You’ve felt the need sometimes. To quickly grab some audio you’re hearing on some site, or perhaps there’s a really interesting skype conversation you would want to record. QuickTime or any other audio recorder will only allow you to grab the line-in or mic input, so you’re usually stuck, wondering what to do next.
AudioHijack Pro and WireTap Studio are two tools which can tap into any audio source on your Mac and record it. Doesn’t matter where the sound is generated from. If you can hear it, you can record it. Now both these apps, while being very similar in their basic principals, serve different purposes. Let’s take a look at both, and you can decide which one suits you best.
AudioHijack Pro from Rogue Amoeba
What isn’t one of the ‘pretty interfaces’ we’ve seen, AudioHijack might look a little daunting for the average person. The best way to explain the app, is to tell you how it works.
Say I’m talking on skype, and want to grab all of that audio into an audio file I can play later. Happens all the time, especially when you’re recording a podcast. I select Skype in the sidebar, and hit “Hijack” in the menubar. This means that the app is now pulling audio from Skype, and ready to record. You can now hit the “Record” button and AudioHijack will record any audio coming out of skype to your audio file.
That’s basic AudioHijack use. When it comes to audio, AudioHijack treats every application as a different source. This means you can simultaneously record audio from iTunes and Safari onto two separate files. For instance, if you’re playing your electric guitar through the line in, but while recording also want to play that song through iTunes, you can worry free have a clean guitar track while leaving out the iTunes audio completely.
You can also apply effects to your audio, before it is recorded. You could have iTunes music play in the left channel, while recording the Skype conversation with right channel only. You can also add some ‘fancy’ effects like Flangers, Reverb, or even add a voiceover from the mic input. One very good use of effects, as suggested to me by Aayush, was using the Gain mixer to increase system volume (for when that movie you’re playing is just too soft!). I could add this effect only to the Front Row app for instance. Sure it’s not orthodox, but the app is what you make of it.
Add to this there’s lots of little features that will make your recording workflow a whole lot easier. If you’re digitizing some LPs playing in through the line-in, you can automatically split the audio file wherever there’s a silent track. You could potentially rip DRM from your iTunes tracks by just playing them one by one in a playlist.
AudioHijack Pro costs a very weird $32 for a license, the demo of which adds noise after 10 minutes through any track.
WireTap Studio from Ambrosia Software
If AudioHijack seems to cater to the geeky side of things, WireTap seems more geared towards the simpletons. It’s no slouch however, packing even more power in its clean user interface.
The tiny floating HUD allows you to quickly grab any audio without any interface clutter. With WireTap, you can select upto two audio sources for recording, but only to a single file. This serves most purposes, although select cases might want the power of AudioHijack. The HUD also allows you to check what the current audio source will sound like in Mp3, low quality, etc. You can also add effects to the track, although I prefer AudioHijack’s effects better.
Once you stop the recording, WireTap will load the audio editor interface. This presents a familiar waveform based interface, which allows you to manually tweak the sound to your liking. You can add fades, decrease the gain, cut out certain bits, etc. You can again play the audio using different compression settings so you don’t have to export the audio every time. If you’ve done a podcast interview with someone on Skype, you can very well use this to trim out certain bits, polish up the edges, and export it to iTunes.
Whatever tracks you record, are automatically added to the WireTap library, which is almost like a mini iTunes. From the library, you can send the audio to iTunes, an FTP server, your iDisk folder, or via Bluetooth.
WireTap costs $69, with a trial version allowing you 30 launches. This app came bundled along with the MacHeist bundle, so most of you should be having it by now anyway.
Choosing one, personally speaking
Both are solid apps, with a great set of features. It all depends on what you want the app to do, so given my requirements, I’d choose AudioHijack. When it comes to editing audio, I’m most comfortable with Garageband, so WireTap’s editing features are almost useless to me. To me AudioHijack seems more flexible, and has a lot more features than WireTap. I like the fact that it can restrict audio to its own separate channel, that it can split audio whenever there’s a break, or has a variety of audio effects you could apply to your audio.
On the other hand, for someone looking for a start to finish recording solution, WireTap’s easier user interface, the waveform editor, and the library would definitely be in order of preference. WireTap is also much easier to get started with, since it installs all the necessary components while installing. AudioHijack keeps prodding you to install some component or the other every now and then, although doing so isn’t the biggest of hardships. It’s up to you of course to decide what exactly you’re looking for.
Used any of these before? Do let us know what special scenarios these apps have come in handy.