using system mixer to set recording level

Windows 8.1, Audacity 2.0.6, I believe I got the exe installer

I get best results when recoding streaming audio by setting my playback and recording device to the built in speakers. (WASAPI, Realtek, Realtek)
However, the recording level hits zero. My understanding is that’s too high. When I hover the cursor over the recording volume, it is maxed out, and unresponsive–I get a message saying it is unavailable and that I should use the System mixer volume. But even with all the items on the system mixer set as low as possible, I am still very high on the recording level (though it does seem to get even louder if I raise the mixer volume.) Any thoughts? What recording level should I be aiming for?

Sometimes streaming websites have volume controls for their webcasts. One that I record from invokes Windows Media Player to play the stream and I can control the signal level from there.

I too have a Realtek Soundcard on my Toshiba Satellite laptop - with that, using WASAPI loopback, I can use the playback slider in the Mixer Toolbar to adjust the volume that comes out of my speakers, it is not grayed out. It also moves the recording slider (also not grayed-out) in unison with it as though they were ganged together - but without any impact on the recorded signal level. This I find useful as I can record at decent levels but get it playing quietly or silently.

Do you know which driver version you are using? Mine is:


However, the recording level hits zero. My understanding is that’s too high.

That’s probably OK. Are you hearing distortion in the recording that you’re not hearing “live”? …You did say you’re getting the “best results” this way, so I think everything is OK.

It’s OK to hit 0dB digitally, it’s just not OK to “try” to go over 0dB. Most CDs & MP3s are normalized for 0dB peaks (and they are often compressed and limited for LOTS of 0dB peaks). You’ll probably find the same thing with streaming audio.

If you are recording an analog source, it’s difficult to predict the peaks in advance so it’s good practice to shoot for peaks between -3 and -6dB (or lower for real-live recordings). That leaves headroom to prevent clipping. If you hit 0dB when recording an analog source, it’s likely that it’s “trying” to go over 0dB, and you are probably clipping.

Does all that really happen for you in 2.0.6 which obbrockmeyer is using? It may happen in 2.1.0-alpha.


It is unusual for WASAPI to record too loud.

Where are you setting the mixer volume? If you left-click the speaker icon by the system clock and click “Mixer”, can you turn the sliders down for the web browser and/or Flash player?


Pardon the delay in responding.
I suspect I am making a mountain of a molehill.
Let me backup.
First, should I even be concerned with what level audio is being recorded at?
If the answer is yes, what should I focus on? The pair of red bars near the top of the screen, or the pair of blue 'waves" in the middle fo the screen?
And what is the recommended level for one or both of these? How are they related?
What has been worrying me is the the red bars sometimes seem to max out.

I am able to affect the recording level by working with the mixer. There are three categories that seem relevant: speakers, my browser, and audacity,
but exactly what the relationship among them is I have not yet discovered–sometimes changing one affects the recording level, and sometimes not, depending on the order in which I adjust them. But that is only a matter of curiosity.

I apologize if I could have found all these answers in an earlier post–if so, just point me in the right direction
Thanks you

The meters and the blue waves measure the same thing differently. The meters are in dB which is similar to the way your ears work. The blue waves are in percent which makes it a bit easier to edit. 50% is -6dB. 25% is -12dB.

You can extend that idea which means the blue waves start to “run out” about -20dB (10%) or so but the meters keep going. This is based on the idea that most editing and production is going to happen in the top third of loudness range.

You can make them measure the same thing with the drop-down menus to the left of the track. Waveform dB.


What has been worrying me is the the red bars sometimes seem to max out.

That is an overload condition and is to be avoided. It produces permanently damaged sound on a recording (but not during editing).

The other extreme is recording with the meters down in -30 or -40. That’s too close to the quiet noise of the system and it’s difficult to recover from that as well. Live recordings should produce peaks about in the -6 range on the meters and about 50% on the blue waves. You’ll never hit that exactly, but that’s the goal. That allows for expressive performances without creating any damage.

If you’re recording a radio broadcast you can record higher since radio stations have loudness processing to even out variations. That doesn’t apply to the podcast however.


speakers, my browser, and audacity,

In self recording, unfortunately, they can all get into the act. Many soundcards send the sound all the way out to the speaker system before turning it around and bringing it back to record. Many people find it difficult to get the recording levels right without blasting the speakers and, of course, you can’t ever change the speaker volume during a recording. Speakers with their own volume control or headphones are the answer.

Some systems allow turn-around while the sound is still digital. Those may allow speaker volume changes without affecting the recording.

Self recording is not a natural computer process and never appears on the spec sheet for a computer, so it’s sometimes a chore to find out if your computer will do a good job or not. Many people use this process to steal music, so companies aren’t too keen on making it work well.