How To Keep Audacity From Auto-Adjusting Input Levels

Hey, there!

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 .6 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.

Here’s how.

Usually, you can “set and forget” the input level in Audacity, usually between .4 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 can start to modify that setting, in an attempt to keep you audible when you use that other software.

Skype is the most often cited, as is Zoom – they both have options that allow you to set automatic levelling of 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 dirty little secret is that if you have that option selected in any piece of software, all software that uses your microphone (including Audacity) are also affected.

(For my VO2GoGo Pros only, I’ve recorded a video for the private Labs area that shows you exactly how to do this visually. Here’s the link to it: VO2GoGo Labs: How To Keep Audacity From Auto-Adjusting Input Levels)

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/Video under the Microphone level meter:

(You can click on the image above to make it larger.)

Note that that check box is NOT checked, 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:

(You can click on the image above to make it larger.)

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.


13 Responses to How To Keep Audacity From Auto-Adjusting Input Levels

  1. Tansy February 8, 2017 at 1:30 pm #

    Thanks David. I had that happen before and now i understand why. Thanks for another great tip!!

  2. DK August 26, 2017 at 9:11 pm #

    it’s been driving me crazy… thanks

  3. Tom December 21, 2017 at 8:53 am #

    This doesn’t seem to help. I’m recording in Audacity. I turned off skype, zoom, etc. When I set the microphone input level, it still autoadjusts.

    Any suggestions?

    • David H. Lawrence XVII December 21, 2017 at 10:50 am #

      I’m not sure what you mean by “I turned off skype, zoom, etc.” Does that mean you unchecked the auto adjust boxes in those apps? Or does it mean you simply quit each app? Note that the directions above tell you to do the former, not the latter. If you have done that, then it is likely that there is some other app on your machine that needs to be similarly set.

  4. Gary January 1, 2018 at 9:27 am #

    What can I do, if the recording volume adjust happens and I don’t use any form of mic input other than audacity?
    I don’t use any software that requires mic input other than audacity for recording direct input from audio output…


    • David H. Lawrence XVII January 1, 2018 at 11:56 am #

      Skype, Zoom, Messenger, and dozens more are each likely culprits, and if you’re on Windows, you’ll want to check the settings in the Sound control panel:

      • Angelina December 11, 2019 at 11:09 am #

        I have the same problem. I am not using zoom or skype. I am recording straight onto audacity, and it is auto adjusting the volume. Can you change this on audacity so it does not do this?

        • David H. Lawrence XVII December 11, 2019 at 11:36 am #

          That’s the point of this article. You don’t have to be actively using the culprit software, or even have it open – just having it set inappropriately will affect Audacity whether the culprit is running or not.

  5. Hannah Bullock March 1, 2018 at 3:13 am #

    This looks like just what I need, but unfortunately Skype doesn’t seem to offer that functionality to me. Has Skype been updated to remove this adjustment feature?

  6. Alain Guillot July 14, 2018 at 8:10 pm #

    Thank you. I did as you told me. Let’s hope it works out in the next recording. :)

  7. Andrea March 12, 2019 at 12:38 pm #

    Any idea how to fix this if we’re using Google Hangouts to record?

    • David H. Lawrence XVII March 12, 2019 at 3:06 pm #

      I don’t use Google Hangouts (it was really buggy the last time I tried, and Zoom gives me SO much better recordings) but I’d check for a similar setting in Google Hangout’s preferences.

  8. Alex December 2, 2019 at 6:12 pm #

    You’re a lifesaver!

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