That is exactly what happens if the USB loses synchronisation.
Just a tiny disruption to the USB audio stream can cause the data to turn to (horrible and very loud) noise.
Check your USB cable is connected securely.
Try using a different USB socket (on full size computers the USB sockets on the back are sometimes more reliable).
Ensure that you do not over tax the computer - USB data flow depends on CPU availability.
Ensure that you have plenty of free disk space in the location where Audacity is writing the data (usually the C: drive)
Defragment your hard drive (Defraggler is free and very good).
The last time it happened this afternoon, was during tack 3 of 5 tracks of an album. I was out of the room (and then I heard the dreaded White Noise) - so the cable was stable as no-one else was in the room.
I will try using a different USB port and see what happens.
When you mention free space, where Audacity is writing to can you explain that a bit more? - When I export my Audacity project to MP3 - that is done to my 1TB server: however I am not sure that is what you mean… And of course, the problem is happening during the recording: is Audacity writing to my C: drive at the point? Can I change that setting?
Are there any other setting which could be changed in the Preferences which could impact this?
There’s rarely a half way point with USB audio - it tends to either work or fail horribly. As Koz mentioned, just a tiny bit of corrosion can be enough to tip it over the edge from success to failure. We’ve seen cases where someone can’t record on a Wednesday unless they wear a blue jumper - it can be that sensitive.
If the project has not been saved Audacity will write to its temporary folder which is usually on the C: drive. You can check the location by looking in:
“Edit menu > Preferences > Directories”
If the project has been saved, there will be an Audacity Project file (with a .AUP file extension) and a folder with the same name but ending in “_data”. Recorded data will then be written to this _data folder rather than to the temporary folder.
The recorded data should always be written to a fast hard drive. Network drives are not suitable because continuous data transfer is not guaranteed. When recording, the data cannot wait, it needs to be written to disk immediately.