Recording Level Limited


I am using Audacity 2.1.1 exe

I am having trouble with my Recording Levels. I am using a Presonus Audiobox USB with a audio-technica AT2020 microphone.

I have set up the correct output levels on my Presonus and have set my Windows Control Panel levels to an acceptable level.

Inside Audacity I am having the trouble. It seems like there is a ‘Limiter’ or something that was set and my audio gets cutoff and ‘flattened’ at a certain level.
If someone could help me understand what is going on and let me know how/why this is occurring, I would appreciate it.

If you need more information please let me know.


The PreSonus is connected to the computer via USB, right? (I’ve seen that happen when using the mic input on a regular soundcard or laptop, but it shouldn’t happen with a digital input.)

Make sure there are no [u]Windows Enhancements[/u] enabled.

I wouldn’t expect to that see out of the Presonus’ digital output. And, Audacity just “captures” the digital stream and sends it to your hard drive. But, sometimes Windows monkeys with the sound so I’m thinking it’s a Windows setting.

…If there’s nothing else wrong with the sound, peaks at -6dB aren’t that bad, especially with a good low-noise interface. You can always boost the level in Audacity after recording. But, you’d need to keep the level down below that (unusual) -6dB clipping-level, and it would be nice to fix whatever’s wrong.

Thanks for replying. Yes, the Presonus is connected by a USB cable.

I do not have any Windows Enhancements chosen.

Yes, It would be GREAT to fix whatever is wrong. I really would like to record in Audacity.

I have had problems since downloading. The record level is really quiet. It barely raises above ‘0’. I have seen multiple examples of this problem posted online and in this forum but no one seems to have a sure-fire fix.

Please…someone…help me fix these two problems (the ‘Limiter problem’ and the ‘Quiet recording problem’) . I have a ton of things to record.

Do you have “Phantom power” turned on?
The AT2020 requires 48v phantom power - if it’s not on, turn down the level on the Audiobox before you switch it on.

Yes, It would be GREAT to fix whatever is wrong. I really would like to record in Audacity.

I’m pretty sure this is not an Audacity problem. To confirm that, you can try [u]Windows Sound Recorder[/u] or the [u]GoldWave[/u] free trial. (If you use Windows Sound Recorder you may want to open the file in Audacity to look at the waveform.)

I have had problems since downloading. The record level is really quiet. It barely raises above ‘0’.

Your waveforms are hitting 0.5 (=50% = -6dB). That’s not terrible and you can use Audacity’s Amplify effect to bring-up the volume.

I have seen multiple examples of this problem posted online and in this forum but no one seems to have a sure-fire fix.

Related to what? The Presonus? The AT2020? Audacity?

The problem with low recording volumes is related to Audacity:
As you can see these are a little older and pertain to older versions of Audacity and Windows. Maybe that is why no one seems to have a sure-fire fix.

I would love to be able to recorder with more robust levels. (I am using the Presonus with phantom power.)

Not so.

In the case of USB turntables, it is a generic problem with many of the cheaper brands. The manufacturers purposefully set the level low so that the turntable can handle loud modern pressing (and there is no user adjustment, which is to save cost). We saw this problem many times a few years ago when cheap USB turntables were very popular and were frequently bundled with an obsolete version of Audacity.

It is also a common problem with cheap USB “studio” microphones (for much the same reason).

In your case, the cause seems to be different.
Did you check phantom power?

Condenser microphones require phantom power to do anything. It’s like unplugging a toaster. However, you can have the wrong phantom power. They’re not all 48v on pins two and three. Some are 12v.

There is at least one commercially available mixer that tries to get away with that. If you look for which phantom power in the ads, 12v is buried way down in the invisible type. That will seriously impact the performance of the microphone. I would expect the little power light not to come on if the microphone isn’t satisfied with the power.

There’s another variation which does not apply the power the same way on the same pins. It’s something like 2 and 1 instead of 2 and 3 grouped. I’ve never run into a system that works differently and I’m probably all the better for it.

However, in experimenting with the Behringer MicPre/Digitizer and Condencer mic I bought, I found that it clips, apparently intentionally, at -3. Being on a Mac, that’s the end of the story. I can’t change the volume higher than that during the recording. The system seems to work perfectly clearly and correctly past that.

So this problem is not unheard of.


One more question, Tripper.

What are you recording? …I’m thinking it’s possible these issues are related to the actual sound you are recording.

If you crank-up the volume on the Presonus all the way and you get real-close to the mic and shout into it, are you still limited to 50%? And in case you don’t know, that’s a side-address directional mic. Shout into the front side of the mic, not the end or the back side.

As you use a Presonus Audiobox USB with a phantom powered mic and it’s fed by the USB bus, have you tried a short, known good, thick USB cable?

The Presonus Audiobox USB is known to be fairly finicky about bus power. A laptop with a bit lower voltage on the USB ports, a thin cable and a bit power hungry phantom mic might produce what you’re hearing.

I have several phantom powered mics (older ones) that simply don’t work with phantom power from any USB bus powered device. The effects aren’t always the same. One mic “motorboats”. Another one stutters, almost like yours. And a third one crackles every now and then.

All of these mics work fine with analog mixers’ phantom power. And with most brick powered interfaces.

There’s only 2,5 W power on the average USB bus. That’s not much to power the AD/DA, two mic preamps, a headphone preamp and provide 48 V phantom power to the mics. The phantom power in itself eats about half a Watt…

Assuming you are recording in mono, the strict limiting at +/-0.5 makes me pretty sure it is the known Audacity (PortAudio?) limitation that it thinks of mono as half of a stereo pair and doesn’t let you record just one channel of that pair: .

If so, follow the workaround there of recording in stereo, split to mono and deleting the redundant track.