How to capture your Mac's audio for free

You’ve likely found yourself in this position more than once: Your Mac is playing audio that you’d love a permanent copy of, but the application you’re using doesn’t provide a way to do that. While you could turn to one of the few commercial Mac applications that perform this task, there’s a way to go about it that won’t cost you a nickel. In this Macworld Video I show you how.

Transcript

Today I’m going to show you how to capture sound produced by your Mac for free.

The first thing you need is a copy of Cycling 74’s Soundflower, which you can get from cycling74.com. Install Soundflower and, if asked to, restart your Mac.

Now move to System Preferences, select the Sound preference, and in the Input and Output tabs, select Soundflower (2 channel). Doing this takes the audio playing on your Mac and routes into the Mac’s audio input circuitry, allowing you to then capture it.

To perform the capture, launch QuickTime Player, choose New Audio Recording from the File menu, and in the window that appears, make sure that SoundFlower is selected by clicking on the small triangle. In the Audio area below you have two options—High and Maximum. Both produce an AAC file encoded at 256 kbps. The difference is that High quality records at a resolution of 44.1 kHz and Maximum records at a higher quality of 48 kHz.

One thing you’ll immediately notice as you record is the sound of silence. You see movement in QuickTime’s meters but hear nothing from your Mac’s speakers. And that’s because the Mac’s audio is routed to Soundflower rather than your Mac’s speakers or headphones.

To hear what your Mac is recording, launch Soundflowerbed, which the Soundflower installed places inside the SoundFlower folder now inside your Applications folder. A new menu will appear in the Mac’s menu bar. Click on it and choose the output you’d like to monitor from—headphones jacked into the Mac’s headphone port, for example.

Now go about your capture and when you’re finished, click QuickTime Player’s Stop button. Close the window to name and save it as an audio file. This will save your recording as a 256kbps AAC file.

And that’s it, capturing your Mac’s audio on the cheap.

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