Low Recording Volume

Dear Audacity,

I am a newcomer to Audacity. Unfortunately, I have some issues with the recording level. Despite having the recording level in Audacity set to max (1.0) spectrum deflection is very low (max 8mm). Clearly, I missed something important in my set up. Assistance with this issue would be greatly appreciated. The following relates to equipment and configuration.

General Settings:

Instrument connected via USB: Yamaha PSR E453
Operating System: Windows 10 64bit
Driver: Yamaha Steinberg USB Driver version V1.10.0
Volume mixer (Windows): 100 (max)
Sound Line Properties: 100 (max)

Audacity Settings:

Audio Host: MME
Recording Device: Line (Digital Keyboard)
Recording Channels: 2 (Stereo)
Playback Device: Speakers (Realtek)

Concluding, I can record and play back the recording. However, recording deflection spectrum is very low. Your feedback would be most appreciated.

Best Regards,

When you record yourself playing as loud as possible, how big is the recorded waveform? For example, are the peaks about half the track height? More than that? Less than that?

Also, I know this may sound silly, but it happens quite frequently - check that you are actually recording directly from the keyboard and not from your computer’s microphone.

Hi steve,

Appreciate your comments, thank you. If I switch to my microphones as line input the wave form appears normal. However, if I select the PSR E453 as the line in, recording db’s drop dramatically and the wave form is almost flat. At the moment the best I can come up with is the fact that I am using a 3m Type AB USB cable which due to the length may cause a drop in line voltage. In the interim I have ordered a 1.5m cable, we have to see how that pan’s out. I don’t think the issue is with Audacity nor my PC.

Kind Regards,

That might be normal. You need headroom for playing cords. Does it “look better” if you use all 10 fingers?

Recording Device: Line (Digital Keyboard)

That’s a little unusual… Usually it will say “USB …something”. Usually line-in is an analog connection, but since it says “keyboard” it’s probably OK.

I am using a 3m Type AB USB cable which due to the length may cause a drop in line voltage.

That’s not the problem… A drop in the digital voltage won’t cause a drop in signal level. If the digital data is not read correctly, it won’t work at all or the audio will get badly messed-up.

Audacity set to max (1.0) spectrum deflection is very low (max 8mm).

I’m not sure how to interpret that… It kinda’ depends on your window-size & screen size. What’s the (approximate) maximum on the 0 → 1.0 scale?

…Or better yet, run the Amplify effect and make note of the default amplification dB so you can tell us. That’ll tell you how much headroom you have. Then go-ahead and apply the default amplification and then check to see how it sounds.

BTW - The regular waveform view doesn’t show the spectrum… Vertical is amplitude and horizontal is time.

Hi DVDdoug,

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my questions. I have worked through the options detailed in your post.

  1. The recording device I am using is “Line (Digital Keyboard)”, using 10 fingers at once to generate a tone makes no difference to the amplitude (still almost flat). However, selecting the mic in option and speaking into the application shows proper wave amplitude.

  2. Re USB cable length. I just visited the Yamaha website containing computer/instrument related information. One paragraph relating to the PSR E453 states “Use an AB type USB cable of less than 3 meters. USB 3.0 cables cannot be used”

  3. Despite using the maximum Recording Volume of 1.0 wave amplitude displayed on screen is almost flat. Observing the recording level (L/R) during play indicates a deflection of max -48.

Concluding, I can only assume the problems is with the PSR E453.

Does the playback volume of the PSR E453 affect the recording level?

Observing the recording level (L/R) during play indicates a deflection of max -48

Yeah, -48dB is a problem!!! I would assume it’s a problem/setting on the keyboard.

It’s also possible to record the analog line/headphone output but you need a line input on your computer/soundcard. If you have a desktop/tower computer all you’d need is the appropriate adapter cables, plus a Y-adapter so you can connect speakers or headphones at the same time. If you have a laptop with only mic-in and headphone-out, you’d need a USB audio interface with line inputs.

…Or you can use different software (not Audacity) for USB MIDI, but that’s a “different concept” since you’d be capturing the MIDI messages and playing virtual instruments on your computer instead of capturing/recording the digital audio from your keyboard. MIDI editing is more flexible than audio editing (you can edit the notes & timing and change the virtual instrument) but you can’t record the exact-sound from your keyboard.

Thank you for taking the time to respond and assist a newcomers to Audacity with problems such as mine even so they may be trivial to a seasoned professional. In regards to the problem described I think I can safely conclude that the issue is with my keyboard. As such, I will focus on that.

In regards to increasing volume on my PSR no increase in amplitude has been observed. At your suggestion I have experimented with two other applications but did not notice any increase in amplitude.

Again, many thanks for your your kind assistance, I will let you know how I progress with my PSR.

Hi. Did you ever find a resolution to this? I have an almost identical problem with a very similar keyboard (Yamaha EW400).

Check if the output level depends on the keyboard’s main volume control.

Thanks for reply. I’m afraid it doesn’t seem to depend upon keyboard volume. Once I have made a recording and I increase the playback volume for the new track in the mix it distorts as if it’s too loud but it’s still relatively quiet. I can provide a screen dump if required. It seems to behave more or less the same irrespective of which Audio Host I select. FYI, I got similar symptoms when I plugged the keyboard into a Focusrite device instead of using the keyboard’s USB connection.

The volume level on display looks healthy during recording (between -34 and -20) but barely registers in the track display - about 1/8th of the available track height.

Yamaha expects you to be able to transmit digital sound down the USB cable.

Screen Shot 2019-10-10 at 7.54.20.png
But then they send us to a different document…

Have you looked at this on-line PDF manual? It’s unusual for a USB system, normally used for MIDI machine control on keyboards, to be able to do that and audio services without some gymnastics. They can’t both be ordinary and native.


That’s pretty low.
0 dB corresponds to full track height.
-6 dB corresponds to 1/2 the height of a track.
-12 dB corresponds to 1/4 of the height of a track.
-18 dB corresponds to 1/8 of the height of a track.
-24 dB corresponds to 1/16 of the height of a track.
-30 dB corresponds to 1/32 of the height of a track.

Can you get the level on the meter up to around -6 dB? That would be an ideal recording level.

looks healthy during recording (between -34 and -20)

That may be normal, but it’s not healthy. Can you overload the sound channel? Can you make the blue waves go all the way up and make the sound meter turn red? You would never do a show in clipping and overload like that, but it should be possible.

The Audacity blue waves only display the loudest about 25dB of the show. 100% blue waves is 0dB and 5% blue waves comes in about -26dB. That’s a thin, rumply line on the screen. That’s why you need the bouncing sound meter to display everything.

That’s not an accident. If your show volume doesn’t make it into healthy blue waves, you may have trouble recording it without damage and mixing it with more normal music. This error can also mess up overdubbing/sound on sound.

There’s still a mystery…