There could be a number of reasons that you’ve got a quiet mic on a PC, from the microphone to the cable to the PC (hardware and software). Luckily, people have been using microphones for about 145 years. So, we’ve gotten good at spotting the problems of mics not being loud or “hot” enough.
Having a checklist to go through if a mic is dead or quiet can help you find the cause of the issue a lot faster. So, in this article, I’ll take an in-depth look at the most common reasons why a microphone is too quiet on a PC. And how to solve each problem.
Fix it, or replace it?
Before we get into how to fix a mic that’s too quiet on a PC, there is one important thing to note. If your microphone is not suitable for your recording requirements, no amount of tweaking will solve the issue.
Likewise, if the mic has been damaged in some way or has simply reached the end of its lifespan, it needs replacing, not tweaking. Furthermore, the same will go for other pieces of hardware in your recording chain. Such as interfaces, cables, ports, and even the PC itself.
So, Why Is Your Mic So Quiet on PC?
The reasons listed here are some of the most common. But, it should in no way be seen as a comprehensive list of what causes a mic to be quiet on a PC.
There can be several reasons why certain microphones aren’t compatible with a PC or laptop. In most cases, the issue will be software-related. That is to say, the recording software you’re using doesn’t support the microphone you have connected due to it being too old or simply not compatible.
Most microphones have companion software. So, using that same mic in your DAW or on Skype is usually not a problem. However, some mics are quite iffy when it comes to this.
Low-Level Recording Microphone Design
Some microphones are deliberately designed and built with low-level recording in mind. These microphones aren’t very “hot.” Meaning they don’t have a large or sensitive response to input. Therefore, without significantly boosting it with, for example, a high-powered microphone preamp, it will always produce a low signal.
There are thousands of cheaply made microphones available. And some budget mics have surprised and impressed users over the years. But, the majority of cheap mics are cheaply made and very low quality. This means they can’t produce adequate sound for recordings.
Microphone Requires External Power or a Preamp
If you’re using a USB microphone, this will not be an issue. But, most XLR microphones require power to reach the required volume to make decent recordings. So, in these cases, you’ll need extra hardware and/or software.
Ways To Fix a Quiet Mic
Most of the ways to fix a quiet mic on a PC don’t require you to spend much if any, money. But, if none of them work, your problem may be more complex, or you need to replace a piece of hardware. If that is the case, it’s best to seek some professional advice before moving forward.
Check The Connections
This one might seem obvious, and you’re probably thinking that I’m insulting your intelligence, but you’d be surprised how often this happens. And, since it’s something that will continue to happen to just about everyone, it is worth considering it as the first check.
Cabled get trodden on and yanked from their sockets. Sometimes, things fall, and small components inside get damaged, or solder joints become dry and don’t pass the signal. The mic might seem fine thanks to a sturdy steel frame, but something inside may have shaken loose.
Likewise, you need to check the ports on your PC, laptop, and interface. If ports and connections seem solid, check the cable. And, if your microphone requires phantom power, make sure the phantom power switch on your interface is tuned on.
Check the Master Volume
Again, this might seem obvious, but it’s a possible cause and, again, happens more often than you think. So, start by clicking on the sound icon on the toolbar (usually at the bottom of the screen). Make sure the volume is turned up or at least to a reasonable level to ensure audible playback.
If the level on your operating system is not the problem, and you’re using a third-party app like Skype or Streamlab, check the master volume control in the software. Some apps, like Skype, have parameters that will allow for automatic volume adjustment.
Now, let’s take a look at setting master volume in different operating systems:
- Click on the Windows icon. Alternatively, press the Windows button on your keyboard.
- Open the settings menu.
- A window will open displaying settings categories. Select “System.”
- The next window will display a list of system settings. Select the “sound” option.
- There will be a menu for output devices (usually your speakers). Make sure the right device and output volume are selected.
- On the Sound menu, ensure your microphone is selected as the input device. If not, click on the drop-down menu and select your microphone. If your microphone does not appear on this list, make sure it’s plugged correctly and that the PC registers it when plugged in. And, if you’re using an interface, this is where you want to have it listed.
- Once your device is selected, test that it’s receiving input by speaking into the mic and checking that input registers on the bar under “Test Your Microphone.”
- After you’ve done this, click on the “sound control panel” under “Related Settings.”
- This will open a small window with four tabs on the top. Click on the “Recording” tab and select your microphone from the list of devices.
- Once your microphone has been selected, click on “properties.”
- Another small window will open. Select “levels.”
- Here you can adjust the volume of the microphone as well as the amount of boost applied. Not all microphones will support this function. So, if yours does, be careful not to cause clipping by being too generous with this function.
- Click on the “apply” button after making your changes.
- Click on the start button at the bottom right of the screen on your desktop.
- Click on Control Panel, usually found a bit to the right on the menu. Alternatively, use the search box to look for Control Panel.
- Select “hardware and devices” from the categories.
- There will be a “Sound” option among the listed options; click on that.
- From here on, steps 8 to 13 from the above-listed options can be followed to access the correct sound settings for your mic.
- Click on the Apple icon in the file browser. A pull-down menu will appear.
- Select “System Preferences.”
- Within the window, select the “Sound” icon.
- There will be a bunch of tabs available in the next window; select the “Input” tab.
- Select your microphone from the available devices and adjust the volume to the midpoint.
- Click on the “Headphones” tab next, and repeat the steps there.
Update Soundcard/Interface/Microphone Drivers
Whether you’re using a built-in soundcard, have a custom one installed, or are using an audio interface, drivers can often be an issue. And, manufacturers are sometimes quite prolific with updates, so you may have missed one or even a couple? This is often a very easy way to fix quiet microphones on a PC.
On a PC or a Mac…
You can find your device listed amongst the connected or installed devices within your system’s control panel or settings. Additionally, on both operating systems, there is a driver tab that will allow you to check for the newest version of the device’s drivers.
Sometimes, you’ll have to go to the manufacturer’s website to find new drivers. Also, if you’re using a USB microphone with companion software, make sure you’ve got the newest version installed. And ensure that the volume settings in the software aren’t causing problems with your microphone.
The same goes for recording interfaces with dedicated drivers. Some of these drivers are programmed to override the operating system’s volume controls. So, check that your master and input volume within the driver’s interface aren’t set to very low levels.
Other Possible Fixes
If you’ve tried all of the above and everything seems in order, but you are still getting no or very little signal, consider some of the following options. These may help you answer the question, “Why is your mic so quiet on PC?”[bl]
- If you have more than one, try swapping out the microphone to determine whether the one you’re trying to use is broken or a very low input mic.
- If you’re using a recording interface that can provide phantom power, make sure that it is turned on and sending power to the correct input port on the interface.
- Check the controls on the microphone if there are any. Make sure they’re not switched off or set to a low level.
- Try swapping out your cable.
- If you’re having trouble recording within your DAW, try another DAW or even a very basic recording program just to see if that works.
- If none of the above steps work, ask a friend or colleague to make some recordings using your mic and see if they come across the same problem.
However, if none of the above works for you, you might want to seek some professional help. That way, you can determine whether the microphone is damaged and needs fixing. Or simply isn’t a good mic and needs replacement.
Want to Record on Your Computer and need more advice?
We can help with that. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Computer Microphones, the Best USB Microphones, the Best Microphones For Recording Vocals, the Best Microphones For Recording Electric Guitar, and the Best Microphones For YouTube you can buy in 2023.
Or, how about our comprehensive reviews of the Best Audio Interface, the Best USB Audio Interfaces, the Best iPad Audio Interfaces, the Best Multitrack Recorder, the Best Portable Audio Recorders, as well as the Best Studio Headphones For Home Recording currently on the market.
Why Is Your Mic So Quiet on PC? – Final Thoughts
Having mic trouble is as much a part of the recording process as turning knobs and pushing faders. Consequently, most audio engineers describe their jobs as largely consisting of problem-solving. How to get this louder, that softer, this out of the way, that more to the front, etc.
Furthermore, microphones can develop characters of their own over years of use. Or, they can be just quirky sometimes. Therefore, whatever the microphone issue, you will always find your way to the root of the problem by going through the basics and going from there.
Until next time, make yourself heard.