How to Record Any Audio from your Mac Speakers, for free!

Here’s an out-of-character technical blog some of you may appreciate. I decided to write this post after having to look a number of places to find out the answer to a simple question: How can I record the audio coming from my Mac’s speakers?

Some PCs have the ability to record “what you hear”, but it depends on the PCs soundcard. But on my MacBook Pro, there’s no native way to record the audio you hear. Unless you download two (and maybe three) free programs.

The Software

The main piece of software to download is called Sound Flower, and you can get it here: http://code.google.com/p/soundflower/. To download it, look down the column on the left under “Downloads” and download and run the .dmg file.

The next bit of software you need is something to record with. Audacity is probably the best free audio program around, and will work just fine. Go to the Audacity site to download it here: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/beta_mac.

There’s one last little piece of software now to get, and it’s called Line In. Get it here:

http://www.rogueamoeba.com/freebies/. (Note: I’m told this does not work with anything earlier than Mac OS 10.6. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.)

Instructions

Install all three programs. (Note that Audacity doesn’t necessarily install – It’s possible to run it from the mounted DMG. You should drag it to your Applications folder to make things easier in the future.)

Click the Apple logo in the upper left of your computer. Go to System Preferences, then Sound. Click the Output tab and change it to SoundFlower (2-channel), and then click the Input tab and also change this to SoundFlower (2-channel).

Now run Audacity. Under the Audacity menu, go to Preferences… and under Devices -> Playback, change it to SoundFlower, and also do the same under Recording.

At this point you may want to fire up iTunes, or Pandora, or play a YouTube video – anything that makes sound.

In Audacity, at the upper left, you should have some typical looking buttons: Pause, play, stop, etc. The big red one on the right? You guessed it! That’s Record. Go ahead and hit it. (If you don’t see any of these buttons, you may need to go to File -> New.) You should now see the audio being recorded. You’ll also see left and right volume meters pulsing along as your music plays.

The big problem here? You can’t hear anything! Why? Because instead of being routed to your speakers, your audio is being routed into Audacity. This is where the Line In program comes in handy.

Find Line In in your applications menu and run it. While it’s not necessary for recording, at least it helps you hear what it is your recording as it happens. Set your Input From: to SoundFlower, and your Output To: to Built-In Output: Internal Speakers. Then just press the Passthru button. Any audio coming into the SoundFlower driver is now passed on through the speakers, allowing you to still hear your computer as you record.

There you have it. Now you can record both sides of a Skype conversation, or record streaming songs from Pandora, or record an audio track from a DVD without going through the normal ripping process, if the audio’s all you want.

When you’re done, don’t forget to go back into your system preferences -> Sound and put things back as they were (probably you had your output set to your speakers and your input set to your built-in mic). UPDATE! This from the comments below: The same developers who created LineIn also provide SoundSource. SoundSource is a tiny application for Mac OS X enabling you to switch your audio input and output sources with a single click, and even adjust their volume settings. It makes it very easy to switch your sound settings. http://www.rogueamoeba.com/freebies/ Thanks, Scott!

I hope you find this helpful. If there’s anything I can change in this to make it more clear, drop me a line and let me know.

EXCITING UPDATE!

There’s a free program (based on Soundflower, but you don’t need to install Soundaflower for it to work) that makes it extremely simple to record any audio coming from your speakers. Download it here: https://github.com/pje/wavtap. It seems to do everything this blogpost is saying to do, but contains it all in one handy little easy to install and use program. It creates a little record icon that lives in your tool bar at the top right of your computer screen. It’s just that easy.

Here’s a screen shot:

39 Comments

  1. Hurray!!! Easy, concise, accurate and free! Everything worked just as your instructed. Thank you!

    • Awesome! I’m so glad it worked for you!

  2. Thank you Rob Webster. I searched 8-10 forums before I found your concise instructions.

    • This delights me to no end. I’m so glad you found it helpful!

  3. Thank you so much! This was so useful and works! :D

  4. Is there an alternative Line In application for MAC 10.5?

    • Sorry, Jenny, I wasn’t aware it doesn’t work with 10.5. That’s good to know, though. I don’t know of other programs that do what the Line In program does, but if you find something, would you let me know? That would be a good update to have on this site. I’ll update my post with a note right now. Thanks for the info!

  5. is there a alternative for soundflower. I would like to have something that could be installed by dragging into the desktop.

    • Forgive my ignorance, but I’m afraid I don’t know of other alternatives off the top of my head. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, of course. Sorry I can’t be of more help!

  6. Excellent! I found that by using a headset, I could record my voice and Skype at the same time. I set the output for both Skype and the Line in to the Soundflower and set the input for both to the microphone. It worked beautifully! You are the only one to include the Line In program that was the magic key that makes it work! Thank you SO much!

  7. Very useful, works like a champ! Thanks for making it clean and clear!

  8. Thanks boss. Your a total life saver. The setup works perfectly

    • A life saver, huh? and I don’t even know CPR… I’m so glad it was helpful to you! I’m surprised there’s no easy way within the OS to do this. Glad my guide helped.

  9. Fabulous! Just what I needed to accomplish my goal tonight. Thanks for posting this information. God Bless!

  10. Additional idea…you mention at the end of this article to remember to go back and set your sound preferences back. The same developers who created LineIn also provide SoundSource. SoundSource is a tiny application for Mac OS X enabling you to switch your audio input and output sources with a single click, and even adjust their volume settings. It makes it very easy to switch your sound settings. http://www.rogueamoeba.com/freebies/

    • That’s great! I wasn’t aware of that. Excellent tip. I’ll actually edit this into the post, as I think it’s an important enough tip to make sure people don’t have to scroll all the way through the comments to see it.

  11. Great tip, so much appreciated!

  12. cheers Rob, really helpful…now I have an ace soundtrack for my model railway, nicely mixed in Audacity. Top man!!

    • That’s great! I’m glad it worked for you.

  13. I followed the directions, but when I hit the record button in Audacity, there is tremendous feedback. In Line In, you suggest setting Input From: to SoundFlower, and Output To: to Built-In Output: Internal Speakers. My only choice that includes a “built-in” option is “Headphones.” I’m running OSX 10.6.8 and Audacity 2.0.2. Any suggestion to make this work?

    • Hmmm. Interesting. Could it be that your computer thinks headphones are plugged in? Because you should be seeing the internal speakers as an option. But that strange issue aside, it seems like you’re getting some sort of a feedback loop. I wonder if, under the Audacity playback settings, you make the playback something other than Soundflower. I wonder if it’s playing back what it’s hearing, creating a feedback loop. Is there an option in Audacity to turn off live monitoring of whatever’s being input/recorded? (Sorry – I no longer have Audacity installed or I’d just check myself). You could also try recording without using the LineIn application (just to narrow things down and diagnose the problem). You won’t be able to hear what’s going on, but you should be able to see the meters to know that you’re recording. Then , if you’re still having the feedback problem, you’ll at least know it’s a problem with your Audacity or System Preferences and not with the LineIn application and settings. Let me know what you find out. Sorry you’re having problems!

      -Rob

  14. it has done it for me . thank you …

  15. I have a Macbook Pro 10.7 (i think lol) and I have set it all up, but can’t seem to play any of it back?? I have saved it to i tunes etc and tried a few different ways but hasn’t worked. Not sure what Im doing.

  16. thankyou so much…so easy to understand and do …and thanks for the links…your a star…

    • I’m delighted!

  17. Great article, thanks very much! If I could also add one thing – the built in Apple quicktime is good for audio recordings too, or even screen recordfings with audio. Just right click on it to get the oprtions up.

    • You’re absolutely right. You don’t need audacity at all. Quicktime will do the trick. The limitation with QuickTime is that it won’t natively record what’s coming through your speakers, but it can record the screen and then what the microphone pics up. Once SoundFlower is set up as an audio driver, QuickTime will indeed record both the screen and the audio playing through the computer. This is a future blogpost I need to do, since I think many people would love to know how to record streaming media, not just audio. Using QuickTime and SoundFlower, one can record UStream broadcasts, Skype sessions, just about anything.

  18. maybe im stupid but when i go to system preferences and sound and hit output how the heck do you change it to sound flower? running latest -10.8.3

  19. never mind i got it!

  20. Dear Sir,

    Thanks, this is great.

    Louie

  21. Hi,

    I installed WavTap 0.2.0, but when I clicked it to run, did not see the menu at all. My iMac is 10.8. Under system preference > audio> output : when i selected soundflower (2ch, 64ch) and WavTap, inside GUI, it showed: for selected device has no output control.

    Wonder if you could hlep

    Thanks

    • Hey David – Sorry I didn’t reply earlier. I haven’t used WavTap, actually, since I found out about it fairly recently and had already figured out how to do what needed to be done without using it. So I’m afraid I’m not much help. Anyone else reading this who might be able to help?

  22. Hi,
    My question is does Sound Flower pick up sound in the room as well, or just the recording internally?

    • Just the internal recording.

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