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How to prevent clicks, pops, and distortion in your audio recordings

By Apogee’s Chris Lawson

Clicks, pops, and distortion can ruin an otherwise great recording session, and 99% of the time these problems are caused by something simple and easily avoidable. So here are a few quick tips on things to check if you ever run into these issues.

Update Divers, Software, and Firmware

The first thing to do is make sure your system is completely up to date. Let’s say you just updated to Snow Leopard and you installed the drivers from the disc that came with your audio interface. You should always go to the website and check for the most current software and drivers. With how fast technology moves, it’s not always possible to have the latest driver on the install disc, even if you just purchased the product.

Also make sure any audio applications, software synths, and plugins you have are up to date as well. Always check the manufacturer’s website and update according to their instructions.

Buffer Setting

After you have updated your software, the next thing to check would be buffer setting. Changing the buffer setting can be one of the simplest fixes for these types of problems, but understanding why you would need to switch the buffer setting at all can be a bit more complex and will be discussed in a later post.

Solution

For the simple answer: If you are getting clicks, pops, or distortion, raise the buffer setting in your audio application. In Logic, click on  Preferences > Audio. On the Core Audio tab you will see “I/O Buffer Size.”

Regardless of what it is set to currently, move it to the next highest number. For example, if you are are currently set to 32, try 64. If it is set to 64, try 128, etc. In GarageBand, it is a bit simpler: Click on GarageBand & Preferences. Click on the Audio/Midi icon and you will see the following screen:

Change to “Maximum number of simultaneous tracks/Large buffer size.”

Most other audio applications will have very similar settings. If you’re not sure where to find them contact the software manufacturer. If changing the buffer doesn’t solve the problem, the next step is looking at other FireWire or USB devices you may have plugged in.

Other Firewire or USB devices

If your audio interface is FireWire or USB, often other FireWire or USB devices connected to the computer can cause problems. The biggest problems usually arise from conflicts with other audio interfaces, cameras, etc., but external hard drives can also cause problems.

Solution

If you are having problems with clicks, pops, and distortion and you have other devices connected, try the following:

1. Shut your computer down and unplug all except your main audio interface.
2. After you restart your computer, play iTunes and make sure audio sounds clear.
3. If you have an external FireWire or USB drive, connect it and run your session again.
4. If you are still having problems it may be time to contact tech support.

While working on audio it is best to keep all other devices disconnected from the computer. The new Mac computers are great and extremely powerful. However, there is a limit to what you can do at one time and if you want to record professional quality audio you may not be able to connect every FireWire and USB device that you purchased on sale over the weekend at your local computer outlet. Otherwise, connect it all back up and transfer pics, video, and music to your iPod or make cookies with a FireWire-powered easy bake oven… Just don’t do it while recording audio.

One Comment

  1. Hey, y’all! Just wanted to say I LOVE this blog and look forward to reading ALL the posts. The two on composing for video and film — which I do not do — I found extremely interesting. But for now, time to change my Logic audio settings… Keep them coming!

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