Distortion and drop-outs recording LPs

Mac OS 10.6.8
Audacity 2.0.3

Recording LPs from a phono stage into Griffin PowerWave, then into the USB port of the computer. I can record, set recording levels, etc. Recording level set to .5 (of 1.0 max) and there’s NO clipping. Yet I’m getting drop outs and distortion occasionally. Sometimes I can record a full album side, sometimes not even one song. I’ve had trouble occasionally with the OS throwing spinning beachballs (but I recpaced the HD recently and it’s less of a problem). Once this starts, it’s unusual for it to go back to normal for more than a few seconds or minute at most. Even restarting Audacity doesn’t help.

Where do I start looking for the cause? It’s not recording level and clipping (but it does sometimes sound like clipping). The turntable and phono stage doesn’t ever sound like this when played into an amp.

Thanks a ton.

(but I recpaced the HD recently and it’s less of a problem)

Less of a problem, but it didn’t go away? The SBBOD is the machine with a blue face gasping for air. When you start a process, MacOS allocates an expected time to completion. If the process goes over that in an unexpected way, you get the SBBOD.

You can look at this upside down. You can test your Mac to see if it’s fast by running a live Audacity audio capture. If you get clicking, gaps, holes, and SBBODs, then no, it’s probably not.


There’s quite a list of things you can try to hurry things along. Consolidate most of the thousands of icons on your desktop into one folder. MacOS has to individually manage every visible icon. Have you ever run Disk Utilities > Verify Disk and Repair Permissions? How about compressing the log files with the periodic command?

How full is the drive? At least 20% free?

Is the capture drive internal or FireWire? Audacity doesn’t much like managing network or USB drives.

Do you like to leave bunches of applications closed but running (tagged icon in the dock?) Close everything when you capture.

Do you run Virus Protection? Disconnect the network and turn that off during a capture.

I’m sure there’s others.


When was the last time you halted the Mac to a dead stop and restarted it – twice? Stop it. Count to ten, restart it and go get coffee. When it’s settled, do it again.

I didn’t used to think this made any difference, but I was watching the system analysis tools and the second start is very much cleaner than the first. The first one was just housekeeping, logging and repairs and trying to get it all in before being used again. By the second start, everything’s stable and ready.


Thanks. Yes, the beachballs continue. The original HD was dying (SMART failure) but the new one seems fine. I think it’s more OS and machine related (it’s a 2007 MacBook for cryin’ out loud - LOL - but it does have 4GB RAM, 2.16 speed, etc., not too bad really).

I have run Onyx to clean the system, and have restarted recently. I’ll try the speed test you mention with Audacity capture, and compressing log files. HD is only about 2/5 full. I did try to close apps before hand, but I also had quite a bit running. I DO run virus protection so will try turning that off.

Oddly, I restarted, opened just 3 apps (Thunderbird email, Google Chrome and Audacity) and still had problems. But…when I closed Chrome, I was able to capture files fine. Seems like there may be an issue there, though I can’t figure out why that would be.

Thanks again!

Oh, and I’ve never done the multiple restart thing. Never even heard of it. Will try it soon, thanks.

I stopped using Firefox on this machine because it was somehow causing profound instabilities. I never figured out what exactly was wrong, but the machine would hang when I was trying to watch a movie – even locally – and trying to play certain songs on-line. The machine would just go away. Its eyes would roll up and it would start blowin’ spit bubbles. I had to restart each time and flush all my work.

It took me a good long time to get rid of Firefox, too; the program deletion kept hanging with occasional SBBODs. That’s so not a good sign.

I saved my history.

So now I use Safari and Chrome and that was the last system crash several months ago.

Some overzealous virus programs insist on inspecting each and every byte that goes to the hard drive. That’s deadly when you’re trying to do live capture or production. Have you ever needed the protection? One of the very large production Macs at work came from the supplier with Norton and it was nothing but a headache from the first day.


In the past there have been some serious stability problems due to the Adobe Flash plug-in in Firefox. (this was a major headache on Linux but I believe it was a problem for all ‘Nix’ based systems). On Linux, Adobe fixed the problem a couple of (some) years ago and (touch wood) it’s been fine since then.

I use Sophos for virus, and only b/c I had one suspicious situation AND had received virus laden emails and didn’t want to pass them on (I wasn’t worried about my system as I’m pretty careful about such things).

I do worry about Java sometimes and have MOSTLY turned it off (not Flash yet). I’ll do some more testing but I’m hopeful there’s an issue with Google Chrome and not running both at the same time will correct the problem. Unfortunate;y I use Google Chrome for work projects (I work from home) and was hoping to record a batch of LPs that are warped and/or problematic while working. But I can wait on that.