It's not uncommon for someone in their home studio to come up against an age-old problem - trying to record something and getting a distorted sound instead of something nice and clean. This sometimes lead to user being baffled and uncertain what to do, but if you think it through you can find the problem in no time.
Here's a checklist to follow the next time this happens. Follow it in this order.
1. Is the cable working correctly? Try a different microphone cable.
2. Is the mic working correctly? Try a different mic as a comparison.
3. Is the mic being overloaded? Try a different mic to see if the signal level from the source is too loud, or move the mic back about 3 feet to see if the distortion goes away.
4. Is the microphone preamp working correctly? Try a different preamp or console channel.
5. Is the microphone preamp being overloaded? Check to see if any overload indicators are lit. Turn the input level of the preamp down or move the mic back 3 feet to see if the distortion goes away. Try a different preamp, console or interface channel to see if the problem is resolved.
6. Is the signal chain after the mic preamp being overloaded? Check to see if any overload indicators are lit on your interface and DAW. Decrease the output control of the preamp or bypass any compressors in the signal chain. Play back the signal from the DAW to make sure it’s clean.
7. Is the monitoring chain working correctly? Is the stereo or control room buss being overloaded? Try a different set of amplifiers and speakers.
These tips and more can be found in the Recording Engineer's Handbook.