Recording a Conversation with VAC & USB mic

Recording A Conversation - VAC & USB mic Method

What you'll need



  • Telephony Program - we use Skype for demonstration purposes, but Oovoo, Gizmo, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, Jajah, & others will work as well.
  • Audio Bridging Tool - Virtual Audio Cables is the 'magic ingredient' of this method - a funky little program that alllows you to capture audio from your microphone and soundcard at the same time
  • Audio Recorder & Editor - there are others out there, but we primarily use Audacity - it's open source and works quite well.

Capturing both ends of a conversation
The major challenge of producing a live interactive webcast is capturing both ends of a telephony call in a way that it can be streamed. If all you want to do is record both ends of a call without streaming it, there a number of programs that can be used (see this page for more info). To do so in a way that allows the audio to be streamed live, it is necessary to use an audio bridging tool like Virtual Audio Cables along with the hardware described above. There are other ways to do this, additional hardware and/or software is usually required.

Setting up your microphone and headset
  • If using a USB Desktop mic, plug it in to any USB port. Plug any headset into your standard speaker jack.
  • If using a USB headset (with separate jacks for mic and earpiece), plug it into any USB port, remove the earphone jack and plug it into the standard speaker jack as shown below.

Configuring your computer so you can capture both ends of a telephony call.
Parts of this will vary from computer to computer and it is possible that webcasters will need to go through some trial and error to get this working. The most common places to alter settings are your Windows Volume Control, Sound & Audio Device Settings, & your Telephony audio settings.
  • By default, most computers are set up to record from your microphone. This needs to be changed. Using Windows Volume Mixer, set the Recording Control Properties of your soundcard to 'stereo mix' , 'What U Hear', or 'Wave Out Mix'. With some sounds cards you will select his item, with others you will make sure it's unmuted'.
  • In Sound & Audio Device settings, select your sound card as the recording device in the 'Audio' and 'Voice' tabs.

  • Open Audacity. In Edit/Preferences/Audio I/O , select your sound card as your recording device.

  • Open the Audio settings of your telephony program. In Skype, it's under Tools/Options/Audio Settings. For microphone, select your USB microphone.

  • Install Virtual Audio Cables (the trial version will work for experimentation purposes, but to produce actual webcasts, you will need to get  the full version (US$30). Go to Virtual Audio Cable in your start menu and click 'Audio Repeater'. In the 'wave in' section, select your USB mic. In 'wave out', select your sound card. For total buffer, select 100. You can experiment with the other settings, but it shouldn't be necessary to change any of them. Press 'Start'. Open the Audio settings of your telephony program. In Skype, it's under Tools/Options/Audio Settings. For microphone, select your USB microphone.

  • If all is working properly, after you press start, you should hear an echo when speaking. You are now capturing all audio on your machine - your voice, voices of others in the telephony call, audio played from media players, program noises, etc. (Note: you might want to disable notification noises in Skype and other IM programs)

  • Call someone (you can call skype lady at 'echo123'). Press record in Audacity, and you should see that you are recording audio when you speak and when the other person speaks. If so, you're ready to complete the Step 3 task (recording a conversation). If not, let the troubleshooting begin.