Recording volume must be set very low

I am a new user of Audacity and have version 3.0.4 which is being run on Windows 7. I want to digitise some old audio cassette tapes of a band I used to be in, and have attempted to use an old, but still working, “ion Tape2PC” tape deck as the source. Running the play output from this deck down a USB cable and into my laptop and as the input to Audacity, I have followed all the manual instructions on how to set everything up, both in Audacity and on the laptop itself. This does enable recording as hoped, but if the Audacity recording volume is higher than around 0.04 - really low, given the available range is from 0 to 1 - then the signal is too far into the red and is distorted. To confirm this wasn’t just the level the old audio cassette was originally recorded on, I tried recording a bit of a mass-produced audio cassette tape, whose levels are typical as per the usual manufacturing processes. That also had to have the Audacity recording volume set really low - around 0.02 or 0.03 - any louder and the signal was again distorted. The tape deck has no gain control for play output, so this only leaves any other ways to reduce the gain, besides using the Audacity recording level slider. As outlined in the Audacity manual, to set this all up, among other things I did a right click over the laptop’s speaker icon, chose “Recording Devices”, right clicked over USB Audio Codec, chose Properties, and clicked on the Levels tab. This together with other adjustments as per the manual, has resulted in the expected “tie-in” between what that Levels tab shows, and the Audacity recording volume slider, and adjusting the record level using either of those, always changes the level of the other method as expected. Is there some other, independent way of bringing down the gain level of the signal coming down the USB cable from the tape deck into the laptop and thereby into Audacity?

Many thanks in advance,

Make sure [u]Windows Microphone Boost[/u] is set to zero (for this USB device) and make sure all [u]Windows “enhancements”[/u] are turned off.

Apparently that device has a gain control on the back …

Possibly via a virtual audio-mixer, e.g.

Thanks to everyone who has replied.

David K. - you are an absolute genious! I never noticed that gain control before on the “ion Tape2PC” deck, and will try adjusting it until setting the Audacity recording volume to 0.5 results in roughly the right input levels (I believe the manual suggests approaching an “average” max signal of -0.6dB on the Audacity level meter is good). My tape deck gain control is currently set halfway between its available labelled Min and Max, so I am certain it will be possible to get this to come out as required. Horray!

I believe the manual suggests approaching an “average” max signal of -0.6dB on the Audacity level meter is good).

The general recommendation is -6dB PEAK. (That’s 50%.) Low (digital) recording levels are not a problem and you can amplify after recording.

The main thing is to avoid [u]clipping[/u] (distortion). The analog-to-digital converter (inside your tape player) is hard-limited to 0dB and you’ll get clipping if you “try” to go over. Nothing bad happens if you get “close” to 0dB so the -6dB recommendation is just to allow headroom for unexpected peaks.