Recording Skype calls into MP3

A number of people have asked how I recorded the call with Chris Batty at Gawker last week for the FeedBurner podcast. I figured a quick recap was in order. The issue, for those who care, is that you need some way to capture both audio streams (your voice as well as the audio coming in from Skype), and Windows by default has no simple way to mix those streams into one channel that a recorder can handle. Consequently, Audacity (my audio editor of choice) can only record one stream at a time.

What’s most surprising is how difficult the “simple” instructions are online. Some ideas I found and discarded, due to complexity and/or reliability:

  • running multiple profiles in Windows XP, installing “virtual audio cables” and conferencing the profiles together via Skype.

  • on-the-fly tweaking of Windows audio properties, or (in the comments), connecting multiple computers via audio cables

Other ideas involved some variations on those themes, but the bottom line was that none of them were simple, nor (in my quick testing) reliable. Fortunately I stumbled upon HotRecorder — a very simple, very inexpensive application that just works. It acts as a helper app for Skype (and, for those who care, Google Talk, AIM, Net2Phone, Yahoo! Messenger and Firefly). Not only will it record Skype calls (amazingly, by just hitting the record button! Can you imagine? No cabling, multiple computers, or anything else!), it also serves as a voicemail application for supported apps. The recordings can then be saved and exported to various formats (current supported formats are Wav and Ogg Vorbis), which can be manipulated in whatever sound editor you favor.

The application costs $15, and once installed it’s available with one click. In the case of the phone call with Chris last week, I started the call, then once we were connected, clicked record in Hot Recorder. That’s it. It’s simple, dirt-cheap, and it works. A much better answer in my book than trying to route around all of the issues addressed in the complicated pages above.

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