Whether you’re in a live situation or in the studio, things can suddenly sound distorted, or there could be no sound output at all. You can spend a lot of time chasing your tail trying to find out what’s wrong unless you have an orderly procedure to follow that allows you to troubleshoot the system quickly so you can get back making music in short order. If something doesn’t appear to be working or if the sound is noisy or distorted, here’s a checklist to help you get to the bottom of the problem.
If There’s No Audio:
- Is the mic plugged into the correct channel?
- Is the Mute switch on the channel engaged?
- Is the input button on the DAW selected?
- Is the Mic/Line control raised high enough?
- Is the master fader at or near zero?
- Is there an outboard device connected to the insert of the channel or interface? Disconnect it to see if the sound returns. If it does, the fault lies with the outboard device or its cables. Is the device turned on?
- Is there sound getting to the output? If you have meter deflection but no sound, the problem could be with the amps or speakers. Are they turned on?
If The Audio Is Distorted:
- Are all mics distorted or just one? If all are distorted, then check to see if the amplifiers for the sound system are overloading. Also, check to seen if a speaker is blown.
- Is the mic input trim control set too high?
- Is distortion occurring somewhere else in the console or signal path? Use a PFL (pre-fader listen) to check.
- Are any overload lights on anywhere in the system?
Follow the above checklist and you should find your problem with a minimum amount of time spent.
You can read more from The Recording Engineer’s Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.