Struggling to set the gain correctly can be very frustrating. However, the solutions to make your audio interface louder are very straightforward. You can fix gain issues in just a few minutes.
To make your audio interface louder make sure all cables are plugged in tight and your computer sees your audio interface as an input device. Turn the gain volume knobs up. or search for any hardware issues. In many cases, an inline preamp will add the missing gain.
Many new podcasters complain that their audio interface sounds a bit low. They aren’t satisfied with the strength of the signals they receive from the interfaces. But this common grievance can be easily addressed.
In this post, we will talk about how to make your audio interface sound louder and how to avoid the common issues that prevent your audio interface from giving a clear sound.
Why Can’t I Hear My Audio Interface?
Beginner podcasters have a lot of questions about making an audio interface louder. Many expect that all they have to do is plug-and-play. And then they worry why it is not working. You can record with more than one mic or a mic and an instrument. The headphone output is also far better than the headphone output of a laptop or PC.
Choose Your Audio Interface in Your Operating System
While audio interfaces have become simple to operate over the years, you still need to make a few changes in your system before you can use it. When you are using an audio interface, you can record with your choice of XLR mic.
You need to change the audio settings in your computer system before you can actually hear your audio interface play the sounds. If you use Windows, click on Start Menu. Now choose Control Panel, then select Hardware and Sound, and then click on Sound. A pop-up window will emerge.
Select Your Audio Interface in Your Digital Audio Workstation
Your DAW must recognize your audio interface before you can use it for recording and editing your podcast. First, you need to install the necessary driver software. Depending on the brand you purchase, your system will prompt you to install when you first plug in the interface, or you may have to download the driver software from the manufacturer’s website.
Then you have to select the interface as the audio output in the DAW. In some DAWs like Ableton Live, you might have to enable the hardware I/O or route signals manually in the I/O preference panel.
- Best Podcast Editing Software – check this post for my recommendations on best podcasting DAWs
Choose Which Input From Your Interface to Use on The Multitrack
Podcasters mostly use one input channel on their audio interface while recording their work. But some of you like to experiment. Maybe you would want to have some background music to your track. For that, your audio interface needs to have more than one input, and you need to select the input you want to use in the Multitrack.
Until you select the input sources, you aren’t going to hear the desired sound in your system.
How to set Gain on Your Audio Interface?
What is gain staging?
The term gain staging sounds fancy, but it’s actually a very simple process. Gain staging is the process that ensures that the volume levels in the recording system are set at appropriate levels, but they aren’t high enough to create distortion.
Whether you are recording a podcast or mixing a music track, gain staging is needed to ensure that the recording has a professional finish. You don’t want to record a podcast that’s so low that your listeners have to strain their ears to hear it. Neither would you like a podcast with distortion in your voice nor the background music.
How does gain staging help in recording?
The term gain refers to the strength of the signal flowing into a device, while the term volume is used when we want to talk about the signal flowing out of the device. This means when you increase the gain, you are not increasing the output volume for the listeners. It means that you are increasing the strength of the signals that you are recording.
Gain staging is all about improving the clarity of your recorded podcast or song. When gain staging is not proper, you cannot take complete advantage of your DAW. The sound will be faint, and there could be frequency balance problems in the mix.
How is gain staging done?
Earlier, when the analog recording was in vogue, artists had to set the input level as high as possible so that the signals didn’t get lost in the ‘tape hiss.’ With every recording element getting digitized, this approach is no longer valid. Now we need moderate signal levels- something that’s neither quiet nor too loud.
Gain staging sees that you have ‘healthy’ levels throughout each stage of the recording and mixing process. When the gain is too quiet, you’re not using the full resolution of the recording medium, and you might run into noise issues. When it’s too high, you run the risk of overloads.
Your interface will have a knob to manage the gain. While gain staging, see that the gain is high enough to be audible. But leave some room so that there is no distortion when the artist hits a high note while singing or speaking. This is also helpful if you want to turn up the track later on.
How to Make Sure that Your Audio Interface is Working Properly?
Check the USB cable and connection point
Some audio interfaces are USB-powered. It might happen that you haven’t plugged in the USB cable properly- the connection might be loose. Or the USB connection itself is not working properly. So if the audio interface is not giving any sound, check the USB connection. Also, the computer or the laptop needs to be powered on when you are using a USB-powered interface.
Check the power adapter
Some audio interfaces use a power adapter to draw power and run. Check that the adapter is not damaged in any way. Ensure that the connection is not loose. Check that the switch is on.
Check input connections (including cables)
Some input connections get worn out within a short span of time. It’s important that you take a look at your input connections periodically and check for damages. Check the input connections for mics and instruments. Check all the cables that transmit signals to and from the audio interface, and this may already fix gain issues.
- Best Podcasting Cables – if your cables seem to be the problem check our recomendation for best options on the market
Check your volume knobs
This is a silly mistake that I have done myself a few times! I had not turned up the volume level for my headphones and spent a good thirty minutes wondering why I can’t hear anything. Check the volume level for both the headphones and the line outputs if the sound is too low.
Check the gain controls
See that the gain controls are high enough so that your audio interface gets a usable audio signal from the mic or the instrument that you have connected. The volume knob should be set to at least halfway for all monitoring situations.
Check the output connections
Just like your input connections, the output connections need to be checked too! See that the headphone cables and jack are working properly.
If your audio interface is not working properly and you think that the connections are at fault, you can use the cables with some other equipment to see if they are working properly.
Check the direct monitoring control
You should also see if the direct monitor control knob is set to the correct position of the reference. Sometimes, people mistakenly set the monitor control to the channel’s direct side instead of the monitoring side. In that case, you will not hear any sound. Make sure it’s set to the monitoring side.
Check the switches (high-z and stereo/mono)
You might have to set the different switches located on the interface. When you are recording in mono, select the mono switch. And select stereo when you are recording two signals. Turn on the high-z option (if available) as it reduces interference.
Check that the audio interface is installed correctly and the DAW is picking it up
Make sure that you have properly installed the audio interface. Also, see that the required drivers have been installed in the system.
Fix Gain Issues when hardware is at fault
On a few occasions, the hardware you currently use might not be enough to deliver enough gain to your computer. The most common hardware solution you can use to make an audio Interface louder is to add an in-line preamp.
Step 1 – in-line preamp can easily make your audio interface louder
If you are using a microphone with a high sensitivity of around -50 dbV/Pa or higher you most likely won’t need a mic activator. Our recommended condenser mic, Rode NT1-A has a high sensitivity of -31.9 dbV/Pa while our overall top pick, a dynamic Shure SM7B has a very low sensitivity of -59 dbV/Pa. With Shure SM7B a mic activator is a highly recommended addition.
The benefit of mic activators (also known as in-line mic preamps) is that they provide clean gain. You can also boost the loudness of the mic by turning up the preamps in your audio interface but by doing so a lot of preamps get noisy and your podcast captures a lot of static.
Our favorite mic activator is Cloudlifter CL-1. Our second best choice is FetHead, which comes in 2 configurations – one is not passing phantom power so it’s safe for a dynamic mic, while the other FetHead Phantom passes phantom power and is appropriate for condenser mics.
|Cloudlifter CL-1||FetHead Phantom||FetHead|
|Customer rating||4.8 out of 5 stars||4.6 out of 5 stars||4.6 out of 5 stars|
|Best suited for||dynamic mic||condenser mic||dynamic mic|
|Form factor||stand-alone device||direct mic plugin||direct mic plugin|
|dB gain added||+25 dB||+18 dB||+27 dB|
|Phantom power passing||no||yes||no|
|check price||check price||check price|
Step 2 – upgrade to a better audio interface to fix gain issues
For both beginners and experienced podcasters, we recommend 3rd generation of the Focusrite Scarlett family of devices. In our opinion, the Scarlett 2i2 offers the best value and capabilities. This device has good quality preamps, a professional audio codec, low latency, and offers an efficient headphone amplifier. It also has 2 mic XLR inputs allowing you to conduct interviews comfortably. Its solid design and offered audio quality will be a good investment for years.
If you want to learn more about audio interfaces we recommend our article Audio Interface for Podcasting – Buyers Guide.
|Scarlett Solo||Scarlett 2i2||Scarlett 18i8|
|Customer rating||4.7 out of 5 stars||4.7 out of 5 stars||4.8 out of 5 stars|
|Connectivity||USB Type-C||USB Type-C||USB Type-C|
|Mics XLR Combo||1||2||4|
|Mic Preamps built-in||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Ins / Outs||2-2||2-2||18-8|
|Max sample rate||192kHz/24-bit||192kHz/24-bit||192kHz/24-bit|
|check price||check price||check price|
Audio interfaces change audio signals generated by mics and instruments into a form that your computer can understand. If you want to record, edit, and produce a podcast, this is a necessary piece of equipment for you. It also transmits audio signals from your computer to the monitor and the headphones.
An audio interface is a must-have device for a podcaster, singer, composer- any artist who records sound. But buying a reputed brand and a feature-packed device is not enough. You must know how to use it correctly and fix gain issues in order to make the best use of your purchase and make your audio Interface louder.