Distorted sound while recording

Hi I am trying to digitize an album using an AT-120-USB turntable and I am getting distorted sound while monitoring the recording. I am on Windows 7 Home Premium, SP1 and am using Audacity Version 2.0.3. I am using the following settings in Audacity:

Playback Device-Speakers Hi-Def Audio
Recording Device-USB Audio Codec

Quality-44100 Hz, 16 bit

I also have to turn my speakers up quite a bit in order to hear the sound, which as I said, is distorted. I hope someone can help me with this (please!!) as I have been fighting this for the last few days and it is driving me crazy!

Is it still distorted after you play back the recording?

It can be a bad idea to keep loud speakers running in the immediate neighborhood of a turntable. Any way you can use Headphones?

Does the music fade and sound hollow?


When you get the blue waves on the Audacity timeline, do they ever go all the way up and down, or do they stay in the 50% range.


Koz, I appreciate your help but I need a little clarification regarding the section of the Audacity FAQ you linked. I do not find “enhancements” or anything related to effects when I get to “Sound”.

To go ahead and answer your questions, yes the recording is distorted when I play it back. The blue waves on the Audacity timeline top out at the 50% range, but only after I select effects-amplify in Audacity. if I don’t put that on the levels are very low.

Regarding the speakers, they are only computer speakers, would they cause a problem?

I do not notice the music fading but it distorts once the music starts getting to a louder section, but there is no clipping.

Click the Playback tab in the main window of “Sound”, right-click over Speakers, choose Properties then click the Enhancements tab (if there is one) or the “Advanced” tab.

Also look in the Windows Control Panel for any control panel your sound device may have.

So your (achieved) recording level is too low in the first place.

Play a record but don’t record in Audacity. Just click in the Recording meter then adjust the input volume slider in Audacity’s Mixer Toolbar (by the mic symbol). You won’t hear anything unless Transport > Software Playthrough is on, but can you adjust the input slider so that the recording meter peaks at about -6 dB?

Does the turntable have a volume adjustment knob? It may be underneath the chassis.

Computer speakers could distort if you turn up a too low signal too far.


Hi Gale:

First of all, thanks to your help I found the “Enhancements” tab and they are disabled.

Regarding your suggestion to play a record without recording and adjusting the input slider so that the meter peaks out at about -6 dB – Sadly I can’t get to -6, I can only get to -12 dB even with the input volume slider maxed out.

The turntable does not have a volume adjustment knob, unfortunately.

Regarding the computer speakers, I have turned them down to a low volume.

The sound is still not good. :frowning: By the way, I have tried several different albums just in case I picked out a bad one to try.


If the needle pressure is too low, you’ll get distortion because the needle is more or less floating in the groove.

I’ve looked up the Audio Technica AT120. It seems one of the best in its class. But it has the old-fashioned tracking and anti-skate adjustments. Fortunately, cause it means you can adjust to another cartridge if needed.

Did you try increasing tracking pressure a bit?

Have you tried using the dual RCA adapter cable instead of the USB cable?

That can be useful if your computer has a line-in (usually blue) separate from the microphone input.

If you only have a microphone input you could end up with the opposite problem - recordings distorted because they are too loud.

You could also try another USB port. Sometimes, different USB ports have different audio gains, but don’t bank on it.


Sadly I can’t get to -6, I can only get to -12 dB even with the input volume slider maxed out.

That’s a little lower than you’d like, but -12dB peaks should be acceptable. Different records are recorded at different volumes and you may be playing a quiet record. It wouldn’t be unusual to find a 6dB difference between records and the last thing you want is to a record that “tries” to go over 0dBFS… That’s a hard-digital limit and it you try to go over 0dB you’ll get clipping (distortion). …So when there’s no gain control, these things are usually calibrated on the quiet-side so that you never clip the analog-to-digital inside the turntable when playing an especially-loud record.

And, low volume doesn’t cause distortion (if it did, you’d get distortion during quiet passages or during fade-outs).

If you haven’t done so already, try a different record.

If a different record doesn’t make a difference, connect the analog line-outputs to your stereo or to your TV, or with the right adapter cables you can connect the turntable directly to your computer speakers. (Make sure you set the turntable to “line out” to use the turntable’s internal preamp.)

If the analog playback is clear, the distortion is on the computer/digital side of things. If the distortion is still there, the problem is on the analog side.

Cyrano, you are a genius!! By adjusting the tracking force the sound is no longer distorted! Thanks you very, very, very much!!

And thanks to all who responded, I do appreciate your ideas and help.