Tutorial – Audacity Settings for Recording

Now that you know you're getting sound into the computer, it's time to launch Audacity and make some basic settings to enable recording.



Project Sample Rate

Project Rate in Selection Toolbar (Mac image)

The sample rate in Hz defines the number of digital audio samples per second taken from a continuous analog signal.

44100 Hz is standard for creating files that can be burned to Audio CD or for high-quality MP3 files.

Project Sample Format

The Project Sample Format (also known as Bit Depth or Word Size) is the number of computer bits present in each audio sample. It determines the dynamic range of the audio. Audacity's default is set to 32-bit float. This is good for editing and processing audio. You can easily downsample to 16-bit (the standard for creating WAV files that can be burned to audio CD) when exporting later.

See Digital Audio for more explanation of sample rates and formats.

If you need to change your sample format this can only be done in the Quality section of Preferences. However it is strongly recommended that you retain the default setting.

Temporary Files

Most users have only one hard disk. However, if you have multiple hard disks, you will want to make sure that Audacity uses your largest or fastest hard disk to store audio. Open the Preferences (in the Edit menu, or the Audacity menu on Mac OS X) and click on the Directories tab. Make sure that the directory listed is on your preferred hard disk.

Warning icon If your home directory is mounted from a remote server, you definitely do not want Audacity's temporary directory to be there!

Software Playthrough

Now click on the Transport menu and, if you are recording from a microphone, make sure that "Software Playthrough" is not checked – Software Playthrough will cause undesirable feedback from the computer speakers to the microphone. If you are recording a guitar or keyboard and want to hear the instrument through the computer speakers, make sure that "Software Playthroughis checked.

Using Software Playthrough will cause a slight delay between time you play a note and the time you hear it. The amount of delay will vary between computers and operating systems. There is no way to avoid this delay. If you find it bothersome, the best solution is to play the guitar or keyboard through a mixer and plug headphones into the mixer.


Now click on the Transport menu again and make sure that "Overdub" is not checked. When this option is enabled Audacity will play other existing tracks while recording a new one. You can decide which tracks will play according to their mute/solo buttons on the Track Control Panel.

It is unlikely you will need overdub for your first recording. If you do want to overdub by (for example) singing over a recorded instrumental track, you should be aware of the Latency correction preference.

Latency correction

On most computer systems there will be a delay known as latency between singing or hitting your note and it being laid down in the recording. When Transport > Overdub (on / off) is set to "on" and you record with another track already present, Audacity will push the recorded track backwards by 130 milliseconds to compensate for the delay. If your latency is constant, you can adjust the Latency correction value so that your recorded tracks should end up properly synchronized with the other tracks after correction. To set a custom latency value for your system, see the Latency Test page.

Sound Activated Recording

Also on the Transport menu, make sure that "Sound Activated Recording" is not checked.

When this is enabled, recording will automatically start or resume when the input volume rises above the chosen threshold level, and pause when the level falls below that threshold. You cannot pause Sound Activated recordings manually using the Pause button or corresponding menu item or shortcut.

Audacity Preferences

If you prefer, you can make the above settings in your Audacity Preferences. To access this, use Edit > Preferences
The image below shows the Recording section of Preferences:

Preferences recording unchecked basic7.png

There are many other settings that can be made in your Preferences do take some time to explore and understand these.

For example Sample Rate and Sample Format can be changed from the Quality tab of Preferences.