Most of your questions are from experienced users. I am just getting started, using openSUSE 13.1, a Lenovo laptop, a USB Go Mic, and the audacity I downloaded a few days ago. Three questions:
(1) is there a manual in a format for printing? The HTML pages are good for specific questions but leave something to be desired for a higher level view of managing recording “clips”, joining clips, etc.
(2) The “meter” readings (bar in upper right corner of screen) for my mic seem reasonable, but the graphic (histogram?) display is very low. (I set the mic gain with the Linux audio control window; this seems to work OK.) Is this normal? I can use the “amplify” special effect on it, but I should not need to do this. Listening via the earphone option on the Go Mic provides reasonable levels.
(3) The Go Mic seems to generate more low-level noise than I expected. Is this normal? Most web comments about the product are good, but “good” depends on your usage and expectations.
The default meter size in Audacity 2.0.6 (and earlier) is rather small. For recording I would recommend resizing the meter toolbar so that it is much wider. See here for how to do that - (I generally have it full screen width when recording) Audacity Manual
A good level to aim for is for maximum peaks around -6 dB. This allows a little headroom in case there are any unexpected higher peaks. The recording level should never hit 0 dB.
You mean the “audio track waveform display”?
-6 dB peak level will show maximum peaks that are about half the track height. It is important that the recorded waveform does not hit the top/bottom of the audio track. After recording you may amplify so that peaks are very close or even touch the top bottom (generally it is best to allow at least a little space above and below the waveform).
Is that the Samson Go mic or the Rode Go mic, or some other Go mic?
Absolutely. A mic may be perfect for Skype, but totally rubbish for recording a music concert.
Two of the first things to consider when using a microphone are “microphone placement”, and “environment acoustics”.
You will never get a good recording speaking into a microphone a long way away. Typically for voice recording the microphone will be within about 20 cm from your mouth, often much closer depending on the circumstance and type of microphone. You will never get a good recording in a noisy environment, or an environment with bad acoustics. Voice recordings made in a kitchen will usually sound like they were made in a kitchen, not in a studio.
I’m totally onboard with making the meters bigger.
A quick note. The blue waves and the sound meters do not measure the same way. The meters tell you the whole range of sound in dB which is why -6 is jammed toward the right edge. You can hear a tremendous range of volumes.
The blue waves (unless you changed it) measure percent. Since -6 is 50%, that’s only half-way up. I like editing that way. Some people don’t.
The down side to that is the blue waves only respond to about the loudest third of the show. It’s possible to have a difficult recording that appears on the bouncing sound meters and makes hardly any blue waves at all. This seeming contradiction can drive newbies nuts.
Thank you for the replies. (I understand mic usage and recording in general — radio station and ham radio.) I now see that the waveform is expressed in percentage; this is unfortunate since a db scale is much more useful.
I have the Samson Go Mic. My intended use for this package is recording congregation singing of hymns in a modest church. I fully realize this is not the best equipment for this application, but it fits the particular circumstances.
I will read the document mentioned. I seems to me that Audacity is widely used to the point where a formal document (at a reasonable price) would be a good idea. I write computer documentation (mainframe stuff) and understand the difficulties of providing online material that addresses both detailed use and conceptual use.
You can switch to the “Waveform (dB)” view if you prefer: Audacity Manual
(Personally I’d prefer the standard “linear” view with a dB scale, but that is not currently available - if that is what you want then we can count your vote for that feature request).
These days we do have a lot of documentation for Audacity. In particular there is the manual (usually included in the help menu, and current on-line version here: Audacity Manual) and the Audacity wiki: Missing features - Audacity Support
As you hint at, documenting detailed use for all use cases is near impossible for a program like Audacity that has such a wide range of uses.
Audacity is a free open source project, written, supported, documented and translated by volunteers. We have always got room for new contributors to the documentation, especially for people with technical documentation experience
After a little practice I find the Samson Go mic + an older Lenovo laptop worked very well for recording a mass at church. While I am using only a tiny part of the editing facilities, it does what I want. The mic turned out to be much more sensitive than I expected and, with careful positioning, it has a rather low internal noise floor.
QUESTION: Sometimes I inadvertantly cause the waveform display to change from a scale of 0 to 1 to a scale of 0 to .5 — that is, it is showing only the “bottom” half of the waveform. How do I switch it back to the 0-1 scale? (And, how did I inadvertantly cause this switch to the .5 scale?)