Sound Troubleshooter

In the sections below, I cover the common problems you’ll encounter while using sound recorders and microphones.

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Sound - audio levels+

Sound quality can make or break a film. As well as dialogue, you might be actively involved in recording Foley and sound effects.

In this section, I'll cover issues that affect audio levels.

No sound

You want to record sound to an audio recorder or camera, but nothing is coming through.

When you hear nothing, it's likely you're only using one mic. If you're using several mics but some aren't working, check out 'Not hearing all the mics' below.

Solutions

When you speak into the microphone, can you see the sound levels moving in your display?

If you can’t then it’s likely to be a microphone setup or recording level issue. If you can, it’s likely to be a headphone issue.

No Visible Sound Levels in the Display

You might want to remove your headphones before taking these steps, in case the sound suddenly comes though at a high volume.

  1. Unplug and replug the microphone.
  2. Is the input setting correct? A microphone input should be set to MIC and not LINE level.
  3. Does the microphone require power?
    • If a wired mic requires power, make sure it has its own battery, or it’s getting power from the recorder. This will either be phantom (+48V) or plug-in power.
    • When using radio mics, make sure both units have working batteries and are switched on.
  4. Make sure channel settings match on both radio mic units.
  5. With a gun mic, try a different cable. If that works, put a piece of tape on the faulty cable and test is again later.
  6. On a sound recorder, make sure at least one input / track is set to record.
  7. If the recording levels are low, try setting them to the mid point. On a sound recorder, you have a master level control as well as individual track levels.
  8. Make sure your device doesn’t have attenuation activated. It’s used for cutting levels in noisy environments.
  9. Sound recorders have different setups for recording a stereo signal. Check that the setup matches your microphone connections.

Sound Levels are Visible in the Display

You might want to remove your headphones before taking these steps, in case the sound suddenly comes though at a high volume.

Note: headphones with a built-in microphone can cause a buzzing sound because of the extra ring on the plug.

  1. Check the headphones are plugged correctly.
  2. On a sound recorder, make sure the track is routed to the headphone output.
  3. The headphone volume is a separate setting from recording levels. If it’s low, try setting it to the mid point.
  4. Try a different pair of headphones.

Not hearing all the mics

You've got several microphones plugged into the camera or the recorder, but you're not hearing audio from all of them.

Solutions

  1. On a camera with two inputs, there’s usually an option to feed one input to both channels. Make sure input 1 is going to channel 1 and input 2 is going to channel 2.
  2. On a sound recorder, make sure recording is enabled on the silent inputs.
  3. On a sound recorder, make sure all active tracks are routed to the headphone output.
  4. If the recording levels are low, try setting it to the mid point.
  5. Unplug and replug the silent microphones.
  6. Check the headphone monitoring mode, it might be set to only left or right.
  7. With a gun mic, try a different cable. It that solves the problem, put a piece of tape on the faulty cable and test it again later.
  8. Check the recording level hasn’t been set too low on that input.
  9. Check the microphone setting is correct on the silent inputs. It should be set to MIC.
  10. If it’s a wired mic requiring power: check it has a battery, or is being powered from the recorder or camera. This will either be phantom power (+48V) or plug-in power.
  11. If it’s a radio mic on that input, check both units are powered and the radio channels match.
  12. Sound recorders have different setups for recording a stereo signal. Check that the setup matches your microphone connections.

Sound is too low

The audio level is so low you can barely hear it.

Solutions

Check the visible recording levels in the display by speaking into the microphone. If levels average between -18 or -12dB, gradually increase the headphone volume to a comfortable level. If the recording levels are very low, gradually increase them until they average between -18 and -12dB.

Check in your user manual of your sound recorder or camera for the recommended average recording level.

Sound is too loud

The sound is very loud or the sound is distorted.

Solutions

Check the visible recording levels in the display by speaking into the microphone. If levels average between -18 or -12dB, decrease the headphone volume to a comfortable level. If the recording levels are very high, decrease them until they average between -18 and -12dB.

Check in your user manual of your sound recorder or camera for the recommended average recording level.

Pumping / breathing sound

There is a pumping breathing sound in the audio. There might also be a rushing sound during quiet moments.

Solutions

This is usually caused by the audio limiter constantly being activated and means the recording levels are too high.

Decrease recording levels until they average between -18 and -12dB. Check in your user manual for the recommended average level.

Sound - recording+

It's frustrating when the sound recorder doesn't live up to its name. Fortunately there are a few solutions you can explore.

Sound recorder won’t record

You press the record button, but nothing happens.

Solutions

  1. The recorder must have at least one memory card inserted, otherwise it won’t record.
  2. You need to select at least one input / audio track to record.
  3. Check the card isn’t locked. You might see a ‘Card Protected’ warning on the display. Eject the card and check the position of the lock switch.
  4. Sometimes ejecting the card and reinserting can solve the issue.
  5. If you haven’t done so already, format the card in the recorder.
  6. Make sure the card slot door is completely closed.
  7. Try a different card. If the new card works, put a piece of tape on the faulty card and test is again later.
  8. If you’ve used the same card in different audio recorders or cameras, the database from the other devices can remain on the card. This confuses the current recorder and stops it recording.
    • Connect the card to a computer, wipe it completely and reformat as exFAT.
    • Format it in the recorder to create the media database.

Sound card appears full

The media card appears to be full, even after formatting it in the recorder.

Solutions

If you’ve used a card in different audio recorders or cameras, the media from the other devices can stay on the card. Formatting it in the recorder won’t resolve the issue.

  • Connect the card to a computer, wipe it completely and reformat as exFAT.
  • Format it in the recorder to create the media database.