Microphone Audio Levels

I just downloaded Audacity, and I tried to record my voice using a Radio Shack Unidirectional Dynamic Microphone. Alas, only the left channel recorded and played back, even after I bought a stereo adapter jack for my microphone, and went through all the steps listed in the Audacity tutorials to record in stereo through my Windows 7 OS. Please, someone help…do I need a new microphone, or did I miss a step in the setup process? Thanks!

Edit menu > Preferences > Devices
Set the number of channels to “1 (mono)”.

Thanks for the reply, Steve. Will that record/playback as STEREO, or just mono?

Unless it specifically says that it is a stereo microphone, that will be a mono microphone.
Setting Audacity to record “1 channel (mono)” will then correctly record it as a mono track, which will play back through both left and right speakers (rather than recording it incorrectly as half of a stereo track, which will play through only the left channel).

After that, can it be converted to a stereo track?


For what purpose? You recorded in mono (and your mic is mono unless it says otherwise). Mic ports are usually mono; adding a stereo adaptor does not change that.

As a mono track, it will play through both speakers, as Steve said.

You can select and Edit > Duplicate the track then use the Track Drop-down menu in the upper track to make it “stereo”, but it will only be what is known as “dual mono” and will sound identical to the mono track.

Do you want to add “reverberation” or “atmosphere” or “more thickness” to the voice? For example as a crude effect you could duplicate the track, make it stereo, zoom in then time shift one channel by a very slight amount.



Thanks for your reply. The easiest and simplest thing for me to do now would be to purchase a stereo microphone. A friend of mine once suggested a Shure SM-58 (and it appears I should’ve followed his advice :frowning: ). Which would you recommend?

No, no, no. Stop. The Mic-In of a Windows laptop is mono. It’s “Left.” It doesn’t matter how many adapters you buy, the normal “Right” channel of the connection isn’t sound. It’s taken up by the battery connection in Windows. Second illustration. Scroll down:


You have a perfectly delightful microphone and you should continue using it with the mono to stereo software conversion that Gale said. That’s the way I do it. Yes, I understand that everybody accepts mono sound files, but for unquestioned compatibility, I deliver stereo, even if it’s a single audio track – officially “two-track mono.”

The Shure SM58 is a terrific mono microphone. I have one and the company has one.

To get one-step stereo recordings requires either a special USB microphone or an analog mixer and a Mac, or an analog mixer and a USB converter. It’s not simple or easy. Stick with what you have until you can point to a specific job that needs something more serious. Then post back. We’ve written pages about the best way to record live performances.


A Shure SM 58 is a mono microphone.
The vast majority of recording is done with mono microphones, both in home recordings and in professional studios.
What are you recording? We don’t know why you want or need a stereo microphone.

The best choice of microphone depends on what you want to record and what your budget is, but bear in mind that a good microphone plugged into a standard PC on-board sound card will perform way below its capability as the sound quality will be compromised by the sound card.

I’m narrating a long power point presentation.

You said:

The best choice of microphone depends on what you want to record and what your budget is, but bear in mind that a good microphone plugged into a standard PC on-board sound card will perform way below its capability as the sound quality will be compromised by the sound card.

To Both Steve and Koz:
I talked to a friend of mine, a former colleague at a my old radio station, about setting up a home studio system, including a mixing board. What would you recommend (that’s reasonable)? For the purposes of the power point presentation, should I go ahead and purchase a mixing board?

(Note: I have a Dell PC.)

For setting up a home studio, the mixing desk is the centre piece of the studio - everything goes through the mixer.
However, for making a PowerPoint presentation, it is unlikely that you will need a mixing desk.

The main purpose of a mixing desk is to mix together multiple sound sources into a single stereo mix which can then be recorded. If I was recording a live band onto my laptop, that is the way I would do it. I’d mic’ up each voice/instrument, set the levels and pan positions carefully for each input (once recorded as a stereo track the relative levels cannot be changed), then feed the output of the mixing desk into my external USB sound card and start recording.

For making a PowerPoint presentation, I would record each part individually onto separate tracks. I would then edit/process these tracks and use Audacity’s mixing capability to mix the tracks down to stereo. By recording each part separately they can be adjusted, tweaked, edited, redone as necessary to produce a high quality final mix.

The most important equipment for the PowerPoint job is:

  • A good microphone
  • A good sound card
  • Good headphones
  • A good room to record in.

All of these are essential for a good quality recording, put probably the most important is the room. Without a quiet, echo free room, it does not matter how good the rest of the equipment is.

I would highly recommend getting recording equipment that is good enough and then get started.
Making good recordings is as much an art as a science. If you were starting to learn to play the violin you would not go out and buy a Stradivarius, but you wouldn’t want to start off with a rubbish violin either. You would want a reasonable quality “student” violin and then possibly upgrade it for a more expensive instrument in a few years time.

Koz has produced some very decent sounding recordings using a cheap Logitec USB microphone. He had the benefit of a very good room to record in.

The advantage of USB microphones is that they bypass the (low quality) computer sound card when recording.
USB microphones do have some limitations so I’d not recommend spending a lot of money on a USB microphone unless you are certain that it will do the job that you want it for.

You will need some decent headphones. Ear-buds or normal computer speakers are no good for recording purposes as they change the sound too much. If you don’t have some way of accurately reproducing (playing) what you have recorded then there is no way to tell if recording is any good. It’s a common problem for people that are starting out with recording that they will record something, it will sound fine on their (cheap) headphones or computer speakers, but as soon as they try playing it on a good Hi-Fi it sounds rubbish.

Good studio monitor speakers are much better than headphones when mixing down, but are expensive (starting price around $300 US). Even with good studio monitors you would still need headphones, so good quality, comfortable headphones would be one of my first purchases.