One of my lovely clients wrote me the other day in a panic:
“Hey, all of a sudden, something weird is happening when I record in Audacity.
I’ve always had my input level set at .65 or so, and have never touched it. But now, AS I’M RECORDING, the level is changing on me. I see it moving on the level slider!!! WHAT??”
I wrote her back and said that she shouldn’t worry, it’s nothing she’s done to Audacity, and that we can easily fix it.
Usually, you can “set and forget” the input recording level in Audacity, usually between .5 and .7 when you’re using our recommended AT2020-USB Plus mic, so that you get a robust waveform when you’re recording:
But sometimes, other pieces of software on your computer can actually modify that setting in real time, in an attempt to keep you audible when you use that other software. You sometimes see it in action when using Audacity, and you set your level and Audacity seems to move the level on you all by itself.
Skype is the application most often blamed, as is Zoom – they both have options that allow you to set automatic input levels on your microphone, so if you talk softer, the level goes up, and if you talk louder, the level goes down.
(We used to call that “riding gain” in radio.)
The big problem is that if you have that option selected in any piece of software, all software on your computer that uses your microphone (including Audacity) are also affected.
And when that is the case, you can actually see the input level in Audacity (not Skype or Zoom or whatever) moving as you are speaking.
Let’s take Skype as an example. In its audio preferences, there is an option to have Skype “ride gain” on your mike volume.
Make sure you don’t use that option – ever.
Instead, make sure Skype is set like this, with the “Automatically adjust microphone settings” box unchecked in Preferences >> Audio and Video under the Microphone level meter:
Note that that slider is to the left, in the Off position, and that’s what you want.
Zoom, which we use for our live online monthly workout sessions and ProConnect Live accountability sessions, also can cause this. To prevent Zoom from taking over your computer’s audio leveling, go to Settings and choose Audio, then make sure Zoom’s similar option is NOT selected:
There may be other pieces of software, like other audio recorder/editors that might try these shenanigans. Treat them the same, and your Audacity levels will remain rock-steady.
Hope this helps.