Input from M-Audio is crackling; DESPERATE to set levels

My Audacity version: 2.0.2
My windows version: 8.1
.Exe versus Zip: Umm?

Greetings from humid Florida.

A bit of background: I’m a cabaret performer who has used Audacity on my backing tracks for years; I’ve gotten very quick with basic edits! I’ve spent about 60 hours shooting and editing a promotional video to show to venue managers, but I can’t dub in my vocal track until I get these #&$^%&#@ levels corrected.

If someone will please, PLEASE walk me (step by step) through how to fix my mistakes, I’ll be incredibly grateful. I’ll start throwing money around, if I have to.

I’m using an M-Audio Fast Track Pro, and I believe that I did make some successful recordings with it a few years ago. But I’m doing something wrong!

What I’m pretty sure of, thus far:

  • I know to lower my “Input Volume” in Audacity; I’ve been messing from 0.4 to 0.6
  • I know to have the Fast Track button for “instrument” versus “line” set to “instrument”
  • I know to have the Fast Track “Pad” button engaged, because it seems to significantly improve a major “clipping” problem

Other than those things, I’m just not sure what settings to change on the hardware or the software! ! ! :open_mouth: I will try to get an example recording tomorrow morning, when others in the house aren’t sleeping.

Even with the Pad button engaged, and the input down, I still seem to get small amounts of clipping on my big, operatic high notes. (And yes, I’m practicing good mic technique by moving away from it; I’m also holding up a “plosive” screen.)

The mic cable is only a few years old and has barely been used. I’m not sure whether my mic is condenser or dynamic, but it was a nice mid-range price.

On other forums, I’ve read about a potential problem getting enough power to the mic. The Fast Track claims to solve this problem by providing a switch at the back, something about 48V Phantom Power.

The clipping is now the least of my problems: there’s a significant “crackling” sound, which seems to be worst when I’m NOT speaking. In other words, there are crackly pops during silence, and on the lead-in to a word being spoken (I can’t think of the proper terminology) for that. It gets slightly better during a word, then during the decay(?), the crackles come back.

I do believe that I was able to randomly stumble into the right settings a few years ago, and get very good levels, but I never understood the theory.