increasing RMS while keeping peak below -3dB

Hello fellow Audacityphiles,
I’m in San Diego, CA, United States.

Here’s my setup:
I’m using Windows 10
Audacity version 2.4.2
I am recording voice files of submission to ACX.
I am using cheap dynamic mic: Neewer NW-040 (MIC6)
Audio interface: Pyle PAD 10MXU mini mixer
Pop filter
I have mic gain cranked up to max in both the audio interface and in Audacity.

I can only get the recording level up to about -18dB without shouting into the mic.

Here’s my problem:

For ACX, peak needs to be at -3dB and RMS needs to be around -20dB.
When I increase RMS, the peak goes above -3dB.
When I normalize to -3dB peak, the RMS is too low.
How do a get both RMS of around -20dB and peak at -3dB?

Thanks for your help.
May God richly bless you.

Audacity has a nice [u]Recommended Audiobook Mastering Process[/u] that will nail your RMS & peak levels every time! The “trick” is limiting to bring down the peaks after setting the RMS level.

I have mic gain cranked up to max in both the audio interface and in Audacity.

I can only get the recording level up to about -18dB without shouting into the mic.

That might be OK if the sound quality and noise are OK. Otherwise you might need a different microphone.

Of course you shouldn’t shout but you should speak with a strong-confident voice like you are speaking to a room full of people. A strong signal into the mic means a stronger signal-to-noise ratio).

Most “serious recording” is done with a [u]studio condenser microphone[/u] which will usually cost $100 USD or more. Condenser mics have a built-in “head amp” which is phantom powered from your interface and you’ll probably get 12 to 18dB more signal compared to your dynamic mic.

A more sensitive (higher output) mic will NOT help (or hurt) with acoustic-room noise but it will help with any preamp noise. Again, a better signal-to-noise ratio.

The audiobook mastering suite is a collection of tools that work well together. You need to use them all, in order, and don’t add any in the middle.

Can you get the peak light on the Pyle to come on, even when shouting? Never blow into a microphone, but any voice volume you can make is OK. If you can’t ever get there, then there may be something broken.

There’s a trick for getting more zot from a microphone. Don’t put it in front. Put it off to one side (B) and closer using oblique placement.

You may not need the pop filter if you do that.

Dynamic microphones can sound very pleasant and firm but tend to be a little on the low volume side. Even the super-duper Shure SM7b…

…is frequently sold with a sound booster called a Cloud Lifter.

Dynamic just means moving coil. Your voice moves a small coil of wire and that’s what makes the sound.

Condenser microphones are generally highly thought of, but they can have some problems of their own. They’re crisp and clear, but they can be too crisp and you have to run software called DeEssers to keep them from sounding harsh and gritty.

My vote is to see if we can get what you got running.

It is a really big deal to have a nice room. No bare wall echoes and no noise. If you’re recording in a kitchen or bathroom, almost all microphones are going to sound terrible.

When you get far enough in, record and post a sound test.

Don’t process anything. Just record it, export the file, and post it.

We can give you a lot of good comments if we can hear what you got.


Thanks Koz for your prompt reply. I will try what you suggested and let you know how it goes.


I’m using Audacity 2.4.2

I am not finding Limiter under Effects. Is it called something else?

Look in the bottom section. (The Nyquist plug-ins are listed separately below the “built-in” effects.)

If you really-really don’t see it, click on Add-Remove Plug-ins at the top of the effect list. Find Limiter and make sure it’s enabled.

You don’t need the Limiter to post a test sound file on the forum. The post should be completely “clean” with no effects or corrections.

Read down the blue links. They’re very short


I tried what you suggested, Koz, and it works perfectly. I am now able to pass ACX check. Thanks for your help on that. Now I need to make a macro of those three effects steps.

We haven’t done that already because Loudness Normalization has an Undocumented Feature. Did you notice when you ran it that the display crossed LUFS and RMS by mistake? It’s not a good idea to fold an unstable tool into a macro so you can’t tell what it’s really doing.

Further, assuming we fix that in Audacity 3.0, your Macro might fail depending on how we fixed it.


I am now able to pass ACX check.

And before you get all excited, that’s the gate-keeping test just to get in the front door (ACX has a similar on-line test). You also have to be reading a book I can buy on Amazon and has to not be on the Forbidden Book List (scroll down).

You also have to pass Human Quality Control where a real person listens to it for theatrical quality and absence of damage.You are creating a product for sale. You can’t have ticking, popping, or kitchen/bathroom echoes and and your voice can’t scare the horses.

Oddly, another place people fail is the amount of silence before and after each chapter. There are rules for that.

It needs to be actual room tone, not something you generated in Audacity.