I have an Audiotechna AT2020 USB condenser microphone hooked up to my computer. When I'm recording sometimes I may shout or scream and my microphone goes all grainy and distorted. So I'm just wondering how I can resolve this or for anything else that's helpful or relevant.

Thanks, everyone!

Yes, I'm an audio beginner haha -_-


6 Answers 6

  1. Swap it out for something built to handle higher SPL. I'm thinking SM58, RE20, etc. (There's a reason those are considered standard workhorse mics).

  2. Back up from the mic (possibly a lot) and then use a compressor on the track in your DAW. This will allow you more volume range, but it will possibly pick up a bit more ambiance (who knows, you might like it).


As others have rightly said, the problem you are experiencing is called clipping. Clipping occurs when the signal input to a step of sound processing (such as the mic capturing the sound, the computer recording it, or any hardware in between touching it) can't handle the level of the signal in whatever form it is in. The end result of clipping is that the maximum value is applied (or all values stop being applied in the case of a dynamic mic).

This results in a break in the waveform which can't be produced by a speaker and lost information that the system was unable to capture, which is why you hear a grainy and distorted sound. Sometimes this can be considered a good thing, such as overdrive on a guitar, but most of the time it is not, such as your current experience.

Again as others have mentioned, to fix this you need to reduce your signal level. The easiest way to do this is to back off from the microphone so that it isn't driven beyond it's limit. You can also try turning down the volume of the recording or the amount of pre-amplification done if your mic has a gain adjustment to try to reduce the signal level while still close to the mic.

If you are simply producing too loud of a sound for the mic and you can't move back from it, then you will need a microphone that better handles loud sounds. In general, condensor mics, such as your AT2020 are designed to be highly sensitive, but not to deal with very loud sounds. A dynamic mic is much more able to deal with such sounds, but you would need an audio interface to work with most of them.

So, in summary, you need to find where the signal is clipping. If it is in the computer, turn down gains and recording levels to bring things within range. If it is in the microphone, step back or switch to a mic capable of handling the intense sound levels.


I would definitely use a dynamic microphone like everyone else is mentioning, but I would also use a pad. I've done a few vocal recording for hardcore bands and a lot of times they are clipping even with the preamp gain at the lowest.

A 50db pad would be great and you won't have to back away from the mic all that much and introduce the room into the recording.

  • This is true as long as the mic diaphragm isn't the bit introducing the distortion. Otherwise, yeah, padding is another great solution.
    – JoshP
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 14:25

This is caused by one of two things... either your going past the sound pressure your mic can handle, or you're clipping at some point (usually on the computer).

A) As suggested, you can step away from the mic or reposition the mic. An alternative is to simply look away from the mic a bit when you scream.

B) Often the issue is clipping, not the SPL at the mic. Watch your meters on your recording software. At the loudest you shouldn't normally be going into the red. If you are, turn the mic down.


Swap the mic for a dynamic if you can and give that a go. Try reducing the mic gain on the interface if you can. Using a compressor on the DAW won't help. And if you're in control and can ride the gain before you let rip that might help a bit ;)

  • Wow. Been a while since I posted here!
    – Andy Lewis
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 13:34
  • 1
    Nice to see you back! Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 15:10
  • Cheers Mark ;) hopefully things are still pretty sound designy focused round here!
    – Andy Lewis
    Commented Dec 3, 2014 at 13:31

With keeping gain level and distance in mind I'd suggest you get your hands on a Shure SM57. The cool thing about this dynamic mic is that it's actually an instrument mic. Great on guitar and snares, but in your case, great for recording loud vocals. I'd say; give it a try! Good luck.

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