Recording issue. Out of ideas.

Hi all
I am running audacity on a win 10 laptop. I use an alesis io2 express as the interface between instruments and the laptop/audacity. When I record, the audio is fairly quiet. However, if I pan the track to the far right or left on the track controller in audacity, the audio reaches a normal level. I’ve tried recording a stereo track, a mono track, messed with the bit rate. I’m out of ideas. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Do you mean “quiet in your headphones”, or “low level on the Audacity meters and low level in the Audacity track”, or something else?

The waveform looks completely normal. Audacity seems to be picking up the correct levels. However, when I play back the track with the panning controls in the center, playback is really quiet. If I pan to the right or left, the audio plays at the correct level.

I’ve attached a screenshot for reference.

How are you playing back the recording?
Does the issue happen if you play a mono track (single channel track)?

Seems to me I recall a similar issue with a bad ground wire on a pair of headphones.

Have a look/see: Confusing mono levels [CLOSED] - #3 by ksa

Steve, I am playing back through a pair of studio monitors. Both speakers are functioning properly. It happens regardless of it being a mono or stereo track. I will check the cable running to the speakers and see if that is the issue.

It looks like there is a “phase inversion” problem somewhere in the playback system. As jademan wrote, it could be a wiring problem.

Awesome! I’ll dig in to that tonight!

Yes, but it’s probably not on the recording side. The posted blue waves seem to be perfect matches.

Screen Shot 2020-11-17 at 10.02.30 AM.png
How did you connect your speakers?


This is a simple stereo test track.

Left, right, mono, and out of phase. Left and Right are exclusive. There is no Right sound in the Left test. The last test is intentionally damaged to simulate a badly wired sound cable or other oddball damage.

On a stereo system, you should hear all four and the last one may sound weird like it has a hole in it or I’m speaking from behind you.

Post back if any of them vanish.


The speakers come right out of the L and R out of the IO2.

The speakers come right out of the L and R out of the IO2.

Depending on what cables/adapters you have, try them with your soundcard. And/or try headphones both ways too. And/or if you have any other computer speakers try them too, or try plugging into your home stereo.

You can also try swapping-around all of this stuff and testing with Koz’s test-file.

…I’m pretty sure this is a hardware/connection problem. Hopefully, one of these configurations will work so you can identify the problem.

I’ll swap some cables out tonight. I’ve diagramed what I have going on. Instruments come in over the blue, red goes out to the laptop over USB, green goes to the studio monitors.

When I said “connection problem” I’m not thinking of something simply plugged-in wrong… If you can swap stuff around it may point us toward where to look.

But a broken common ground (a ground shared by the left & right channels) can result in a L-R subtraction problem.

Or, [u]balanced[/u] audio connections (XLR or TRS) are supposed to work differentially (two opposite-polarity signals that are subtracted*) so a with the wrong stereo connections can also end-up with L-R subtraction or you can end-up with left & right out-of-phase. It’s more common with TRS connectors because TRS connectors are used for stereo (i.e. headphones) or differentially (balanced) with separate left & right connectors.


  • The main advantage to balanced connections is that any noise picked-up by the cable is the same in both conductors and it gets subtracted-out. Plus, any noise in the ground simply gets ignored. That’s why guitars (unbalanced) are more prone to hum & buzz than mics.

Holy shit snacks! You guys nailed it! It was the line in from the instrument side. I replace it with a brand new cable straight out of the package and now everything is recording and playing perfectly! thank you so very much for everybody’s time and suggestions. I really do appreciate it.

“You never know what the problem is 'till it’s fixed.” :wink: