USB recording level low - how to add add gain plugin

Hello -

I have a BOSS Katana 50 guitar amp and am trying to use the USB cable to record. I am a hobbyist just trying to record my practice at home, nothing fancy. In the past I have used USB recording on my Peavey Vypyr and Fender Mustang guitar amps with great success. I use Audacity as my DAW.

With the Katana 50 USB recording the volume is very low - I even compared the Audacity soundwaves between Katana and Vypyr and they are very different (Katana wave much smaller).

In a different forum a user recommended: "So on the recording track insert a gain plugin and set it to about plus 10Db.

No normalize! Just the gain plugin in real time."

Where can I find a gain plugin that works in real time in Audacity?

Thank you.

First, Let’s check the peak level… Run the Amplify effect and make note of the default Amplification (dB). That tells you how much headroom you have… For example, if it defaults to +6dB, your current peak is -6dB. If it defaults to 0dB you are at the maximum and likely [u]Clipping[/u] (distorting).

Of course the guitar’s pickup and volume setting and playing style will affect signal strength. Do any of the amp’s controls have an effect on the USB signal? If the amp doesn’t have a control for that, the USB gain/output is intentionally set low to prevent clipping with different guitars & different playing styles, etc. Peak levels of -12 dB or lower are actually OK with digital recording and pros often record at lower levels. Most “live” recording* is rather unpredictable so it’s best to leave headroom for unexpected peaks.

Audacity can’t boost the levels in real-time while recording but [u]Windows Microphone Boost[/u] might work with the USB input. But, boosting digitally before or after recording is technically the same thing. Except, if you boost during recording you may end-up with clipping.

Note that your recording (without processing or clipping) won’t sound as loud as a typical commercial recording. Modern “popular” recordings use tons of compression & limiting to bring-up the overall-average level (hopefully without boosting/clipping the peaks). See [u]The Loudness War[/u].

Often, guitar is recorded with a microphone in front of the speaker cabinet. A guitar amp driven into distortion is compressed so that will give you extra “loudness”. Or you can get amp sims (amp simulator plug-ins) to simulate the sound of an amp & cabinet. Guitar amps are designed to “soft clip” for “pleasing” distortion. You can push the signal into digital clipping (“hard clipping”) and you may like the sound but that’s an artistic choice.


  • If you are digitizing vinyl records or analog tapes the levels are more-predictable and you can record “hotter” with less headroom, but it’s not necessary.