Distorted playback & exported mp3

Audacity 2.0.6 | Windows 7

Hello, when I record clips from streaming audio (any website), although my Record volume is set so there is no clipping, on playback there is significant distortion. To my ears it sounds maybe like sampling error - a bit weirder than I’d expect vanilla clipping to sound. This is at a speaker playback volume a bit less than the source audio.

Sample clip attached (apologies - audio starts about 7 secs in).

Device prefs are: MME | Speakers / Headphones (IDT) | Stereo Mix (IDT)
Sample rate is default 44.1KHz

Any help appreciated!

I can’t listen to the file right now 'cause I’m at work. But, try a higher bitrate. Your file is 128kbs, which isn’t usually terrible but it’s lower than you get when you buy a download from Amazon or iTunes. (You file is probably also the victim of 2nd-generation encoding, since it was presumably compressed for streaming.)

320kbps is the “best” constant bitrate and V0 is the “best” variable bitrate. You’ll also usually get better quality if you choose Joint Stereo.

A variable bitrate file that averages 128kbps will generally make more efficient use of the “bits” and this generally gives you better quality than a 128kbps CBR.

Similarly, Joint Stereo avoids encoding sounds that are common to the left & right channels twice and this more efficient allocation of the “bits” also generally results in better quality.

I should have been more clear. The poor quality is evident when playing back the clip inside Audacity right after it has been recorded. The mp3 faithfully preserves the defect but AFAIK it sounds no worse than the Audacity playback.

Try recording streamed audio using Windows own (native) “Sound Recorder” …

If the intermittent faults still occur, then Audacity can excluded as the cause.

[ My money is on the sound being distorted during transmission, before it gets to Audacity ].

Thank you Trebor for suggesting a way to isolate the problem!! :stuck_out_tongue:
I fired up Sound Recorder, and as you maybe suspected, the recorded audio is damaged / distorted.

Conclusion: (a) Audacity is not the problem and (2) I wonder what IS?

It sounds to me like an extreme version of this problem: http://manual.audacityteam.org/o/man/faq_recording_troubleshooting.html#skips
Unfortunately there is not a “quick fix” because there may be several contributing factors. The way to approach solving the problem is to methodically work through the possibilities. Note that if changing a setting makes the problem worse, then that can be a good clue and changing the setting the other direction may make an improvement.

Also does recording with Windows WASAPI make any difference: Tutorial - Recording Computer Playback on Windows - Audacity Manual ? If that does not have the skips then you may not need to look for issues of lack of computer resources or a bad setting. It could be that you need to go to your computer manufacturer’s web site and check you have the latest Windows 7 audio drivers for your computer model.

Or as we always say here, download the audio, don’t record it, assuming you have permission to record it in the first place. Use your favourite search engine to find out how. Then you will have the file in the quality it is being streamed at.

Or buy the CD. That clip sounds like a Bartok String Quartet and you can certainly get all six of those works on CD.


I was thinking intermittent dips in the internet connection may be responsible for the degradation of sound quality.

If you’re using Wi-Fi , a reflector on the router antenna can boost the signal, and stop your neighbours WiFi degrading your signal … http://www.freeantennas.com/projects/template2/index.html

Thanks to all recent posters; I will work thru the suggestions.

To Gale Andrews specifically, my intent isn’t to subvert copyrights - the clip I attached was merely a test streaming from my local NPR station.

What I really wanted to do, and failed, was to get the rebroadcast of the latest BSO concert, which I attended. It included world premiere of Michael Gandolfi’s Ascending Light, for organ and orchestra. Which of course ain’t out on CD, but now I’ll be on the lookout for it maybe later this year. If the BSO offered a download, yes I agree that’s the best. Simply not possible AFAIK in this situation.

With the right tools, if you can play the stream and its source is a file, then you can download the file.

If it’s a rebroadcast, it must be coming from a file.


Ah, thank you for the clarification and it now makes perfect sense, as you pointed out, that since in this case it is not live streaming, there’s a file on some hard drive.
When you say “With the right tools,” would you please elaborate or point me to a “how to?”
I appreciate the guidance.

That’s what internet search engines are for.

Or paste:

"download that video using an application"

(with the quotes) into the search box top right of the Forum.

We must stress that you should be sure you have permission to record or download.