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How do I record the music, that is being played on my PC, in Audacity? I searched through the internet and found no answer, except a tip to use a screen recorder like OpenShot and separate the audio track? Is there a more efficient way?

NOTE: OS = MacOS Catalina 10
Audacity Version: 3.0.2
NOTE: This question has been closed since I found out how to do it... Thanks for your help :)

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    What "Audacity" is this? The only one I know is this one audacityteam.org/download and it has menu items to export the tracks into the audio format of your choice. Jun 2 at 17:01
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(disclaimer: I'm sacrificing correctness for understandability here)

You need to make sure that your sound card is treated as a loopback device.

A soundcard takes an input signal, transforms it and outputs it as a different signal. E.g. it takes an analogue signal and will transform it to a digital one (or vice versa).

When a system sound is a triggered it is sent as a digital signal to your soundcard, which will turn it into an analogue one before output. If you hit "record" in audacity it will try to record the analogue source, but there is no analogue source, hence your audio wave will be flat (i.e. no signal) So, to be able to record the system sound your sound card needs to actually do 2 actions: transform it to an analogue signal and then record that signal. I.e. it needs to loop back the result of the transform to itself before it can record it. That's why it's called "loopback device".

So, what you need to do in audacity is to select Windows WASAPI as your audio host and select your soundcard as a loopback device. E.g.

enter image description here

Depending on your machine it might have other options than Realtek(R) Audio (As you can see I also have an external soundcard a Focusrite, which I'd be really using if I'd want to record system sounds) Realtek Audio is the standard sound card driver which comes out of the box with Windows 10.

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  • I use a mac and I do not see any thing other than Mac Air Microphone in the dropbox @Creynders
    – DaVinziBoi
    Jun 3 at 13:42
  • You may need additional software if your pc does not already have a suitable driver. Try adding virtual audio cable (there is a Mac version as well)
    – Edward
    Jun 3 at 14:44
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    I don't think the loopback needs to have any "analog" step. You're recording a digital signal after all. Hi-Fi virtual audio cable, for example, simply sends the digital data from one end to the other. Your sound card could do the same.
    – Edward
    Jun 3 at 14:52
  • Realtek doesn't have anything to do with Windows, it's the cheapo chipset brand that provides most of audio and network chips for PCs.
    – ojs
    Jun 3 at 15:32
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This works for me (Linux) to record what the sound card is playing using Audacity:

  • open Audacity
  • click the Audio Host button (mine says 'ALSA') and select the input (in this case 'pulse')
  • click the red record button

On other operating systems there might be some difference.

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There are 4 dropdowns at the top of the Audacity GUI. Adjust as seen below, I just tested this on Windows 10 PC with Audacity 2.3.1

  1. First dropdown = Windows WASAPI
  2. Second dropdown = Speakers (Conexant HD) (loopback)
  3. Third dropdown = Stereo recording
  4. Fourth dropdown = Speakers (Conexant HD)

Start the music source first, then press record.

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    The options you find in this menu are determined by the sound drivers installed on your PC, not by Audacity.
    – Edward
    Jun 3 at 2:14
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    DV cause this doesn't really answer anything
    – Creynders
    Jun 3 at 6:50
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Audacity lets you select the audio source to record from. There are drop-downs around the mic icon at the bottom of the toolbar that lets you do so. The exact source of the sound you intend to record is pointed to by the use of two separate options.

You need to select the primary audio source[1] first: that is done by selecting an option in the drop-down to the left of the mic icon. Examples are: Windows WASAPI & Windows DirectSound.

Next, you need to select the secondary (or sub) source[1] from the drop-down to the right of the mic icon. An example would be: Microphones (not necessarily your mic).

You may have to try multiple combinations of these two options to see which one works for your platform and audio source (it can vary with different audio sources on the same platform as well). The only way to find out is by trial and error: select a combination, start playing the audio you want to record, and start recording a track in audacity.


[1] This is not how audacity identifies these options. I used the names to illustrate the idea.

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Multiple people have suggested changing the input source which is the way to go. But what is available there will still be limited by what your audio drivers allow you to. Sometimes they don't include any loopback sources. Or you might want to separate output from multiple applications into multiple channels. Or whatever.

In that case I can recommend another tool which can solve all these problems and then some - The Voicemeeter Banana. Basically it can create both virtual soundcards and virtual microphones and redirect sounds any which way among them. In real time. They also have paid (but cheap) versions with more channels if you really need that. (Disclaimer: I'm not affiliated with them in any way, I just think their software is very neat and haven't found any other similar programs)

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  • OP mentions MacOS; I think Blackhole is approximately equivalent there.
    – npostavs
    Jun 3 at 14:34
  • @npostavs - Ahh, that edit only appeared 1 hour ago. I assumed that "PC" most likely means Windows. Fair enough. I'll let the answer stay, it might help someone anyway.
    – Vilx-
    Jun 3 at 15:24

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