Why Is My Mic So Quiet? – 10 Possible Reasons
In today’s world, almost everyone is familiar with the frustration of dealing with a microphone that just won’t work right. So why is it that our microphones so often let us down? This blog post breaks down everything you need to know about fixing a quiet mic! Let’s dive right in!
Reasons For A Quiet Microphone
Whether you’re trying to record yourself singing, hold a conversation with friends or family over Skype, or you’re trying to join in on an important work meeting, it can be beyond frustrating when your microphone won’t cooperate.
You may be wondering why your microphone is quiet even though you’ve adjusted the settings and tried different audio cables. There are a few possible explanations:
- Audio cable: Your microphone might be quiet because the audio cable is damaged. Also, if you’re using a cheap audio cable, it may not be transmitting the signal as well as a more expensive cable.
- Low gain input: A mic with too little mic gain creates a low signal-to-noise ratio. So what does that mean? The desired audio is too weak compared to the mic’s self-noise.
- Phantom Power Turned Off: Some microphones require phantom power to function correctly. Make sure you turn it on if you use condenser microphones.
- Microphone Attenuation Pad: A microphone pad is a passive switch that reduces the mic signal strength when recording loud sounds. If you have it activated when talking, it will be hard for others to hear you.
- Sound Card/Audio Interface: There may be something wrong with your sound card or audio interface. If you’re using an external sound card, try plugging the mic directly into your computer’s built-in sound card to see if that makes a difference.
- Sound Settings: Alternatively, the issue could be with your sound settings – make sure the mic isn’t muted and that the master volume is turned up.
- Sound Card Drivers: You may also need to check the status of the sound card drivers in the Control Pane as outdated drivers can be the reason for a quiet mic.
- External Noise: If external noise in a room gets picked up by the microphone when recording or attending meetings, your vocals can appear quiet.
- Microphone placement: Check the placement of your mic – it should be close to your mouth but not right up against it.
- Damaged microphone: If you checked all the boxes above and you’re still dealing with a quiet microphone, it might be damaged. Also, if you bought a cheap mic, likely, the capsule inside isn’t very good at picking up sound.
By troubleshooting these potential issues, you should be able to solve the issue of having a quiet microphone. We will go through each step below!
Using a Defective Audio Cable
If you’re having problems with low microphone volume, there are a few things you can check to see if your audio cable is the culprit.
First, check to see if the cable is correctly plugged into the microphone jack on your audio interface or sound card. If it’s not plugged in all the way, that could be causing the low volume issue.
Also, try moving the cable around a bit to see if the sound quality improves. If it does, then the problem is most likely with the connection between your audio device and the cable.
Next, unplug the cable from your device and inspect it for any visible damage. If the cable is frayed or has exposed wires, it’s likely the cause of your sound problems.
Finally, try plugging the cable into another device to see if you get the same results. If you do, then it’s likely that the audio cable is indeed damaged and will need to be replaced.
Low Gain Input
If your microphone gain is too low, you’ll likely experience low volume and flawed sound quality.
This is because the signal-to-noise ratio will be poor, meaning that there will be a lot of background noise relative to the actual audio signal.
As a result, it’ll be difficult to hear what’s being said clearly. To avoid this, make sure to adjust your microphone gain so that it’s neither too high nor too low.
So how much mic gain should you apply? You should at least amplify the signal strength to line-level (0 dBV). This makes the mic signal compatible with professional-level audio equipment.
Phantom Power Turned Off
Phantom power is a direct current (DC) voltage that is used to power certain types of microphones. The most common type of microphone that requires phantom power is the condenser microphone. It can be provided by an audio interface, mixer, or preamp.
Phantom power is named after the “phantom circuit” that it powers. The phantom circuit consists of the capsule and other active electronics in the microphone. The capsule is the part of the microphone that converts sound waves into electrical signals. It needs to be powered when using condenser mics.
The voltage required by a condenser microphone can range from 9 to 48 volts. Most audio interfaces, mixers, and preamps provide 48-volt phantom power. Some devices provide switchable phantom power, which means that you can choose whether or not to provide phantom power to a particular device.
With that being said, phantom power is required if you’re using a condenser microphone. If it’s not provided, the mic will remain silent. If you’re using a condenser, make sure that you have the +48V switch turned on to power your microphone.
Accidentally Switched The PAD On The Microphone
A microphone attenuation pad is a passive attenuation device used to attenuate, or decrease, the level of a signal. This is usually done to prevent overloading the preamplifier, allowing for a clean audio signal chain.
Microphone attenuation pads are typically labeled -10dB or -20dB. Pads can also be placed inline between two pieces of audio equipment, such as between a microphone and an amplifier. They can also be built into a microphone and turned on with a switch.
When using a pad, it is important to remember that it will decrease the overall level of the signal. This means that you will need to increase the gain on your mixer or amplifier to make up for the loss in level. If not, your result will be a weaker overall signal.
Issues With The Inputs Of Your Sound Card Or Audio Interface
If your microphone is quiet, there are a few things you can check to see if the sound card or audio interface is the reason why.
If you have a standalone audio interface, make sure it is properly connected to your computer. If so, check to see if the drivers are up to date. Also, check if the mic gain is turned up for the connected microphone.
If you have a built-in sound card, you can access the sound settings by going to the control panel and clicking on “Sound.” From there, click on the “Recording” tab and make sure that your microphone is selected as the default device. If it is, then check to see if the levels are turned up.
I’ll show you how to check your sound settings below!
Issues With Your Sound Settings
A muted microphone or the volume being turned down could be the issue for a quiet microphone. So how do you check the sound settings on your computer? It all depends on your operating system.
- Choose System Preferences by clicking on the Apple icon in the upper left corner
- Click on the Sound icon.
- Go to the Input tab.
- Select your microphone and adjust the volume to mid-point.
- Then click on the Headphones tab and do the steps there.
- Choose Settings by clicking on the Start button.
- Click on System.
- Go to Sound.
- Choose the microphone’s properties in Input.
- Ensure that the microphone is working by talking into it. The blue bar should autoregulate when you talk into the mic in Input Volume.
- If not, click on Test your microphone, and then choose Start Test to troubleshoot problems with your mic.
- Click on the Start button to open up the Windows Start menu.
- From there, click on the settings cog and select “System”.
- Click on “sound”, located second from the top.
- Scroll down to the sound control panel (blue icon) and click on it.
- A smaller window will pop up; click on the Recording tab.
- Open up the Microphone Properties window by left-clicking on the microphone icon that is marked with a green checkmark, then click on properties.
- In the Microphone Properties window, click on the levels tab, where you will find two slide bars. One is for the microphone, and the other is for the Microphone boost; keep in mind that not all devices will support the boost option. This means there will only be one slide bar; slide both bars to the maximum setting.
- Lastly, click on the Apply button, and it should solve the issue of a quiet mic.
- In the start menu, click on the control panel tab.
- Now click on hardware and devices.
- Next, click on the Sound option.
- Then you can click on Audio devices.
- From here on, step five to eight for Windows 10 will be basically the same to increase the volume of your mic.
Outdated Sound Card Drivers
If your computer’s sound quality is poor, it could be due to outdated sound drivers. This is easily fixable by updating your sound drivers. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to update sound card drivers for both Windows and Mac.
- First, open Device Manager. You can do this by searching for “Device Manager” in the Start Menu.
- In Device Manager, expand the “Sound, video and game controllers” section.
- Right-click on your sound card and select “Update Driver Software.”
- If prompted, choose to search automatically for updated driver software. Windows will then search for and install the latest drivers for your sound card.
- Reboot your computer for the changes to take effect.
Many drivers are considered class compliant, meaning they work with general drivers on your Mac. Those general drivers are updated by simply updating your Mac’s iOS system.
Too Much Noise In Your Room
This probably goes without saying, but your microphone can seem quiet if you’re speaking in a room with too much external noise. The ideal spot in your home is usually the most silent room.
You see, electronic devices such as TVs, radios, air conditioners, fans, etc, can produce significant noise. Also, if their cables are positioned directly over the audio input, they might interfere with the mic signal.
Additionally, irregular noise such as traffic, rain, thunder, and speech can also interfere with your vocals.
It’s hard and expensive to eliminate all external noise with soundproofing. However, when the sound levels from external noise compete with your voice, they interfere and get picked up by the microphone.
Bad Microphone Placement
Bad mic placement is when the microphone is positioned in a way that doesn’t allow it to pick up sound properly. This can be due to the microphone being too far away from the source of the sound, or because it’s not positioned in the optimal spot to pick up sound.
Either way, a lousy mic placement can result in a quiet microphone that doesn’t capture audio well.
So how should I position the microphone? A good starting point is to position the microphone 6 inches away from your mouth. Also, make sure that you’re speaking on-axis, meaning your voice approaches the mic where it is the most sensitive.
If you’re getting unwanted popping noise from plosives, you might want to consider using a pop filter.
If you’ve checked all the options above and the mic is still quiet, you might be dealing with a damaged or broken microphone.
The most common issue is a damaged diaphragm. A mic diaphragm is a delicate thin piece of material that vibrates when sound waves hit it. These vibrations are then converted into electric signals sent to the microphone’s output.
If the diaphragm is broken you would need to purchase a new microphone. Some of the things that can cause microphone damage include:
- Accumulation of dust and smoke.
- Shock caused by a high-voltage power supply
- Recording of very loud signals without the pad turned on
- Repeated falls to the ground.
There are multiple reasons why your microphone can be quiet, ranging from both software issues and defective audio equipment. Luckily there are a few things you can check to identify the issue yourself.
First, make sure that the mic is turned on and properly plugged in. If it is, then check the levels in your sound settings.
If the levels are low, try increasing them. If the problem persists, there may be an issue with your drivers or software. Try updating your drivers or reinstalling your software.
That’s it! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.