Recording calls through Google Hangouts in Audacity, using Soundflower

Unfortunately, people lie. Fortunately, recording a phone call with a lie can get one out of trouble later. It’s an ugly bit of reality, but since reason has arose lately to encourage me to record certain calls, I started looking into my options.

The ideal solution would be one that lets me record outgoing and incoming audio, during a call through google hangouts on my tablet. Since that solution hasn’t presented itself yet, I set about researching audio recording on the computer. The idea started as “Have phone call (send/receive); Give appropriate notification of call recording to involved parties; Have applicable conversation; Store in the event of contention later.” Easier said than done.

Hangouts will let you press 4 to record an inbound call, but only on a handset. So I can do this when Voice forwards to my handset, but not on the tablet. Bummer. I also can’t activate this when receiving a call on the Hangouts web-app. Final bummer: only works for inbound calls.

I’d tried Audacity to solve this challenge before, and had some success “recording” a call. Alas, the “recording” was just a recording through the microphone on the computer, thus “hearing” and “recording” the inbound audio through an “out loud” loop. One of many problems this presented was my talking over the other party whenever I spoke – and potentially losing whatever they had just said. Soundflower to the rescue.

Apparently the developer has moved around a bit, but I believe the idea behind Soundflower is to produce a kernel extension that creates another audio source/output, thereby creating a “middle-man” of sorts for redistributing sound. In my case, because I’m running Mountain Lion (OS X 10.8.5), I used the Google Code repository to source an older release, and installed 1.6.6b. After a restart, Soundflower 2ch and Soundflower 64ch appeared as Audio devices.

Using this StackExchange post as a good visual example of the developer’s instructions, I created a Multi-Output Device (M-OD for short) with Soundflower and Built-in Output as the selected devices. [This will distribute whatever sound enters this M-OD to both Soundflower and Built-in Output.] Next, I created an Aggregate Device (let’s call it the AD) with both the Built-in Microphone and the Soundflower (2ch) devices. [This will make the sound from both the Built-in Microphone and the Soundflower devices available as one input device.] Now, when loading a Google Hangouts session and starting a phone call, the audio input will remain as Built-in Microphone, but the output will change to the Multi-Output Device. Save the hangout settings during a test call, and it’s good to go.

Here’s what’s happening. Everything I say into the microphone goes two places: to the Google Hangouts input, and to the AD. [So the phone call hears me without issue.] The output from Hangouts goes to the M-OD, distributing it to both Soundflower (2ch) and Built-in Output. [I can hear the phone call through the Built-in output without issue.] The magic happens when the output sent from the M-OD goes to the Soundflower (2ch) device, which is also an input for the AD I created – and recall, the AD is receiving audio from the Built-in Microphone simultaneously. Thus, the AD is hearing both sides of the phone conversation (me in the Mic and the Soundflower audio from the M-OD, where hangouts sends its output).

Wrap it all up: Open Audacity and select the AD as the input source. The trickiest part is in the last part of Emu’s comment … Audacity must be set to record all four channels available in the AD. Two channels will be from the microphone, and two will be from the hangout (each source is stereo, so a left and right from each). Press that record button and launch a call from Google Hangouts (don’t forget to select the M-OD as output for the hangouts call).

As an extra bit of goodness, this solution should be “backwards compatible.” (In quotes because it’s more back-out-ness compatible.) If I don’t want to record, all of the sound still goes where it needs to, and there’s nothing broken by not recording. I just don’t tap off that available feed from the AD.

Next I’d like to find an android app that can record both sides of the audio in Hangouts…


About Steve

I am. Growing Learning Living
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s