low recording level

Hi: I am using 2.0.5 to record on a MacBook Pro with Yosemite 10.10.2. I am using an XLR to mini (stereo) to connect to the audio input on the Mac. I have the input selected in System Preferences and in the Audacity program. When I record my voice, Audacity records, but at a very low level, and I don’t hear my voice in headphones. I have the recording level in the program decked as well as the monitor, and in the system preferences. My mic works fine. When I try the computer’s built-in mic, as an experiment, Audacity records fine. When I use the input to record audio from an external device via the input, it works fine. I also went to the “Transport” menu and unchecked everything Audacity said to.

Any ideas from anyone out there? It’s frustrating.


You hit everything but knowing that a microphone can be as much as 1000 times lower volume than other sound sources.

I can start guessing, but it would be good to know the part numbers of the mic and the adapter cable. You can point to web pages if you can’t find model numbers. Pretend I want to buy what you have.


Thanks for the reply. The mic is an ElectroVoice RE50 omni directional. The cable is the cable that came with it, I believe.

Does your MBP have connectors that look like this?



Now it gets hard. Neither of those, to my knowledge is a microphone connection. As I think I said up the post, microphone signals are really tiny compared to other devices and signals.

So a microphone preamplifier is required. Something that provides the signal boost to make the microphone useful.

My preference is my small, formal sound mixer. I have a Peavey PV6 and I plug it straight into the thin circle with two black arrows. That’s how I shot this performance.


That looks way more complicated than needed because it’s really two broadcast sound shoots, but you can see my Mac, my little sound mixer and the single microphone is that gold thing on the stand. There are no restrictions with this setup and I’ve shot many shows with it. It will not go on batteries, so no field shoots.

If you go down from this there are a number of options. I also own a Shure X2U MicPre. That’s it connecting a beat-up SM-58 to a Windows laptop.


I wouldn’t buy another one because I think it has low volume. But it does do overdubbing if you need that.

ACX has apparently been recommending the Blue Icicle MicPre.


I’ve never used one. Straight USB MicPres have some interesting shortcomings. Nobody has ever complained about high volume. They’re all too quiet and I’ve never used mine where I didn’t have it full up. The volume control is completely decorative.

A more serious problem is suceptablility to USB problems. This is a sound test I did where USB/computer noise got into the show. Note the frying mosquitoes in the background. You can struggle with Noise Reduction if you want, but that noise is difficult to suppress.


So those are the fuzzy options. You have a basic mismatch between your microphone and your computer. Nothing wrong with either of them individually.


Please note my frying mosquitoes clip was not made with the X2U. That was made with a much lower end, non-XLR Mic-Pre such as the ICUSBAUDIO.



Also note that your connection cable is very probably custom. I don’t think the microphone comes with a cable. Also, it may have actually worked had you been using a non-Mac laptop. That pink connection is a Mic-In. Ratty quality and not anything to notify the newspapers about, but they work for Skype and other conferencing.


The adapter cable should look something like this.


If the 1/8" plug has two black rings, the possibility of success goes way down. That’s a much more common cable, but the wrong one for a Windows machine.

I bet you thought this was going to be easy…


We did a review of adapter devices and I’m looking for it.

These are generic adapters or “soundcards.” Some have microphone preamplifiers, some don’t.

These are the problems people have been having, usually with lower-end microphone systems. You can get a good idea of the typical shortcomings. “My microphone is too quiet!!”

And just because I haven’t thrown enough mud in the game, you know you have an omnidirectional microphone, right? Receives from all directions. They bill it as a News Gathering microphone, but many field operators are getting away from that type of microphone in favor of a very highly directional one.


You are going to need a very quiet room or area to record because that microphone will pick up sounds from all directions. Like the refrigerator, air conditioner, traffic outside, room echoes, etc.


Hi Koz:

First of all, thanks for all the time you put into this. I think your instincts about a preamp is probably right. I found the following on line (http://apple.stackexchange.com/questions/55851/macbook-pro-audio-input-not-working-with-microphone): “Mac laptops have not supported a non-powered microphone input for years. The input you see is a “line-in” input that requires more input signal level than a passive (non-powered) microphone can deliver. You will need an additional pre-amp or active mic (a microphone with phantom power will suffice).”

I attach a screen shot of what I get when I try and record, plus a pic of my mic cord. I am a freelance news radio reporter, just kind of getting back into the game after being out of it for a while; hence my use of my trusty RE50 mic. That thing has bounced all over the world with me and still work beautifully. It is a warhorse of a mic. And I record in a studio-like space (a small walk-in closet, completely muffled by clothes and other sound absorbing material.

What I have been doing, and I suppose will continue to do for now, is record my voice tracks on my field recorder, which is a Sony minidicsc recorder (MZ R55) and then dub the tracks into Audacity. It’s an extra step, but will have to do for now.

Anyway, I really appreciate your help and feedback.

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The Audacity blue waves poop out at about -30 or so, so they don’t tell you the whole story. The bouncing green sound meter goes down to -60 (on the left) and that’s the range where your microphone works. 60dB to 0dB is a thousand to one. A very serious volume change.

Dynamic (moving coil) microphones are very nearly bulletproof. There’s nothing in them. It’s a coil of wire and a magnet. ElectroVoice used to pound nails in a demo to show people how robust their microphones were.

You can kill one with dirt or dust. Clean is good.

I personally would not struggle to push your microphone into your computer. If you’re going to be doing much field work, get one of the good quality field recorders like the Tascam or the Zoom series. There is one poster who is turning out very, very good quality audiobook-standard tracks with a Tascam, cup of coffee and a quiet room.

I would recommend

That’s NPRs blog on how to shoot radio. They used to go all the way down to part numbers and how to hold the microphone.

My Zoom H4 (older version) will accept an XLR microphone in the bottom. Two actually, although I’ve never used it that way.

This is the newer H4 (attached). Click on the pix.

I know nothing about the Tascams except NPR used to be crawling with them. I don’t know what they’re using now. Tascams have one very important feature. They’re not tied to a computer.

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So, maybe something like this: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006JVNTXO/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B006JVNTXO&linkCode=as2&tag=transom-20&linkId=ICUKJMR5DAZW3SXS

or this: http://www.amazon.com/Zoom-Handy-Portable-Digital-Recorder/dp/B001QWBM62/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1425243868&sr=1-1&keywords=zoom+h4n



My preference would be the Tascam. I agree with the reviewer, I’ve never seen a need to record from all four channels at once. And that can just give you multi-channel file problems downstream.

Google complaints. Anybody can write fuzzy-warm reviews, but there’s nothing like reading somebody that’s had problems. You do have to be critical. If it sounds like someone has absolutely no idea what they’re doing, you can take the comments as you will. But if the same complaint comes up over and over, you should pay attention. A common complaint on the older H4 was the volume switch instead of a knob. That was real.

My opinion is somebody got in charge of Zoom and decided to tart them up. The original, simple Zoom H2 turned in performances like this:


The new one has FIVE INTERNAL MIC CAPSULES!!! Did you hear it has FIVE INTERNAL MIC CAPSULES? Nobody needs five capsules. That was done exclusively for publication push and sparkle. The original H2 is still going for very close to its original price on eBay.

How is the Tascam powered? They said it had internal rechargeable batteries, but that can be deadly on long shoots. “Tell the president to hang on a second, I need to charge my recorder…”