Sunday, 9 July 2006

Freecorder: free audio recording and capture software

I've been looking for a nice simple free audio recorder which will just record whatever sound is being played on my PC, such as music which is being streamed over the Net to your computer. Finally I've found decent free audio capture software in the form of Freecorder, which records to MP3 files. It's from Applian Technologies, whose blurb says: "Freecorder does exactly as it sounds -- it is an easy-to-use FREE software program that lets you record sounds on your PC. The benefits: Records what you hear from your speakers. Saves recordings as MP3 files. Easy to use. BONUS: Record Skype™ Phone Calls."

There's a more advanced full version of this sound recorder, but you can download the basic version (which they make available as a "demo") for free.

It's very easy to use, as they claim. Click the Record button to start recording; if necessary start playing whatever it is you want to record (remember it just records what's being played via your PC speakers); click Stop when it's over or you want to stop recording; and name and save the resulting MP3 file (if it's set to prompt you for the filename after recording), and that's it. Though it's dead easy to use they also provide a helpful screencast (though some of the features mentioned are disabled in the free version), plus user guide including step by step instructions/tutorial, and decent support pages generally.

The main thing to watch is the settings, see below - it takes you through the settings when you first launch it, and you need to choose the correct sound card from the dropdown (for some reason mine defaulted to something peculiar so it recorded nothing until I cottoned on and changed it). I also chose to Prompt for File Name After Recording as I thought that was more convenient. Haven't tried recording Skype VOIP calls over the Net yet, but I would be surprised if it didn't work.

There are limitations to the freeware version, which shows ads. You can only record at 64 kbps not 128 kbps, i.e. the recordings are of lower quality. You can't pause a recording, you have to let it run (though you could edit it later with the free Audacity). You can't tick "Eliminate silence" to get rid of silences from your recordings, and it records for only 30 minutes at a time generally (or 2 mins for Skype or other VOIP calls, according to their site). You can't get it to automatically name files with a time stamp or add title tags to MP3s either (though again you can add tags to the MP3s later with other software). You can of course have all that and other features if you upgrade for US$19.95 which, if you do a lot of recording of Net radio shows and the like, is I think well worth it for what you'd get.

If you wonder what the "Advanced Recording Options" in the Settings are (Record internet radio shows, streaming music, streaming video) though, so do I. Clicking those just opens a blank browser window, for me. I suspect from the Freecorder user guide that they're just to ads for other programs by Applian designed to record internet radio, etc. You can of course record short lengths of streaming music using Freecorder Basic anyway.

Yes, there's other free software (like the open source Audacity) which will record streaming music, or whatever music or audio is being played on your speaker, too. But this is a nice, simple single-function program, and I do like the elegance of single purpose tools that do whatever it is they do easily and well, especially when they're well-explained, well-supported and free (like the free audio file converter NHC Switch which I reviewed a while back).


John said...

Is there a Mac OS X version?

Avatar said...

nope john, sorry, and welcome back imp. missed you around here. now where is my link in your blogroll *sniff*, anyway, i have used freecorder for a long time, and that and frame mp3 cutter, are the best tool anyone needs to do your own edit of recorded streaming audio, barely taking you no more than the 50% more time of what whatever you had recorded.

Brent Roos said...

If you have to edit it using Audacity, why not just use Audacity to also record the stream? That makes more sense to me. I find Audacity to be pretty straight forward and simple. I have mastered it easily without ever having looked at any documentation whatsoever. It is all pretty self explanatory. Most of the advanced features of Audacity can be learned by playing with them, and/or trial and error.

Just my $.02. Not Knocking any other software, but it seems to me that Audacity is the best solution for this, since you can record and edit, without the limitations of the free version.

Audacity is free, as in open-source.

Audacity can also convert file-types.

I understand what you say about simple one use tools. But why have three separate tools for recording, editing, and converting? It just seems to make more sense to use a tool which will do all of this.

If you want a simple one-function stream recording tool for Windows, why not just use the sound recording tool that comes with Windows?

Finally, Audacity is available for Windows, OSX, and Linux.

Improbulus said...

John, not as far as I know, as Avatar says, but you could try asking Applian? Maybe if they get enough requests...

Avatar - hi there, well I've been exceptionally busy these last few months. Thanks for your welcome. Blogroll, well I only have the BlogHerRoll for solidarity reasons.. might post about that sometime. By the way what frame MP3 cutter do you mean, there are lots of them?? Care to give a link?

Brent - you are absolutely right in what you say about Audacity and I'm an Audacity fan myself. However, for a lot of people, the simplicity of a single-solution tool is appealing and much less daunting than something like Audacity, especially when they want to do just one thing i.e. record an audio stream into MP3 (without wanting to edit or convert it). You pays your money (or, more strictly, not!) and you takes your choice...