Distortion on recording


I am having a problem with a recording that I have.
I am a percussionist at a university and record all of my lessons with my teachers so that I can go back and listen to myself playing and hear what my teachers hear.

I am using Audacity 2.0.0 and Windows 7 on a dell laptop. To record I am using a Zoom H2n with the comp/limiter on “Drums” and the gain at 4.
It is difficult to find a good setting because of all the different timbres and volumes. For instance, I want to be able to set the recorder down (and not mess with it during the lesson) and have the recorder pick up my lesson teacher speaking to me across the room, but also not being extremely distorted when playing something like drum set.

I haven’t noticed any problems with loud instruments being distorted, but when I play the marimba, the recording gets distorted. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with the position of the recorder or not. It is usually positioned on top of a vibraphone, with the vibraphone cover on, about 10 feet away from the marimba.

I noticed that I don’t get the distortion when I have head phones on or if the volume is below ~75%. Unfortunately, I need the volume to be pretty high on my laptop in order to hear everything well.

Is this a problem with my computer? I’m not sure if this is because I have to turn the volume up loud or not. Is there anything I could do in audacity to help fix this?

I’ll include a small example to demonstrate what I mean.


I think that the “distortion” that you are hearing is the compressor “pumping” (the gain level going up and down).
Recording sounds that have a huge dynamic range will always be a compromise, but you will probably be best to record with the compressor turned off and the recording level turned down low enough so that the limiter only rarely kicks in. With such settings the teacher’s voice will be extremely quiet, but you can:
a) Position the recorder close to the teacher
b) Use Audacity to amplify the sections where the teacher is talking.

Thanks for the reply.

I think the problem is actually with my speakers. When I opened the file in in audacity and made the sound come of the left speaker only it sounded fine. Whenever sound was coming out of the right speaker, and the volume was high, it sounded distorted at spots. Since this doesn’t happen when I have headphones in would you say that this a problem with my laptop speakers and not my mic?


That’s possible.
When I listened to the sample I didn’t hear any actual “distortion” (overload distortion) though I could clearly hear the gain levels changing (some notes sound like they fade in rather than being struck). It is that “gain fluctuation” that my post was addressing.

Thanks for such a quick response!

I notice what you mean with the gain. Luckily, I’m not looking for a great recording. Just something that will allow me to hear it decently. The distortion made it impossible, but now its fine. However, I’ll try to make it better with your advice!