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Written by: Miguel Esquirol on Jul 14 2010, 4:16pm

Skype and Audacity, best friends

Skype is one of the best tools of the journalist and the podcaster, and Audacity the most powerfull (and free) audio recording and editing tool.  For interviews I was used to take notes quickly while doing the interview but that can be difficult or annoying to truly focus in what he and you are saying. To avoid that issue I rather to record the interviews and later, whit more time, review them or transcribe them. I still have my first recorder with 60 minutes tapes and 2AA battery for interviews in person, but for Skype theres better methods, and its called Audacity.

Both programs, Audacity and Skype are multiplataform, so you'll find them for Linux, Windows and Mac. In general the system to be able to use both applications is pretty basic. You need to set the output of Skype as the input of Audacity, but lets check some differences in order to record your skype interview.

OS X

In a Mac with the internal mic the action is pretty straight forward. In any case you should try to check everything first:

  • Audacity: Try to record your own voice
  • Skype: Try to make a call to the Skype Test.
  • Record: Press record and talk. If you are testing wait until Skype Test plays your own voice back
  • Check: check that everything is working good:
  •     That Skype Test machine is clearly heard
  •     That your own voice is clear and a similar level
  •     That the recording of your voice that Skype plays you back is also at good level.

If you see theres a big difference in levels you have to unselect the option in Skype Sound preferences:  Allow Skype to automatically adjust m mixer levels.

If you are having problems recording in Audacity the sound that comes trough Skype, you should use Soundflower, a system extension that allows applications to pass audio to other applications. You'll need to set the Skype audioutput to Soundflower.

Linux

Linux sound system can be a little annoying and confusing. The best option I discover is to install GNOME ALSA Mixer to replace the one that comes with Ubuntu. Inside the GNOME Mixer, and depending your machine, you have to mute the Front Mic and adjust the Capture and the Digital channels carefully.

If you have problems recording you have to go to the Skype Sound Options to check the Sound In and Sound Out options, but using the GNOME ALSA Mixer I didn't find any problems. After that, you have to follow the regular steps to check if every part of your system is working, Audacity, Skype and the recording between both.

Windows

The most important part to check on Windows is the "Stereo Mix" inside Volume Properties. If you don't have it, you may need to install the last drivers of your computer. If still you don't get it there's a couple of other things you can do.

You have to check the box of the Stero Mix and in case your mic is in muted unselect that option.

In Audacity you have to set the recording source to Stereo Mix. If you leve it in the mic you'll be able to record yourself, but you won't be able to record the person at the other side of the phone.

When everything is ready, try to make a test call and record your own voice and the answer at the other side. You may need to unselect the option under  Skype Sound preferences:  "Allow Skype to automatically adjust m mixer levels", and try the levels on your Volume Control to have both sides at a good level.

And finally

Now you can call the person you want to interview. Don't forget to tell him that you are recording the call. With Audacity you'll be able to easily edit, delete silences and add effects to the converation. You can use it for interviews or for your podcasting, or for your articles you are planning to write in Softcity.