing an existing digital file.

If you are importing MP3s, they might not be clipped… MP3s can go over 0dBFS without clipping. And Mp3 encoding is lossy, it changes the wave shape making some peaks higher and some peaks lower.

So if you have a 0dB normalized file and export it to MP3, there’s a good chance Audacity will show potential clipping when you re-import the MP3. (If you export that file as a “regular” WAV, the file will be clipped.) Some people normalize to -1dB or so before exporting to MP3 to keep the MP3 levels below 0dB. But, most modern commercial MP3 releases will peak above 0dB.

I have messed with the recording levels in the Stereo Mix as well as other recording levels within Audacity.

If you reduce the Windows volume control when recording Stereo Mix, you should be able to get the volume down… all the way to zero if you want… But again, if the source is clipped you’ll still be recording the clipped sound, just at a lower level and Audacity won’t “know” the waveform is clipped.

I’m recording audio from a music video I downloaded from YouTube using the “FFmpeg Import/Export Library”. It’s an old song by Bob Dylan that was originally recorded in mono but YouTube has it as two identical stereo channels. Perhaps this is the issue because true stereo YouTube downloads have next to zero clipping when importing to Audacity. Anyway, I’ve messed with the Stereo Mix and the Recording Channels (stereo/mono) and I always get the same thing, two identical stereo channels with major clipping.

But yeah, I guess the clipping is already there when I import the audio from the download, much like you said. I’m not using a line-in or mic input, but importing a downloaded file from my computer and I guess adjusting the level in such a case is out of the question. Oh well, thanks for your help. At least I now have a better idea as to what’s going on. Thanks again…

I can’t figure what you are doing - what is the end purpose? If you download the video (using a browser extension that downloads the video “as is”, not one that “converts” the video) then drag the video file into Audacity, you have the audio from the video exactly as the audio was when added to the video in the first place.

Where does “recording” and “stereo mix” come into it?

You can post the YouTube URL if you like - we can always unparse or remove the link later.


It’s an old song by Bob Dylan that was originally recorded in mono but YouTube has it as two identical stereo channels.

That shouldn’t be an issue. Does it sound OK? If it sounds OK, you can use the Audacity’s Amplify effect to bring the level down, but that won’t fix the clipped waves it will only “hide” them. And/or there is a Clip Fix effect you can try. (When I tried Clip Fix, it didn’t remove the distorted sound, but the waveforms looked better!

Or, you could BUY a legitimate copy of the song! :smiling_imp:

CDs are always stereo (2-channels) so if you buy a mono recording on CD, there are two identical channels. Then if you rip the CD to MP3 or AAC, etc., it will show-up as stereo unless you specifically configure the encoder to mono. I’m sure all of my MP3’s “think” they are stereo, although I have quite a few older mono recordings.

MP3 (if you use Joint Stereo) or MP4/AAC or the other compressed audio formats are “smart enough” that they don’t encode the same information twice, so there is no harm in having a dual-mono recording other than the fact that it’s “tagged” incorrectly. I believe YouTube uses MP4 (or some variation of MP4).

BTW - When you open a compressed file in Audacity (or any “normal” audio editor) it gets decompressed. If you then re-export it to a lossy format you are going through a 2nd lossy-compression process. You may not notice any quality loss, but it’s something you should be aware of. If you export to WAV or FLAC, or if you make a CD there is no additional “damage”.

The “damage” is done during compression, so if you want to use a lossy format the ideal procedure is to compress once as the last step.

Thanks guys for your replies. Like I first said, I am very new to Audacity but have learned a lot in the past couple of days. I know now that you can’t control the level or clipping that is already there with a download. But the audio quality is still better than recording the audio as I play it, e.g. “what you hear”. Recording the “what you hear” sounds as if the music is in a well or almost under water for some reason. Importing the video to Audacity sounds just as the video does when playing on YouTube.

Or, you could BUY a legitimate copy of the song! > :smiling_imp:

The honest truth is, I have in fact purchased a copy of the song! It’s on this 6 CD set I bought a while back on Amazon titled “Bob Dylan - A Long Time A Growin’ - 1961 The Year It Really Began”. It’s an import from England and it states on the packaging that "This CD set is not authorised [sic] by Bob Dylan or his record company or management." It seems the copyrights are null and void 50 years after the original recordings under England’s law (or something like that) while in the US recordings are copyrighted up to 50 years after the artist’s death (or something like that.) So much for being legit!.. lol

Anyway, the YouTube video of the song has Bob Dylan mussing aloud before and after the song unlike the “legit” CD and I could almost swear has a better sound quality to it. Don’t know where or how this video came about or how I could buy it so yeah, I recorded the audio using Audacity and can now burn it to my own CD. :smiling_imp:

Yes, I’m a big Dylan fan and I’m glad such tools as Audacity exist in this world today. Now, I wonder what else I can do with Audacity. :wink: If I have any more questions about the program I’ll be sure to call on you guys. You really have been a great help. Thanks… :smiley:

Oh, I wish I was in London, hmm, hmm,
Or some other seaport town;
Get myself a steamboat
To sail the ocean 'round.

The audio in that video is not badly clipped. I would try some subtle Equalization on it, to your taste.