First try of Audacity

Lubuntu-18.04, ALSA and PulseAudio.
I want to record speech off my microphone and save it to an .mp3 file, then play it on my main speakers.
Not much to ask.

But a normal install of the audacity package gives me v2.1.1, which doesn’t work according to your website.
So I get the audacity PPA and update to v2.3.2.
The interface is massively complicated and packed in to a small area at the top, plus another toolbar at the bottom, leaving a vast area of empty space on screen.
So I rearrange the toolbars into what I think is a more logical layout all at the top:

  1. choice of devices, because that’s the first thing anybody would want to do.
  2. input device monitor, output device monitor, because that is the only way to check that the choice of devices is correct.
  3. transport toolbar
  4. all other toolbars off
    File > exit to save the toolbar positions.

I have a microphone plugged into MIC, a USB webcam plugged in which has its own microphone, a USB-phone plugged in with mono microphone and speaker.
I have stereo speakers using the HDMI output on the monitor.
The Mic drop-down list does not have the USB-phone mentioned.
The speakers drop-down list does not mention my speakers, and after recording a short piece, I can’t find ANY setting that plays on my speakers.

Help > Quick help opens a blank window.
Help > Manual… opens a blank window.

After a hour of playing around with settings in Audacity and Pavucontrol, I cannot get Audacity to record from the microphone plugged into Mic and play on speakers plugged into HDMI-2.
There’s something seriously wrong with Audacity.
Why can’t you choose the input and output devices seperately from Pulseaudio settings?
Why can’t you call the devices by sensible names and have all of them, and nothing but them, in the input and output drop-down lists?

The Ubuntu 18.04 repository carries Audacity 2.2.1 (Ubuntu – Package Search Results -- audacity). This version does work (I use it myself).

We’re aware of this problem, and it appears to be due to a glitch when jumping from an old version to the current version. No-one has been able to reproduce the problem under test conditions, so we are unsure of what exactly causes it.
The workaround is very simple: “View menu > Toolbars > Reset Toolbars”.

Normally you should start with the default. This has been selected by the developers because it is the right choice for most users.
In the case of Audacity on most mainstream Linux distributions, the default is to use PulseAudio (the system default). PulseAudio then allows you to select the physical audio inputs and outputs via “pulseaudio volume control” (which may be called something like “Mixer” or “Settings” in the Desktop sound settings).

Unfortunately there is a long standing bug that Linux users have to contend with, which is that PulseAudio is prone to crashing and respawning when switched on / off frequently. This is fatal for Audacity because when PulseAudio respawns, Audacity freezes. The workaround is to use the ALSA device directly, bypassing PulseAudio. To do this, select the “hw” option that corresponds to the hardware that you wish to use. Settings for the ALSA device are easily adjusted using “ALSA Mixer”. To launch ALSA Mixer, open a terminal and enter:


For the short help for ALSA Mixer, enter:

alsamixer -h

For the full ALSA Mixer manual, enter:

man alsamixer

The microphone should normally be connected before launching Audacity. If you connect (or disconnect) an audio device while Audacity is running, you must tell Audacity to “rescan audio devices” (near the bottom of the “Transport” menu).

That may be due to a problem with the PPA build.
If the PPA build is a flatpak or snap package, you will have multiple problems with external resources (such as accessing the manual, plug-ins, optional modules and optional libraries).

You can (in official release versions). You do that by selecting the appropriate “hw” option.

When you run Audacity, it initially has no idea what audio devices are available on your system, so it scans the sound system to see what devices are available. The full list of available audio devices, as reported by the operating system, can be seen in
“Help > Diagnostics > Audio device info”
The list of devices shown in the Device Toolbar is made up of all the devices that the operating system says are available.

Given that you are having multiple problems, I’d suggest that you:

  1. Completely uninstall Audacity.
  2. Remove the PPA from your sources list
  3. Install Audacity 2.2.1 from the official Ubuntu repository
  4. Write back here if you still have problems.