If you record with Audacity Recording Software you notice that each time you record certain file specifications are used. And when you export certain specs, such as the bit rate for your MP3s, are used. And you may notice that these specification choices are all wrong! Not to worry! Audacity Preferences to the rescue!
First Open Audacity Preferences
On a Windows computer you will find it in the top menu under File > Preferences
And on a Mac it is under Audacity > Preferences.
Once that preferences window is open PCs and Macs Preference boxes look the same. You’ll notice a list of “pages” along the left side. You’ll only use a few of these and you probably don’t want to change the others unless you have an engineering degree from MIT or Cal Tech. So let’s dig in.
“Devices” the Goes-into and Goes-Outta page.
“Devices” is where you select the default input device and the default output device.
Oh, and you should plug in and turn on your USB mic or Interface box BEFORE you start the Audacity program so it can recognize the devices you have connected to your computer. (NOW you tell us!). So if you didn’t do this, close Audacity, unplug (or turn off ) your mic or interface, plug it back in (or turn it on). Gasp! NOW open Audacity.
What you care about are three pulldown menus:
Playback. Select your mic or interface from this menu. If you have a USB mic that has a headphone jack remember you can use your mic as a playback device! Then the sound of the playback will be in your headphones. Very convenient.
Recording. Once again select your mic or interface as the input device. Make sure you are always recording with your mic selected. I’ve had many students inadvertently using the computers built in mic… and wondering why the sound was so terrible.
Channels. Select 1 (Mono). Always record voice over in mono. Last time I checked you only had one mouth… and one microphone. Recording in stereo can cause all kinds of strange artifacts when making an MP3 and it uses twice as much memory to record and make files.
“Recording” To Overdub or Not To Overdub
Well, that’s easy don’t overdub. You don’t want other tracks playing while you are trying to record. So turn that off. And you don’t want hardware or software monitoring. It will be delayed a bunch and the echo will drive you crazy. Real simple… all boxes unchecked.
“Quality” Actually the Sample Rate and Sample Format of Your Recordings
For some bizarre and nerdish reason, Audacity’s default is 32 bit floating point recording. OK, I know I just lost half of you. Don’t worry. I just lost me, too. Nobody in recording land uses that (or understands it). So let’s change this.
Set the Default Sample Rate to 44100 hz
Set the Default Sample Format to 16-bit
This is normal CD quality audio. And you few, you brave who have a 24-bit USB mic (there are only two mics that have this) use 16-bit anyway.
If you don’t have a clue what this means (and you can’t sleep) you can read my article on digital sound.
“Tracks” Displaying and Editing Your Waveforms
These are the settings I use in “Tracks”. I don’t remember why but I arrived at them for some reason and I read the Audacity Manual to find out these details. Just set the boxes like so:
Click OK and You’re Good To Go
Setting the preferences will save you time when you open a new project. Your mic, output device, sample rate and format and editing preferences will all be set to your liking. And you can still change these for each project if you need to (for example 48000 hz vs 44100 hz).
So set ’em and forget ’em and have fun recording with audacity!