Do you happen to use any USB microphone on your Windows 10 devices? If yes, have you noticed any low volume issues with your recordings or calls? In case you did, then your microphone depends on Windows’ internal driver to function. And since the driver is problematic, it won’t work correctly. Below we describe a standard issue with USB audio devices and Windows 10, as well as a quick fix.
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In short, the audio drivers on Windows 10 aren’t properly compatible with a USB microphone. Thus, the microphone levels are incredibly low.
After upgrading to Windows 8 from Windows 7, Microsoft changed a lot of features; one of those was the driver that is responsible for USB audio devices.
This change brought along some severely low volume issues to any USB microphone that doesn’t come with its own drivers. Unfortunately, the problem is still persistent in Windows 10.
More specifically, while in Windows 7 we needed about 30-40% volume on a good USB microphone to be able to sound normal, now in Windows 10 we have to reach 100% for a barely audible sound.
However, this dramatically increases the sensitivity of the microphone, and therefore also records a lot of noise from our environment. If we set the volume lower, let's say at 80%, to avoid the background noise, we will also impact the volume of our sound greatly; in other words, we won’t even hear it, even if we stand just in front of the microphone.
This problem applies to any USB microphone that uses the Windows driver. Mics that use their own drivers are immune to this issue.
We stumbled upon this problem on our review for AT2020 USB+, an entry-level high-quality USB microphone, that didn’t seem to deliver what it promised.
After a lot of tests, we realized that the audio driver on Windows was to blame for the low volume.
We searched the internet for a fix or an update from Microsoft’s side, to no avail.
So, Windows 8 was released in 2012, and it's been more than six years since then. Microsoft is well aware of the issue, as dozens of disappointed users have asked for a solution all these years.
Although the problem affects a lot of users, Microsoft hasn’t made any comments or an attempt to fix it. If you ask us, we are confident that they will never do.
A user reported Audio Technica’s response to his complains of a low volume back in 2015. One of the company’s technicians confirmed that the issue applies to all microphones, and it’s all Microsoft’s fault.
After multiple tests, we have confirmed that the problem still exists today on devices running Windows 10. In Windows 7, the sound was loud and clear with the volume at around 40%.
Is there a fix?
Of course, there’s the obvious "solution" to sell our USB microphone and buy an XLR version, to avoid using Microsoft’s crappy USB driver.
We should do the same for any other USB recording device because they will all face a problem if they don’t use separate drivers.
We could also uninstall Windows 10 and roll back to Windows 7, where everything worked just fine.
But those “fixes” are more like masking the problem than serious solutions. We might as well throw our computer out of the window, that would solve the problem as well.
The point is, is there a way to use a USB microphone in Windows 10, with proper volume levels?
The solution we present below doesn’t solve the driver problem, but it can significantly improve the low volume on a USB microphone. We will need two third-party programs.
First, we will download Equalizer APO from this link.
It is a simple equalizer for Windows 7 / 8 / 8.1 / 10.
The program adjusts some registry settings for the input of a USB microphone. All we have to do is run the .exe file and install the program.
When finishing the installation, we’ll have to choose the devices we are going to use with the APO.
Make sure to select your USB microphone from the “Capture devices” tab, although we can also do that later. After that, we’ll have to reboot our system.
Peace Equalizer - UI for Equalizer APO
Lastly, we need Peace, which is a user interface for the Equalizer APO we downloaded above.
After we run PeaceSetup.exe, it will find Equalizer APO’s folder automatically. All we have to do is click on “Install.”
How to fix the low volume levels
Now we are ready to adjust the volume of our USB microphone. We start by opening Peace and accepting the first window prompt.
We will have to choose between a simple interface or the full interface. It won’t make any difference for what we want to do, so we picked the simple one.
On the bottom right, we can see a drop-down list. We click on that an choose our device.
Now we can increase the Pre Amplifying bar, and we will notice that the low volume on that same device will increase as well.
We don’t want to go too high, which would make the background noise unbearable. However, you have to put your USB microphone to the test and choose what works best for you. After we’ve set it, we can close the program, and it will still work as it should.
Just for reference, a range of 8-15 is what worked in our case, depending on the distance between the sound source and the microphone. We also had to set the volume at 80% on Windows sound properties. To access this panel, we can right click on the sound icon on the notification bar and choose “Recording devices.”
Click on “Properties” after you choose your USB microphone…
...and set the Levels tab to 80%.
More than 80 produced lots of noise for us, so we don’t recommend it.
I don’t see any difference
There is a case where the above fix might not work at first. If you don’t notice any improvement, then you need to set Equalizer APO once again, because something went wrong.
In fact, the software has two tabs; one for playback and one for capturing devices. If your capture device also has a headphone input, it is easy to get confused the first time.
Navigate to the installation folder - usually at the path below:
C:\Program Files\Equalizer APO
From there, we want to run “Confugurator.exe.”
This time we make sure we go to the “Capture devices” tab, not the “Playback devices.” Then we check our device and press OK. We will need to reboot once again.
Do you have a USB microphone?
If you own a USB microphone, have you ever noticed the low volume of your recordings? Do you happen to hear complaints from friends and family when you do skype calls? Now you know the reason.
If you found our solution helpful, or if you have any other questions, feel free to ask in the comments section below.
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