Use a free utility to hack
your computer’s output,
capture Internet audio,
and much more
Cycling ‘74 first created the Mac OS X extension
Soundflower for Max/MSP to send audio
channels to other software, and the simple, open-source
tool soon became a way to route audio
from one Mac program to another. Its included
sibling application Soundflowerbed resides in
the Finder Menu Bar and lets you route up to 16
channels of Soundflower to an audio device for
monitoring. This powerful, must-have freeware
enables some universally useful capabilities.
Sample from a Web Browser The most
basic use of Soundflower will open you up
to immeasurable sample material from the
streaming media available on the Internet. First,
go to System Preferences > Sound and choose
Soundflower (2ch) as the Output device. That
then routes your Mac’s audio to Soundflower,
and you can then choose “Soundflower (2ch)”
as the input (see Figure 1) for any recording
software: a sampler, a DAW, Audacity, etc. Now
you can record the audio from applications on
your computer, a Web browser for example. It gives you fast access to sampling from the
innumerable videos and music on YouTube, or
the public-domain trove of media at Archive.org
and other sites.
|Fig. 1. Use Soundflower to quickly sample audio from a Web browser.
If you can think of a sound bite you want—
famous or obscure—chances are you can have
it recorded and available for your production
within minutes, something the crate-digging
vinyl collectors of old couldn’t have imagined.
Record a Multitrack Skype Session If
you’re using Skype to record a podcast or maybe
even a recording or jam session, Soundflower
can help you route your own voice and the Skype
audio to separate tracks in a DAW for mixing.
First choose Soundflower (2ch) as your Output in
System Preferences. Make sure the Input is set to
whatever mic you will use for the Skype session.
lets you route
If you don’t already have Soundflowerbed
in your Menu Bar, open Soundflowerbed.app to
place it there. Then click its icon and select Built-in
Output under Soundflower (2ch) (see Figure
2), so that you can monitor the
Skype call in your headphones.
Now you will be able to
open your DAW and record
two tracks; in one track, select
Soundflower (2ch) as the input
to capture the Skype audio.
(This will also capture other
system sounds, so try to close
unnecessary programs and
avoid other system sounds.)
In the second track, choose
the mic input that you’re using
for yourself. Now you can
process and mix both sides
of the call discretely. There is also a method to record three or more parties in
Skype to discrete tracks in a DAW, but it is beyond
the scope of this short article. You can find it at
Equalize a Mac’s Output You may use
your computer’s built-in audio output for several
media programs: iTunes, Spotify, Quicktime, etc.
If you like to have EQ applied to that output’s
speakers or headphones, rather than try to
equalize every program separately, you can apply
a 10- or 31-band EQ to the entire audio output.
|Fig. 3. Routing Soundflower to
AU Lab lets you EQ/effect the
entire system output.
Download and install Apple AU Lab, an
Audio Unit host and mixer, from the Mastered
for iTunes page (http://bit.ly/LqkSgh) and then
restart the Mac. Go to System Preferences >
Sound and choose Soundflower (2ch) as the
Output. Now open AU Lab from Applications
> Utilities; choose Soundflower (2ch) as its
input and Built-in as its output; and click Create
Document. AU Lab creates a mixer window
with Soundflower as the Audio 1 track. Here you
can apply any AU plug-in on your Mac to your
system’s audio. You may want to go with Apple’s
AUGraphicEQ (see Figure 3), a peak limiter or a
compressor, depending on your needs.