How To Set the Recording Level On Your Mac

It is important to check and adjust your recording level before recording audio for a voice memo, audio file, video, presentation narration or anything that uses your microphone. Your Mac has an overall system setting for recording level, but some apps also have their own recording level adjustments.
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If you're recording your voice on your Mac there's one thing that you want to make sure you check before you do so. That's your recording input level. So your input level determines how much volume you're getting from the mic. Of course there are a lot of other factors like how close you are to the mic, how loud you're speaking, things like that. Even the ambiance of the room can effect the recording level of the mic. But you have a control that you can use to increase your recording level or decrease it.

For most apps this control at the system level is what's going to be used. So if you're doing things like just recording a voice memo or something in QuickTime or narrating a video in iMovie or QuickTime or Keynote then this recording level is going to be used. It will also be used if you're making a FaceTime call. So you want to go and check this.

It's in System Preferences and you go to Sound and then from there you click Input. Here is your Input volume. Underneath it you've got input level and it's going to listen to your microphone and show you where you're at even if you're not recording anything. So where you want to be is you want to be where your peaks, your loudest part of speaking, are up towards the top but never touching the top. So notice how it remembers the little peak there. See how when I talk loudly it gives me a little peak and it kind of delays it and puts it there. So this gives you a good idea. You should see it around here and here but never at the top.

Also you don't want it to be too low like your peak being halfway or below half. You want it to be at a nice level. This is a pretty good level here. It could even be a little bit better. So you're going to adjust this depending upon your situation. If you're using a mic on your MacBook as opposed to your iMac as opposed to a microphone that's attached to your Mac like I'm using. It's a good idea to check it every once in awhile. If you're going to make a series of FaceTime calls you don't need to check it every time. But if you haven't made a FaceTime call in a couple days and you're about to make an important one maybe check your input level.

This will be used, for the most part, by most apps. But not all. So for instance if you were to go to Audacity here, which is a third party recording app and sound editing app, there is actually up here a recording volume level here that you can adjust. I've set it to a couple different things when I made a previous recording and this gives you an idea of, you know, here's something in a decent range. You can see my peaks here don't get to the top. Whereas here's something where it's set too high and my peaks here are cut off which means it's going to really cut off the volume there and my voice is going to be too loud. When I adjust it, it's going to compress it and I'm going to loose a lot of the quality in my voice at these peaks.

GarageBand is another app that has its own recording level. If I click on a track here that's for recording over the microphone you can see here at the bottom I've got Controls and I've got record level down here. So you can see that I could actually adjust that inside of GarageBand. But a lot of other apps don't have that. So, for instance, if I go to Voice Memos there's no way to adjust the recording level here. It's not in Preferences. There's no recording adjustment here. You just do that at the System level.

A lot of this is going to depend on really what your situation is. Where the mic is. A lot of people ask the question where is the internal mic on say a MacBook. The answer is that it's different for different models. It's just from one year to another. A lot of times it's on the left side, kind of with the speakers. Like underneath the speaker grill. Or sometimes it's underneath the keyboard. So, you know, depending upon your situation you could be using the same machine in the same room but maybe one time you're leaning back on your chair and another time you're leaning forward to actually use the keyboard. Recording levels can be different. Even with my mic here sometimes it's positioned slightly differently and you'll find all sorts of reasons you want to check that recording level. Just make a habit of it if you record audio on your Mac.

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