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

NOTE: This post is now woefully out of date. SoundFlower is no longer maintained by RogueAmoeba (though they have some sound apps that you can pay for that seem to do the job). Here is a link and some instructions for SoundFlower as it stands these days.

 

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:

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