Audacity 2.1.0, Win 7, recording from computer sound card. Recorded the sound of a youtube video of the Don Cossack Choir and the resulting recording, exported as a wav file, has much less audio quality than playing the yourtube view, all using the same computer sound system for playback.
Preferences>Quality, top to bottom, are: 44100 Hz, 32-bit float, HIgh Quality, None, Besy Quality, Shaped.
So you’re recording Stereo-Mix or one of the other techniques for self-recording? Many machines send your sound all the way out to the analog sound card and bring it all the way back in again for recording. That means all the Windows sound “enhancements”—both directions—are a part of the signal path.
See if there are any hints in there. As a first pass, make sure such playback effects as “Cathedral Sound” aren’t selected in the playback pathway and Windows Enhanced Services is turned off in the recording pathway.
This is easier to get wrong than you think. I couldn’t get a new Windows machine to pass engineering audio tests no matter what I did or bad words I used. It turned out one of the Windows “stereo enhancements” was selected in the playback control panels.
Thanks so much for that link! I followed the directions, including setting Windows WASAPI loopback recording (capture is entirely digital rather than converting to analog for playback, then back to digital), and the result is amazing. The wav file sounds just like listening to the youtube video directly. I then exported mp3 versions in 128 and 256. The 128 was quite good but the 256 sounded to me just like the wav.