Engadget Podcast 008 - 10.25.2004 / How-To: Record all audio playing through your Mac

record and share this

Here's a special How-To that is not only simple but extremely useful for recording all the sounds that are playing on your Mac. Why would you want to do this? You might want to save online audio broadcasts from NPR or other streaming services and to listen to later on your computer or music player. You can also record audio from any website or DVD, or perhaps you have a playlist in iTunes you want to record as one long file. We'll show you how to do all of this with free tools.

As an added bonus we're going to be using the music CD in this month's Wired, which says "Rip. Sample. Mash. Share". It was released under a new type of copyright license called the Creative Commons. So as a bonus for this How-To you'll be able to download all 16 songs from the CD here on Engadget without us getting sent to copyright jail or sued.

Getting Started

This simple yet powerful How-To will allow you to record anything on your Mac, from streaming audio radio stations to CDs. Just make sure it's legal and okay to do this. We're recording from a music CD and then posting the results online, something that might not be the wisest thing to do if you don't own the content or have a specific license to do so.

Mac running OS X 10.3.5
WireTap, free download
Audio source (we're using the Wired CD)

Download and install WireTap from here. Install and open the application. You'll see "record", "play", and "pause" buttons, which do what you'd expect them to do. If the preference panel isn't visible hit WireTap > Preferences.


This is where you can change the settings, we're saving the file to our desktop and leaving the compression at IMA 4:1, 44kHz, stereo 16 bit. We've also checked off open if files in QuickTime and keep WireTap window visible.

Special note: The file is saved as a .aiff as opposed to a MP3, we'll eventually convert the final selection to MP3 in iTunes. The reason this free application does not save directly to MP3 (according to the developers) is that the fixed compression methods used for AIFF files are quick to compress and the file format is license-free. Licensing MP3 encoding is not free; any program that creates .mp3 files either is paying a $15,000/year minimum licensing fee, or it is doing the encoding illegally. Additionally, encoding to VBR formats like .mp3 and AAC can't always be done in real time (that is, it takes longer to encode the sound than the duration of the sound), depending on your machine's speed.

Recording the CD

Now that we're ready to record, let's pop in a CD. Don't Quit WireTap, just pop in a CD you'd like to record, or a playlist in iTunes. You could also visit a website or streaming audio site with QuickTime, Real or WindowsMedia, it's all the same to WireTap, and all of it will get recorded.

wired cd

We have our handy dandy share-encouraged Wired CD in iTunes and are almost ready to start recording. In iTunes we've turned off repeat so the songs only play once.


Click record on WireTap, then quickly select the first song and press play in iTunes, if you use another music player, same thing, just hit record in WireTap then your source sound. If you're recording a web page, DVD or streaming radio program, also-same process.


Finishing the recording

Once you're finished, click stop the sound will appear where you specified, we choose the desktop. Now, we'll convert it to MP3, you could also import this file in to a music editing application and mash it up and create something totally new, but for now-we're just going to convert it.

Converting to MP3
Drag the AIFF file in to iTunes, click it once and go to Advanced > Convert Selection to MP3. Here are the settings we used.


Once the conversion is complete you can drag it out of iTunes and post, send, share or put on your music players, phones, or whatever.

For our example as we mentioned we used the Wired CD, more information about the Wired CD can be found here.

Here's a link to the MP3 we created, which is also going out on our podcast. We're pretty excited to see music being played with, not just played.

Click here to listen!

The following is the list of songs appearing on the CD and now our downloadable file. If you want better versions, visit the Creative Commons site after November 9, and you'll be able to download higher quality files of the songs.

Beastie Boys / Now Get Busy
Beastie Boys appear courtesy of Beastie Boys and Capitol Records.

David Byrne / My Fair Lady
David Byrne appears courtesy of Nonesuch Records.

Zap Mama / Wadidyusay?
Zap Mama appears courtesy of Luaka Bop Records.

My Morning Jacket / One Big Holiday
My Morning Jacket appears courtesy of RCA/ATO Records.

Spoon / Revenge!
Spoon appears courtesy of Merge Records.

Gilberto Gil / Oslodum
Gilberto Gil appears courtesy of Warner Music.

Dan the Automator / Relaxation Spa Treatment
Dan the Automator appears courtesy of Bulk Recordings.

Thievery Corporation / DC 3000
Thievery Corporation appears courtesy of ESL Music.

Le Tigre / Fake French
Le Tigre appears courtesy of Le Tigre Records.

Paul Westerberg / Looking Up in Heaven
Paul Westerberg appears courtesy of Vagrant Records.

Chuck D with Fine Arts Militia / No Meaning No
Chuck D appears courtesy of Creamwerks. Fine Arts Militia appears courtesy of ZenStone Entertainment.

The Rapture / Sister Saviour (Blackstrobe Remix)
The Rapture appears courtesy of DFA Records/Strummer Recordings/Universal Music.

Cornelius / Wataridori 2
Cornelius appears courtesy of 3D Corporation Ltd.

Danger Mouse & Jemini / What U Sittin' On? (starring Cee Lo and Tha Alkaholiks)
Danger Mouse & Jemini appear courtesy of Lex Records. Cee Lo appears courtesy of Arista Records. Tha Alkaholics appear courtesy of Waxploitation Records.

DJ Dolores / Oslodum 2004 (includes (cc) sample of "Oslodum" by Gilberto Gil)
DJ Dolores appears courtesy of Azouge Discos.

Matmos / Action at a Distance
Matmos appears courtesy of Vague Terrain.

Phillip Torrone can be reached via his personal site: