Going Linux

   for computer users who just want to use Linux to get things done

Recording a Podcast Using Skype

Updated: 10-Dec-2011

In our podcast episodes 59 and 62, and in our first two screencasts, we described how we record and edit a podcast using Audacity on Linux. That was in 2009. Now, in 2011, our listeners have asked us to describe how we get good sound quality, given that we use Skype, and more recently Google Talk, while recording the podcast. The reason for using Skype rather than a simple phone call? Sometimes the participants in a podcast are in different countries, and often, the cost of the phone call is prohibitive. Using voice over Internet (VOIP) solution will reduce or eliminate the cost of communicating. However, often using VOIP solutions when recording a podcast results in poor sound quality, noisy or distorted sound, or dropped sections of the conversation. So how do we do it? How do we ensure good quality sound on the podcast while using Skype?

The Secret to Getting Good Quality Recordings

As we described in episode 157, "Recording with Skype-Introduction", most of the time our good sound comes from the fact that we don't actually record the Skype conversation. Each of us records our own end of the conversation using Audacity. So the secret to getting the best quality podcast recording when using Skype is not to record the Skype conversation at all.

We do record the Skype conversation as a backup, and have sometimes had to use that backup recording when there are problems with one or the other recordings. One method we have used to record the Skype conversation is to use a utility called skype-call-recorder. This utility runs in the background and when you start a Skype call, it will ask if you want to beging recording. The recording will actually be separated into two separate stereo channels. The local recording is on one channel and all other participants in the call will be on the other channel. The quality is not quite as good as recording directly from your microphone, but it is much better than recording a telephone conversation.

Another method we mentioned is the one Larry uses to record both ends of the Skype conversation from a single computer. We discussed this setup in episode 160 and we have provided a detailed description of the configuration, here.

Recording a Skype Call Using A Single Computer

Yes, it is possible to record both sides of a Skype call (or other VOIP call) for a podcast using a single computer. It requires more than a USB headset and a computer, though. Here is the setup we use for the Going Linux Podcast.

Our Skype recording setup

With a headset, a USB mixer, an additional microphone, and a "Y" connector to split the audio output from the computer. Here's how it all comes together.

  1. The host communicates with the cohost or guest over Skype using a headset connected to the analog mic and speaker connections on the computer. (Standard ⅛ inch audio connections on the side of the laptop.)
  2. The output of the computer is connected by a “Y” connector to both the headset, and to channel 2 on the mixer. Only the guest or cohost's side of the conversation gets recorded on this channel.
  3. The microphone that is used to record the host is connected directly to channel 1 on the mixer. This records only the host's side of the conversation.
  4. All of the audio goes through the USB output of the mixer into a USB port of the same computer that is used for the Skype. The recording is done using Audacity and produces 2 separate channels.

Here is a picture of the setup, with the microphone and headset omitted for clarity. Normally the mic sits on the desk in front of the mixer and the headset sits on Larry's head. :)

Recording Skype
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