Terrible sound quality after first 2 seconds (Solved)

Hi. Something is seriousl amuck wiht my Audacity. I 've never been able to get it to work correctly. I have the version 2.0 for windows. I installed with the full exe, not the zip. Dell inspiron XP pro with sigmatel card. I’ve been attempting to record various things such as streaming (Pandora, etc.) and mp3s directly off my laptop. Same distortions on each. What usually happens is the first 1.5 - 2 seconds is relatively ok (not great quality but you can at least recognize what it is) and then the volume drops and the music becomes completely distorted. It sounds like somebody singing through a garden hose at 30 ft. under water. It seems to get worse as the recording progresses, but a big drop off after the first second or two. Horrible. I thought this may be from my webcam mike detecting sound and jumping in after the first second, causing some kind of feedback, but that is disabled (both disabled it under mic controls and also zeroed out recording volume just in case). I have tried changing all the options (sources: stereomix, digital mic, line-in with a loop cable), all the preferences (toggled MSFT sound mapper/sigmatel sampling rates, record/playback prefs, etc.) “Host” says MME under prefs. tried mono/stereo, etc. etc. Project rate is 44100 and everything else I didn’t understand is at defaults. This is driving me nuts - appreciate any help! Thnx - Jeff

This sounds very much like Microsoft “Sound Enhancements” (see here: http://manual.audacityteam.org/man/FAQ:Recording#enhancements )
However, if the sound card is functioning correctly, that should only occur if a microphone is being used and should not occur when “Stereo Mix” is the recording Input.
“Stereo Mix” is the input that you should use when recording sounds that are playing on your computer.
You may need to set “Stereo Mix” as the default recording device in the Windows Sounds Control Panel http://wiki.audacityteam.org/wiki/Mixer_Toolbar_Issues#vistacp

Hi Steve. I made stereomix the only active recording input and it didn’t fix it. I looked up MSFT sound enhancements, but it looks like isn’t an issue on XP. If so I don’t know where to find those settings. If it is the enhancements would that explain the big drop in quality after the first 2 seconds? Again, even the first 2 seconds is nowhere near normal mp3 quality though - just much worse after… Thnx

Yes, that is a typical symptom of the “enhancements” messing up a recording.
You are also correct that Windows does not have such enhancements on XP (sorry I missed that bit in your post) but some sound card drivers do have similar enhancements. If your sound card has its own control panel (some do and some don’t), have a look to see if there are any enhancement or effect settings in there.

Steve, I just reinstalled my sigmatel audio drivers and Audacity seems to be working great! Must have been bad drivers. Thanks!

I was thinking that it must be something to do with the drivers. Glad you’ve got it working. I’ll mark this as solved.