Volume control

Praat for Beginners:
The Windows volume control

Selecting signal sources, and adjusting playback volume and recording level, are done outside Praat. Precisely how it’s done depends on your computer system. In MS Windows, this is done by using the Volume control, or a similar program that came with your sound system.

  1. Opening the Windows Volume control
  2. Playback: Sound sources and volume
  3. Recording: Sound sources and level
  4. An independent sound recorder


1. Opening the Windows volume control

  • It’s very likely you have a link to the Volume control at the bottom right corner of your computer Desktop. It looks like a tiny loudspeaker, right-click it and select Open volume control.
  • If it isn’t there, look among your programs (Start in the bottom left corner of the Desktop, then Programs), try looking in the Accessories folder and the Entertainment folder:
  • You’ll have to do this each time you need it. You might prefer to put a shorcut permanently on the Task bar so that you can get to it straight away. Got to the Windows Control panel and open Sounds and audio devices:
  • And see something like this, depending n your sound system:
  • Tick the box beside Place volume icon in the taskbar, then click OK.
  • The Volume control opens showing the Play control view:
  • The Windows Volume control is arranged to look like a mixer where you select and adjust various sound sources you can listen to. It shows the sources that the installed sound system offers, so yours need not look exactly like this. You might see:
    • Wave (for a sound file or Praat Sound object)
    • Microphone (for a microphone connected to your sound system microphone socket)
    • Line-in (for one piece of external equipment connected to your sound system line socket)
    • SPDIF-in (a special digital link usually from digital hi-fi equipment or home cinema)
    • MIDI (an electronic music instrument connected to your computer), CD Audio (for a CD audio disk being played in the computer’s CD-ROM or DVD-ROM unit).
  • Each source can be individually muted (silenced). You can have as many sources open as you wish.
  • At the far left is a common output control for the sum of all the sources that happen to be active.
  • You can customize the sources by hiding the ones you don’t need (see next section). For example, I don’t have any SPDIF or MIDI sources connected, so I don’t really need to see them.


2. Playback: Sound sources and volume

  • Each source has the same layout for the adjustment controls:
    • Balance: drag this left or right to make both channels equally loud.
    • Volume: drag this up or down to adjust both channels together.
    • Mute: Tick this box to silence this source. Untick to make it active.
  • The master control is at the far left:
    • Balance: Drag left or right to balance all active sources together.
    • Volume: Drag up or down to adjust the volume of all the active sources together.
    • Mute all: Tick to silence all active sources. Untick to hear all active sources.
  • Advanced: This particular sound system offers additional adjustments, in this instance master bass and treble controls.
 For additional playback settings,
open Options and select Properties
  • And the Properties dialog opens,
    with Playback selected
  • Mixer device: Select the Sound system you wish to use; if only one is installed there will be no other to choose.
  • Show … controls: Tick or untick each box to set which playback sources will be visible or hidden, then click OK.


3. Recording: Sound sources and level

  • The recording sources are well hidden.
  • From the playback view:
    – open Options
    – select Preferences
    – click Recording (see left)
  • What U Hear: Record anything, wherever it comes from.
  • Wave/MIDI/CD: Combined setting for these sources (CD is an audio disk in the computer CD-ROM or DVD-ROM unit).
  • Click OK
  • The recording view appears:
  • There’s no master control this time
  • Selecting one source will deselect the others
  • You can only record from one source at a time.
  • This is where you adjust the recording level while using the Praat Sound recorders.
  • Select the sound source.
  • Adjust the recording level by dragging the volume slider up or down.
  • The level meter in the Praat Sounder recorder does not appear until you start recording, so you can’t set the level in advance. You’ll have to do a test first.
  • Don’t adjust the level again once the true recording has started. This is vital for speech research. You want volume variations in the recording to reflect speaker behaviour, not your hardware behaviour.
  • There’s a warning on the Praat Sound recorders not to use level meters in the Volume control. This is because some computer sound systems have been reported to conflict with the Praat Sound recorders. As you can see, the Windows volume control does not have a level meter, at least in XP. However, a volume control that came with your sound system might possibly include a level meter (see the next section).


4. An independent sound recorder

  • Here’s an example of a recorder that came with a sound system:
  • This one has a level meter that is always active and allows the recording level to be adjusted before starting the recording. As it happens, this one didn’t conflict with the Praat Sound recorders.
  • If you have an independent recording program that you are comfortable with, you can always use that instead of the Praat recorders. It won’t be integrated with Praat, of course (no direct transfer to the Objects list), all recordings would have to be saved to sound files first.
© Sidney Wood and SWPhonetics, 1994-2012