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The Easiest Ways to Record your System Audio For Free

Whether you’re on a PC or a Mac, you can record your system audio for free. Here we describe the best and easiest ways to rip audio to use it in your projects.

Recording into your computer’s in-built microphone is easy, but what if you want to record audio as it’s playing from the device itself? Anything that’s coming out of a browser, YouTube, Skype, Spotify, video call interviews, livestreams, conference calls, video games, or any other program can be captured. This is useful for making your own content such as vlogs, documentaries, video tutorials, radio shows and podcasts.

Depending on what source you’re capturing, and what system you’re running, the solutions can vary, but we’ve done the research and rounded up the best solutions in this article…

PC/Mac: OBS Studio

THE BEST SOLUTION FOR: Windows users, podcast/vlog makers.

ADVANTAGES: Free; Simple to set up; Quick; Configurable; Screen record with audio; Multitrack

DISADVANTAGES: Screen video recording mandatory; No editing functionality; No audio-only export – needs a separate step to isolate the audio only

OBS Studio is a free piece of software that is designed for broadcasting and recording livestreams. However, thanks to OBS’s flexible configuration and routing settings, it can be used to record audio on Mac and Windows from multiple sources simultaneously, including system audio, web browsers, and in-built and external microphones. 

As OBS is designed for streaming, all output files will be in MP4 video format, meaning you will need additional software to separate the audio from the video. This is an easy task in most NLEs, and you can even do it online using tools like audio-extractor.net.

A beneficial feature of OBS is that it allows the recording of different sources to individual tracks, meaning that later on you will be able to have separate controls for each source’s volume (mics, system audio). This is enabled in the audio settings. For a full guide, head to OBS’s website. If you use this feature, OBS will still create a single output file, when you import this file into a DAW or video editor, it will contain up to 6 stereo audio tracks – or 12 mono. 

Mac Only: Screenflow

THE BEST SOLUTION FOR: Mac users quickly recording system/onscreen audio.

ADVANTAGES: Free download; Record audio/video very simply; Edit separate tracks

DISADVANTAGES: Exports video with a watermarked ‘Demo Mode’, but offers full AIFF and AAC audio export, as well as editing features, when in demo mode

Screenflow is an application that enables you to record screen video and audio at the same time on Mac. It sells for $129 but there is a free trial option which has no limitations other than watermarking exported videos. It can record from multiple video and audio sources simultaneously (onscreen, webcam, mics, even iPhone), and has editing functionality, with a familiar multitrack interface. Ideal for recording from Facetime or other online sound sources.

You will find the options for source selection when starting a new recording. When the recording is finished, the files are loaded into the editor to be exported. 

You can find the latest version to download in demo mode at the Telestream website

PC Only: Audacity with WASAPI Driver/Stereo MIX

THE BEST SOLUTION FOR: Windows users wishing to record from browsers or system audio.

ADVANTAGES: Free, fast and easy system output recording

DISADVANTAGES: Risk of audio feedback; Records mic + system into same file; No way to seperate or control relative volumes

Audacity is a simple solution for recording system audio and microphones together, on a PC or Mac, however there are some limitations to this method…

Download and install Audacity at audacityteam.org/download.

If you only need to record computer audio with audacity (no microphone) then set up audacity’s input as Windows DirectSound or WASAPI > Primary Sound Capture Device. Depending on the machine you’re using, this may also be called Stereo Mix, Wave Out, Sum, What U Hear, Loopback or other names.

From here, it’s a simple job of hitting Record in Audacity to get things going.

If you can’t see these options, you may need to enable Stereo Mix in the Windows sound recording options. If Stereo Mix isn’t showing up in the options, then check Show Disabled Devices.

Audacity will now be ready to record any system audio playing out through your speakers from browsers or applications such as YouTube, online radio, conference calls and more.

If you want to record both your microphone and system audio, you will need to take the following extra step.

Warning! If you are listening through speakers rather than headphones, this may cause feedback from monitoring the microphone, which will ruin recordings and potentially damage speakers (and your ears). The only way to avoid this is by muting/turning off your speakers and using headphones

Navigate to the Windows Sound Control Panel, this can be accessed by right-clicking the speaker icon in the Windows taskbar. Next click Open Sound settings, then from this page click Open Sound Control Panel, or the Sound Control Panel can be found by searching in windows settings.

Select the Recording tab, right-click the microphone you want to record, and select the Properties Page. On this page, select the Listen tab, then check the box Listen to this device and apply. You will now hear the microphone playing through your headphones. 

This will record both the system audio and microphone to the same audio track, and doesn’t have the option of recording to separate tracks.

Mac Only: QuickTime Player + Blackhole

THE BEST SOLUTION FOR: Mac users looking to quickly record audio from multiple sources

ADVANTAGES: Free; Simple; High quality

DISADVANTAGES: Records all audio to one file

QuickTime Player is a bundled bit of software that comes with all Macs, and it allows you to record mac system audio. To do so, open the QuickTime Player app, and choose File > New Audio Recording.

Next to the red record button there is an arrow which opens a menu allowing you to select the audio source. Initially you will only see currently connected microphones.

If you want to record your system audio rather than microphones, you will need to download Blackhole, known as the replacement software for the now abandoned Soundflower. 

To set it up, head to macOS’s Audio MIDI Setup and create a new Aggregate Device that combines both your chosen microphone and Blackhole, as below.

Next, restart QuickTime and choose your Aggregate Device as your input when recording. This will let you record both your system’s audio and your microphone input, but it won’t let you hear the system audio as you play it.

Want to monitor your system audio whilst you’re recording it? You’ll need to set up a Multi-Output Device in macOS’s Audio MIDI Setup, made up of BlackHole and your speakers, instead of outputting to Blackhole only. Next, go to your Sound preferences and select to output your system audio through that Multi-Output Device.

PC/Mac: Recording Skype Audio (and Video)

THE BEST SOLUTION FOR: Recording Skype interviews or conference calls.

ADVANTAGES: Free, fast and easy as it’s built into Skype

DISADVANTAGES:  Calls have to go through Skype; Records video format only, no separate tracks

Recording audio from Skype is a breeze on PC, Mac and smartphones. It requires no additional capture software as recording functionality is built directly into the program. 

When you are connected to your Skype call, tap or click the “…” button, a menu will appear. From the pop-up menu select Start Recording. A notification will appear telling everyone in the call that you’ve started recording.

After the call has finished, the recorded file will be posted to the Skype chat, where it is available for downloading for 30 days. This will also record Skype video if using webcams. As the file is always provided in a video format (MP4) you will need to separate the audio from the video with additional software.

As the audio quality depends on the microphones and internet strengths of your connected callers, you may consider using some of our ERA plugins to repair and polish the interview dialogue, such as Voice Leveler, De-Esser, Reverb Remover and Noise Remover.

PC Only: VOICEMEETER Virtual Audio Mixers

THE BEST SOLUTION FOR: Windows users hoping to route different audio sources.

ADVANTAGES: Allows for mixing multiple sources into one recording; Free

DISADVANTAGES: A little complicated to unserstand and get going with

Free https://www.vb-audio.com/Voicemeeter/

Voicemeeter is a free Audio Mixer Application with the ability to create Virtual Audio Devices. 

It basically works as a virtual mixing desk within your computer, allowing you to re-route audio from different sources to different output locations. It can be configured to work with hardware and virtual inputs and outputs, giving you control over which audio signals are being sent to which location, be it your speaker output or to an input of an audio track in a DAW.

There are a few different versions of this software, each version adding more features and functionality:

Voicemeeter Banana adds the option to record audio directly from the software, outputting WAV files.

Voicemeeter Potato adds even more tools like EQ, Reverb, FX Sends, surround panning and advanced routing options.

And the best part… all Voicemeeter programs are distributed as donationware, meaning you don’t even have to spend a penny to start recording!

PC/Mac: Free Sound Recorder

THE BEST SOLUTION FOR: Quickly recording audio from mics or internal sources.

ADVANTAGES: Automatic gain control; Voice activated recording

DISADVANTAGES: All sources recorded to one file

Free Sound Recorder is a free program for both Mac and PC. It can easily record sound from system audio and/or microphones, with one-click access.

Some attractive features include Automatic Gain Control (AGC) to adjust the recording volume, and Voice Active System (VAS), which helps auto-start recording based on sound detection. The software also has a file manager, allowing you to organise recordings based on filename, location, date, duration and size. Additionally, Free Sound Recorder supports multiple audio formats, letting you record audio directly to MP3, WMA, WAV or OGG.

Bandicam is another piece of screen capture software that is useful for recording audio. 

It normally costs $39, but you can use a free version, limited to a 10 minute recording with a watermark.

Whilst it is Windows-only, it allows you to select between internal and external audio sources and record simultaneously. As it is primarily screen capture software, the output file will be video, meaning the audio needs to be separated from it.

PC/Mac: Reaper / DAW Workaround

THE BEST SOLUTION FOR: Recording multiple audio sources separately.

ADVANTAGES: More routing options; Multitrack recording

DISADVANTAGES: More complex to set up

Many standard Digital Audio Workstation (DAWs) software will have a method of recording system audio. Whilst DAWs are usually designed to work with external sourcers, using audio bridging software like Voicemeeter, Blackhole, or WASAPI Loopback, internal audio can be passed from the original source (browser, spotify, etc) to an audio track in your DAW for recording.

Reaper is a powerful DAW with a free and unrestricted demo download. 

To route your system audio to Reaper open the Settings menu, select Audio>Device and configure the settings as in the below image.

If using a Mac, you can use Blackhole or Soundflower to route your system audio and microphone into a visible entry in your DAW’s inputs list.

February 26, 2020
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