How high should the Numark TTUSB turntable's gain dial be?

I got my TTUSB a couple months ago, and the out of the box default on the gain dial is max. I’m noticing distortion on various transfers and wondering if I should set the gain lower. I’m recording in Audacity with the Input Volume set to 0.5. Am I being paranoid about analog noise (and should I be adjusting the cartridge) or is there a lower sweet spot on the gain dial I should set it to?


I know nothing about that turntable.

But my starting point would be to set its gain at a midpoint and then use other settings in Windows or Audacity to arrive at a proper level in Audacity.

I try to avoid a max gain setting on any piece of hardware whenever possible.

If you are getting distortion, you are apparently overloading something, so dropping the turntable gain ought to be one way to reduce the level arriving in Audacity.

Will do, thanks.

The documentation doesn’t mention the gain dial (at all, it’s not in the diagrams or instructions, not just a lack of recommendations), which is especially odd since it’s easy to miss (you have to lift the turntable to see it) and set to the max.

Any recommendations for the input volume via the Windows (Vista SP2, for what it’s worth) control panel or is it just a matter of keeping it from clipping once it leaves the turntable’s analog to digital converter? I had it at 15 along with the other aforementioned settings.

If 15 on the input slider led to distortion, then presumably you have room to reduce the USB turntable gain.

No recommendations in particular. I just checked mine–I’ve got speaker playback level set at 40 and microphone recording level set at 50. That just happens to be the most recent settings I used in Audacity. When you move the output and input sliders in Audacity, the observed levels of the control panel sliders will also change—they are linked. The Audacity output slider is linked to the playback slider in the control panel, and the Audacity input slider is linked to the recording level slider in the control panel.

The gain level set on the USB turntable should effect the required position on the Audacity input slider–but how much is another question. You will have to experiment.

When in Audacity and recording, if you move the output slider up, the level shown on the input meters will also rise. So you can reduce record volume by reducing Audacity’s output slider as well as by reducing the input slider. Again, they are linked. I set the output slider at the midpoint and try to do all of my level adjusting with the input slider (next to the microphone symbol).

I would be particularly antsy about a USB turntable max setting. My understanding is that USB turntables are not exactly marvels of engineering, so I’d try to live with a modest setting on it if possible. If you are for some reason forced to max it out to get anything going in Windows/Audacity, OK–but otherwise I wouldn’t push it.

Keep the red (recording) meters in Audacity in the -6 to -3 DB range during peaks. You don’t want to hit zero DB, EVER—that is begging for distortion.

I should add that there MAY be something peculiar about USB turntables that requires a max gain setting. I don’t know. It could be that a midpoint gain on the USB turntable would leave you without any way of getting adequate recording levels in Audacity—despite any slider positions in Windows control panel or Audacity. I’d just try a midpoint setting and see if you can do OK and record without any unexpected distortion or problems.

As far as keeping the peaks between -6db and -3db, do you mean as a maximum or as the “sweet spot” (as opposed to a lower level)?

Reduced the gain dial to the midpoint and adjusted the input level accordingly, making sure that the input level meter stayed far away from 0db…and I guess I’m fine since the new LP I tried sounded great. A recent used purchase sounds bad in what I thought was the clipped sense, but I guess it wasn’t since the new one sounds perfect. I suppose I need to develop an ear for what noise is on the record from wear/dirt. The used record was noticeably louder (in terms of the audible noise coming directly from the cartridge), though, for what it’s worth.

Yes—around -6 db on absolute peaks. Most of the time the red meters will be lower than that, but should bounce up to that area on loud passages and then immediately drop back. Zero DB is to be avoided at all costs. You can live with a rare bounce to -3 DB.

Most people aren’t going to listen to an entire LP to see at what exact point in the 30 minutes the meters go the highest and set a level according to that. Standard procedure is more likely to be to listen to maybe 10 or 15 seconds of the disc and keep the peaks in that 15 seconds at -6 db—knowing that there may be some later peaks that might be a bit louder and push you up to -3, while still avoiding 0. Not necessarily knowing about any upcoming and unanticipated peaks is why you leave yourself some headroom by staying down around - 6.

But you can be fooled. Go listen to Henry Mancini’s original and classic version of “Peter Gunn”. The volume swells later in the recording. If you set a level based on the first 30 seconds of the track, it would overload later on when the volume swells. So it helps to be familiar with the source material and set a level based on the loudest passages when possible. But the volume swelling you hear in “Peter Gunn” is not often found in pop music. Probably more common in classical music where you might have crescendos, sudden cymbal crashes, etc.

As an experiment, you ought to deliberately record at much too high a volume so you can hear what clipping sounds like and be able to recognize it and distinguish it from groove wear, dirt, etc.

Thanks, that’s really helpful.

I’ll play around with a clean LP at clipped levels soon to better train my ear. For now, at least, I can be pretty sure that the noise is from the record (or cartridge or turntable if it’s not record-specific) as long as the rec levels are in the right range.

You might want to go to edit/preferences and look at the interface tab.

Look at the meter/waveform db range.

If you set it at -36 instead of the default, it will give you a bit finer control over the meters.

You can also get rid of certain toolbars that you rarely or never use to give you a little more screen space. And you can tug on the end of the meter with the mouse to enlarge the meter screen space for greater accuracy and control.

Here’s how my screen looks. I have deleted a few toolbars to be able to make best use of space.

That’s Peter Gunn—note the volume rise in the second half of the song.

Note that the meters have a range of only 36–I changed the setting in edit/preferences/interface tab.
audacity window.JPG


do you realize that you can enlarge your meter toolbar to make it more useful - just click and drag on it at the bottom left of the toolbar - I have mine stretched across the whole width of my Audacity window.

Note that 1.3 will “remember” the setting - 1.2 will not.



Yeah, I have looked at that. It’s kind of a tradeoff between making the meters real wide versus how many rows of controls/toolbars you want.

I like having the zoom in/zoom out buttons right under the record and play buttons and I am trying to avoid having 3 rows of stuff up there. If I have screen wide meters, I would have to put the zoom buttons to the right of the record/play buttons if I wanted to stick with just 2 rows.

I just got used to having the zoom buttons under record/play very early on----and since I changed the range of the meters to 36, I can read them accurately enough even though they are only a half screen wide.