Having Problems With Windows, Audacity And Your USB Mike?
My friend and client, Brian Selke, is one of the best Windows techs I know.
(He’s actually teaching a class on how to stay safe as a Windows user…more details soon.)
He ran into some issues getting his AT-2020 USB Plus and Audacity to record cleanly and smoothly on his then-new Windows laptop, and as usual, he wouldn’t rest until he figure it all out.
If you’re having issues getting your mike and software to play nicely, this article is going to be very helpful.
It started with a stuttering when playing back, which turned out to be a stuttering when recording – not just in Audacity, but in any piece of software he tried. And it was with any USB mike he had, most notably, the mike we recommend, the AT-2020 USB Plus from AudioTechnica.
And it started happening when he’d upgraded to Windows 7, and continued in later upgrades. He thought it might be a buffer issue – the buffer being where data is stored until the computer can handle it – like when recording a steady stream of audio.
Turns out he was right.
So, Brian started talking with AudioTechnica, and researching user forums for Audacity. Then, he found the answer.
(Truthfully, he did a lot of legwork that’s saving you and me time and frustration. You might thank him the next time you see him.)
He got a note back from AudioTechnica when he asked if they’d seen problems like this with Audacity. Here’s what they said:
To be completely honest, this is the first I’m hearing of the issue you speak of as it relates to Windows 7. Although we do not manufacture Audacity, we do give limited support.
Most of the time, when one is experiences buffer issues, this is due to the hardware used and the amount of work the computer processor is doing. When recording, it is recommended to shut down all other programs and only use Audacity. This way, CPU is allocating all of its resources to Audacity and processing the USB audio signal.
Some additional tips on making certain you are operating properly with AT2020 USB mikes:
1. Make sure you are not connecting multiple USB audio devices to your computer at the same time. Currently, computers can only recognize a single USB audio device at a time. If multiple USB audio devices are connected, you will need to disconnect all other devices in favor of the one you want to use.
2. Try a different USB port, and see if that fixes things. Sometimes computers apply different amounts of power to different USB ports.
3. Try a different USB cable. The quality of USB cables varies; if you elected to purchase the bargain brand, you might experience bargain results.
4. Make sure your computer is fully up-to-date. This includes your OS, your drivers, and any subsequent programs/software. (Brian adds, “And make sure the system BIOS is up to date.”)
5. Try a different computer to verify the issue. If it works on another computer, then you know you have some work to do with the first computer.
6. Avoid USB 3.0 ports, USB Hubs, and USB inputs on computer monitors. All are known to have issues with USB Audio Devices.
Since you have stated that this is happening with Audacity and not with the built-in recording application, you might ultimately need to consult Audacity’s help page. There is also not an included driver to update. However, the attached document might help to update the driver supplied by Windows 7 and/or the soundcard.
Hope this helps!
Your AT Support team
Brian also reminded me that USB microphones like and need steady voltage. He also advised me to make sure that Audacity is up to date, as well. You can always get the current version here:
So what eventually solved the issue? A powered USB hub for him, but this might not be the same solution for everyone.
Brian offers the following links to make sure that #4 above (making sure your Windows is completely up to date) is taken care of:
For updating Windows XP/2003, visit http://support.microsoft.com/kb/938136
For updating Windows Vista, visit both http://support.microsoft.com/kb/933433 and http://support.microsoft.com/kb/981214
For updating Windows 7, there are several articles:
And here’s a Microsoft FixIt tool for diagnosing USB issues: http://support.microsoft.com/mats/Windows_USB_diagnostics/en-us
If you’ve had issues with your new(ish) Windows laptop or desktop smoothly and surely recording your audio from your USB mic using Audacity, please leave both Brian and me a comment about it below.
A huge thanks to Brian W. Selke for all of this information.
Hope this helps.
What is the main difference between AT-2020 USB Plus and the regular AT-2020 USB?
The Plus has a headphone jack, a volume control and a dial that lets you mix the sound in your headphones to include what you’re recording, and playing back the result. The AT-2020 USB (no Plus) does not.
It’s extraordinarily important that you choose the Plus. Monitoring your work as you perform it is key, despite what anyone else might tell you.
OMG. I have just started getting exactly the problems you describe .I’m a firm believer in simplicity and have a USB mic- Maxell.009 which I like,a Dell mini that is dedicated for my voice work and have been pleased with Audacity through the years. I have been trying to figure a solution to the problem but maybe just maybe the solution is here!!!
I am going to plod through everything you suggest here(Thank you in advance for this info- so generous) and will let you know how it turns out.
I do enjoy your newsletter David Thanks so much. Thank you Brian!
What are the windows 10 appreciate requirements
Thanks for the helpful article. I’ve tried each of these suggestions with no improvement in the glitchiness of playback and recording on my Windows 10 system. Apparently Windows 10 isn’t compatible with Microsoft Fix-It either. Still searching for a solution.
Hi David & Brian,
You may recall connecting me with Brian for help because my trusty home studio became inoperable soon after I upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 10 and my DELL stopped recognizing my AudioTechnica USB Plus Mic altogether. Brian literally spent 4 consecutive hours trying to resolve the issue, and promised to use his professional connections to get answers.
I ended up being given a new, updated DELL which recorded and played immediately, but I heard static and wrote to AudioTechnica, asking if my microphone needs to be serviced. The tech wrote back suggesting that i change my 3 year old cable. That did the trick, and I am back in business!
Turns out, my previous Dell was not included in the list of models made compatible with Windows 10.
I plan to take your advice David, and make my next laptop purchase a transition to a MAC.
Wow, that’s great information! Thanks David.
For Windows 10 users, I want to mention that the new Creators’ Update is a big deal, and behaves almost like a re-do of the Operating System. You may want to make a backup before that comes around.
I specifically mention it here because usually plugging in an AT2020 USB+ to a Win 7/8/8.1 or 10 machine, even for the first time, Windows doesn’t bat an eye. But when I plugged in my AT2020 USB+ on Saturday, Windows went through an “additional setup is needed for this device” dance and it took about a minute before it told me the mic was ready.
I recorded some podcast material and some auditions with no problems, but I’m going to keep an eye on it.
Thank you David, for this information. I have been having issues with my mic, AT 2020 USB plus recording to my HP laptop with audacity and I will try the suggestions listed above.
I appreciate your informative news-letter.
Please ask Brian which powered USB hub did he buy? I’m using a Belkin that was recommended by Apple.
My audio levels are horrible with my AT2035 and my Windows computer. Thankfully, as much as I don’t want to use it, Audacity’s normalize feature works great. I just need a mac, but no money for it yet.
The 2035 is not a USB mic, so have you adjusted the output of your audio interface?
You just helped me get my noise floor back to -60 db….just changed the USB port and a huge difference.