Flat top peaks at low record level

When I adjust the record volume level to below 0.4 (48kHz, stereo) my dynamic range drops from +/- 1.0 to +/- 0.8, and anything above 0.8 gets clipped to give a flat topped peak. This is unfortunate because my amp output is high enough that I need to record at a recording volume level of about 0.3 to 0.2.

I’m running Windows 10 but had the same problem when running Windows 7.

Is there a way to fix this issue so that I can record at lower volumes without losing the full dynamic range of +/- 1.0?

Im not sure, that I can help you, but…

If your sample graphics look like cutted at 0.8 (80%) (…with a recording volume <0.4…) the signal already clips on the way from instrument/mic to AUDACITY. With a recording volume >0.5 it is the same, but you cant see it, because the sample peaks already reach the top of the track (100%).

The target of recording is not to reach the top of the track, but to get no cutting. It does not matter if you reach this with only using 20% or 50% of the track window. In digital recording you will never loss dynamic range if you only use 20% of the windows. But you already lost dynamic range if you see cuttings.

Using only 50% of the window, means losing 1bit. Using only 25% of the window means losing 2bit. In 16bit recording this means to have “only” a resolution of 16.000 volume-steps from zero to max level instead of 64000. In 24bit recording this means to have still more than 4.000.000 volume-steps. So no chance to lose quality!

The maximum peaks of a digital recording should never reach the 0.5 (50%) marker, which equals -10dB. In professional 24bit recording situations you do not touch the 0.25 (25%). This still means extrem high quality (22bit still used), but a headroom of -20db. Perfect!

So my adwise is: Try to find the source of the distortion outside of audacity, outside of the computer. Try to reduce the signal as soon as possible. Better before reaching the computer, if this not works, try it in AUDACITY. Try to reach only 20%.