While we set up the new Voice Results website, I’m posting this information here for students who need it.

If you’ve taken the “Secrets of Voiceover” class from Voice Results in Minneapolis recently, your updated Home Studio handout (Word doc) explained why we recommend an external audio mixer and a condenser microphone with at least a 1-inch (about 25mm) or larger diaphragm.

If you do not use an external mixer, you’ll need a USB condenser mic that has a headset jack built in. If you don’t have a built-in jack or external mixer, you’ll need audio hardware in your computer that supports direct playthough (most Macs do NOT support direct hardware playthough, and not all Windows hardware does), and be able to set it up via Windows control panel and possibly Windows registry.

If you want to try to set up direct audio playthrough on your computer, here’s how to get started:

Setting Up Your Computer To Play Audio In Real Time As You Record

Although this information is specific to Audacity recording software, since this is primarily about how to set up your computer, users of other software can also follow these tips.

Warning: If you’re like most people, the more technical things to try (if the easy things don’t work) will require the help of a technical friend in person at your computer. This isn’t something that different (non-Audacity) software can do for you, it’s going to have to be a hardware solution/setting. Meaning: Using different software won’t solve the problem for you.

Before you begin, you should ensure you have the latest version of Audacity (with Audacity open, click the Help menu > About Audacity and it should say 1.3.14-beta) and that you know how to set up Audacity (click here for more information). You may also want to make sure your computer is set up at its best for this kind of work—here’s some information about that, but you can skip this step.

The Easiest Things To Try First

  1. Turn off Audacity software playthrough at  Edit -> Preferences -> Recording (picture of settings above) and see if it just works. It probably won’t, but you might get lucky. You’ll probably hear nothing at all with that turned off.
  2. If that doesn’t work, turn software playthrough back on and try changing the delay setting in Audacity. This isn’t a solution per se, since there will still be delay, but you can try and see if there is a setting that doesn’t bother you too much. More likely you’ll want to try to change the settings to activate hardware playthough on your computer. The more powerful your computer, the lower the delay that you can set and have recording still work.The setting you want to change is called “Audio to buffer” at  Edit -> Preferences -> Recording (refer to picture of settings above). At the default 100 milliseconds (ms) setting, the audio will take 0.1 seconds to travel through the sound card. Decreasing this value means recordings will be laid down on disk with less delay, and “software playthrough” may respond faster. However, the CPU will have to work harder as it is taking the audio through the sound card in smaller chunks. Setting this value too low (for example to 1 ms), will mean the CPU will not be able to keep up, and recording won’t work. 100 ms is a safe setting for most computers, but is too long a delay to feel you are hearing yourself in real time.

Advanced Tips

If you haven’t had success, you can try to get your motherboard computer sound device to activate hardware playthrough via the Windows Control Panel by unmuting the mic and/or setting line-in. Your sound device may or may not be able to do this. Determining what your sound device is and whether it supports this can be extraordinarily complicated. You’re better off just trying it to see if you can get it to work.

The main reason this is complicated is that both the mic and the sound hardware will change what you see from one computer to the next when you dig into Windows settings via Control Panel, so it’s not possible to give instructions that will work for everyone. You’ll need to have Audacity software playthrough turned off for the following two attempts:

  1. To try to set your computer hardware to play sound directly, connect your mic, and go into the Windows Control Panel > Sounds and Audio Devices to attempt, probably via a properties setting, to unmute the mic and/or select line-in for it. You’ll also need to turn up the volume to max for it. You’ll likely have to click deeper and deeper into the settings to see what all the options are. You may be able to figure out how by clicking here to read some online help information.
  2. If it’s absolutely not possible to get your Windows sound device to pass the audio straight through, it may still be possible. Some devices CAN do this, but are turned off. Dell computers are typical set up to have this problem. You’ll need to add the “EnableInputMonitor” setting to your registry to enable it. Here’s some information on how to do that. (Here’s some additional information.)

Windows vs. Mac/OSX

Note: Don’t blame Windows for the problem. Even though Audacity for MAC/OSX has a “Hardware Playthrough” setting, it is a hack that usually has no effect to make up for the fact that Macs don’t support playthrough at all. So you’re better off with Windows. Hearing yourself in real-time is a recording studio feature via the hardware in your computer, and so it won’t always be possible, depending on the hardware in your computer. Hence you could also try buying a sound card from someone tech savvy in order to be sure that it provided hardware play through of audio. You would still have to set it up (unmute the mic and/or select line-in), and even possibly have to modify your registry to make it work, although it might possibly default to the setting you want work right away.

Here are all the links in this tech note, in the order in which they appear, for reference:

  1. How to set up Audacity
  2. How to set up your computer for recording
  3. Access Audacity “software playthrough” or “Audio to buffer” settings  at  Edit -> Preferences -> Recording (click here for a picture of settings)
  4. Ideas on how to use Windows Control Panel > Sounds and Audio Devices to attempt, probably via a properties setting, to unmute the mic and/or select line-in for it
  5. How to add the “EnableInputMonitor” setting to your registry … Here’s some alternative information