Distortion when recording

Windows 10, Audacity 2.3.3, Lexicon Alpha USB sound card.

I have recorded several albums over the years with this setup with one exception. This is a new HP 64 bit desktop with 16 GB of ram. When I drop in a backing track and press play everything is fine. The minute I activate another track to record the backing track distorts badly. I don’t have to actually have an instrument or mic plugged in. The backing track automatically distorts, becomes off key. If I plug in my guitar it also is distorted and off key. I record my guitars clean, no effects. My recording levels are normal, waveforms never higher than 65% in height. Any thoughts? I have tried every audio setting I can find to no avail. I have even downloaded mix pad software and it has the same problem!

Test to work with recording levels around 10% to 20% of the height. Using only 10% still means a good quality of 22bit (on your LEXICON USB), but with a better chance to prevent distortion. For multitrack recording you should keep a headroom of >10dB, what means the loudest peak of your track does not reach the 0.5 (50% of height)

Fingers away from the tracks volume sliders…

…Keep them at the middle 0-position. If you need more volume in playback, adjust it at your speakers. If you need more volume in one track, reduce the others instead of rising the volume of this track.

What happens now? Still distorted?

I don’t have to have any thing plugged in to record. If I pull in an mpg and press play it sounds like it should. If I press record, even with no input the mp3 distorts, slows down and the original key drops down and wavers. :question:

And this still keeps distorting ,when you adjust the recording level towards 10%?

Tell us, what you have selected in the 4 boxes of the Device Toolbar:

We need the exact text entries of all 4 columns

Maybe you have select something with the word “loopback” in text at the second column “Recording Device”?

When you’re overdubbing, you should be recording from a real hardware device, not a software process. People who have problems with volume overload during overdubbing are recording their backing track in addition to whatever the performance is. That doubles the volume of the backing track and creates overload distortion.

People who like to record internet content have this problem. Setup for that means recording from the computer play system via software rather than a microphone or other hardware.


I am not exactly a rookie at this, as I have been using Audacity, Cool Edit and Audition for years. I have recorded eleven albums of my guitar over backing tracks. The problem exists no matter what program I use to record. It is obviously not a particular software problem but probably a problem with the hardware settings.

Let me try to simplify this:

  1. Open Audacity (any version)
  2. Drop in any mp3.
  3. Play mp3 - Plays fine
  4. Activate a track to record.
    Turn recording volume to zero
    Do not plug in any any instrument or microphone
  5. Press record
  6. Press stop
  7. Play original mp3 ONLY
    Distorted and speed fluctuates up and down.
  8. Save recording as an .aup
  9. Export the recording
  10. Close audacity and reopen.
    File plays fine!

Does the same problem occur if you physically disconnect the Lexicon Alpha USB and use the computer’s built-in sound card?

There are several options you can use the reduce the distortion. You can access these options from the menu bar.

I will try it and let you know.

I have elinated the lexicon. I am using the internal real tek sound card. nothing is plugged into an input. Everything plays normally in Audacity until I press record when everything distorts and slows to 1/4 speed, if that! My host is now the “Windows direct sound” and my Playback device is "Primary Sound Driver and my Recording dives is “Primary Sound Capture Driver”

The problem is exactly as it was with the Lexicon. I also tried a SB XFi with no change.

I am at a loss…

Is it also playing very low pitched (like a tape or vinyl playing at the wrong speed) or is it slow, crackly but about the correct pitch?

I have removed everything from my system. I am now using just the internal sound card. I have uninstalled Audacity, cleaned the system and reinstalled Audacity. It plays fine until I try to record. I don’t need to record anything. I just need to select another track to record and then press record. the mp3 slows down and distorts during the recording process. As soon as I stop recording the mp3 track plays like it is supposed to. Is it possible Audacity is not compatible with my new 64bit HP computer? I did not have this problem with my old one.

Thanks for the help. Problem was not with Audacity. Problem was with the computer settings!


What setting was it was that caused the weird behaviour?


In preferences the host had to be set to WASAPI. I had always had it set to MME. My two laptops are set to MME and they record fine. Never have used the WASAPI setting before but now everything works as designed. Thanks to all for your help!