Record System Audio Output in Mac OS X with Soundflower

Feb 25, 2013 - 10 Comments

Capturing system audio on a Mac is not something that OS X has the native ability to be able to perform, but with the help of a great third party utility you can easily add that functionality to Mac OS X and any accompanying applications. This means you can capture and record audio output directly from anything that is playing on the Mac, whether that’s from apps like iTunes, Garageband, Spotify, or even just a web browser like Safari or Chrome.

Record Any Audio Output on the Mac

Indeed there are other apps and microphone accessories that allow for the same type of sound capturing functionality, but Soundflower has a few distinct advantages: it’s free, it’s lightweight, it’s super easy to install, and it’s even easier to use, plus it also allows for additional advanced options like setting a system-wide equalizer for all audio output on a Mac.

Redirect System Audio with Soundflower

Soundflower is required to be able to send audio output channels into the audio input.

  • Download Soundflower (free)
  • Mount the DMG and install Soundflower, then reboot the Mac to complete installation
  • Pull down the  Apple menu and open System Preferences, then go to “Sound”
  • Under “Output” select “Soundflower”
  • Next, under “Input” tab, again select “Soundflower” (for testing purposes, adjust this later for your own needs on a per application basis)

Audio output to Soundflower allows you to record system audio in Mac OS X

Setting Soundflower to both output and input gives a direct line from system audio output to system audio input, but you can obviously adjust those settings as appropriate for your needs.

Redirect system audio output to Soundflower

Once Soundflower has been installed, you can also quickly adjust audio input and output by option+clicking the Volume menu and selecting Soundflower as the audio input, output, or both from there too.

Change Audio Input and Output from the Volume menu in Mac OS X

A quick way to test and confirm that Soundflower is working is if you start playing system audio with Soundflower now set as both input and output sources. Start playing any audio, then look within the Input tab of Sound prefs to find the “Input Level” indicator is moving to the sounds of the the system audio which is now being transported through Soundflower, rather than the general output speakers and input microphone.

System audio being captured by Soundflower

The brief video below demonstrates audio channels being redirected from iTunes through Soundflower, which are then able to be picked up by the screen recording application QuickTime:

Notice how the audio will cut in or out depending on which output setting is chosen.

Recording System Audio Output with Soundflower

At this point you are able to record any system level audio output using whichever app is appropriate. Keep in mind that most audio recordings are subjected to their own usage and rights laws, each of which will probably differ depending on the owner and distributor of the audio. Be sure to check those rights before capturing audio. Nonetheless, all you’ll need to do to capture audio output is to select Soundflower as the sound channel(s) when capturing audio using whichever app you are using, whether it’s Garageband or something like the freeware Audacity app. We’ll walk through how to record any audio with Audacity:

  • Download Audacity (or use another app)
  • Option-Click the Volume menu and send Output to “Soundflower”
  • Launch Audacity and change the audio input to “Soundflower”
  • Start playing the audio you wish to capture
  • Click the red “Record” button in Audacity to start capturing the playing audio, click “Stop” or “Pause” when finished
  • Play back the audio to find whatever the output was is now perfectly captured

Record System Audio on a Mac with Audacity
It really is that simple.

There are two important things to remember when recording audio output with Soundflower that will apply to any application you use to capture audio:

  1. Always set the System-level Audio Output to “Soundflower”
  2. In the recording application, always select the Audio Input (microphone setting) to “Soundflower”

You can use either Soundflower 2channel or Soundflower 64 channel, just be sure to match them up for both audio input and output.

Uninstalling Soundflower
Uninstalling Soundflower is just a matter of remounting the DMG again, then running the “Uninstall Soundflower.scpt” file that resides there. If you tossed the original installation .dmg, download it again and you’ll be able to find the uninstaller.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

10 Comments

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  1. auro says:

    did you consider Piezo?

  2. Loni says:

    Ugh, Audacity is so ugly and hard to use.

    I prefer MicroWave (from the mac app store).

  3. Ddyracer says:

    You don’t really need Soundflower. Just use Screenflow, and before you hit that record button just check system recording and uncheck video.

  4. DCJ001 says:

    I installed SoundFlower. Then, when I need to make a screen recording with Quicktime, I choose SoundFlower for the audio input in Quicktime and SoundFlower for the system”s audio output. It works really well.

  5. pacoSF says:

    I had Soundflower installed, as a requirement for AirFoil 3.x

    I feel it was worth having and didnt’ notice any CPU melting or RAM hogging tendencies? I’ll try this tip for recording audio when the need arises, thanks.

    • pacoSF says:

      Forgot to mention, it’s worth having SoundFlower as an optional system-wide EQ.

      AFAIK, iTunes and Spotify don’t make equalizer options readily available?

  6. otakujome says:

    when ii have sound flower as output, i can not hear output sounds, can i both record sound and hear it at the same time?

  7. LensKaraoke says:

    Nobody’s mentioned Audio Hijack.
    I use this with good results and it has a great shortcut (cmd/r) and no matter what program I’m using if Audio Hijack is open and I hit the shortcut Audio Hijack will record whatever is playing. I don’t think it was free (I’ve had it a long time and I think I paid for it)
    The only drawback is if I try to refresh a web page using cmd/r and Audio Hijack is open it starts recording and the web page doesn’t refresh

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