Audio Hijack 3
OS X 10.9 or later.
Age Rating: 4+
Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack Pro has been a longtime favourite of many who wish to capture sound routed through their Mac – whether from apps or audio input devices. Inventive and powerful though the app was, however, its interface could be challenging to the uninitiated. With the release of Audio Hijack 3, the company has taken a large stride forward in making the app both capable and easy to use.
If you were a person not accustomed to capturing audio you could be forgiven for launching previous versions of Audio Hijack and thinking “Now what do I do?” The app offered a lot of power under the hood, but the way forward wasn’t always clear. This should no longer be a problem as Audio Hijack 3 includes a template chooser. Just create a new session and you can choose the kind of task you’d like to perform – pull audio from an application, record audio from a DVD, jack your Mac’s audio beyond its normal limits, record from an input device such as a microphone or audio interface, create a podcast, digitise an LP, improve existing audio, capture your Mac’s audio, record VOIP conversations or grab audio from a web browser. Just select the task you’d like and click Choose.
When you do this, a session window appear, populated with the blocks necessary for the task you’ve chosen. In many cases you need do no more work than click the Record button that appears at the bottom left of the window and initiate any audio that you’d like to capture.
While this template chooser will be helpful in a lot of cases, there will be times that you’ll prefer to create workflows of your own. That too is far easier than it once was.
It’s about the workflow
If you’ve ever worked in an easy-does-it graphical programming environment (Lego Mindstorm or Automator, for example) you see the wisdom of Audio Hijack 3’s session window environment. Along the right side of the main window are Sources, Outputs and Built-in Effects libraries. (There are also headings for Audio Unit Effects and Meters, which are collapsed by default.) To the left, the work area. To configure a session you simply drag in the elements from the libraries to make up your workflow. Those that should be connected – an input to an output, for example – do so automatically.
Let’s say that you want to record the audio coming from your Mac’s built in mic. To do that you’d drag in the Input Device element, where it appears as a block in the work area. To complete the workflow you drag in a Recorder block from the Outputs area. A faint path will appear between the two blocks, indicating that they’re connected. Now click the Record button at the bottom of the window to start your recording. The Record button turns red, an active meter appears to the right, and the path between blocks lights up and animates the signal moving from left to right. Recording audio from an app is just as easy. Drag in an Application block, choose the app you want to record from and add a Recorder block.
To stop your recording, click the Record button again. To hear the results of your work, click the Recordings button at the bottom-right of the window, select your recording, and click its Play button. (You can also tag recordings within this area.) There’s no need to save your recording as it’s done on the fly.
It’s about the flexibility
As with previous versions, Audio Hijack 3 lets you manipulate audio before it’s recorded. For example, you’ve hung on to your vinyl collection and you’d like to digitise it. You’re aware that records occasionally pop and click and you’d prefer to have those sounds filtered out. You can do that by inserting a Declick effect between the Source and Output block. Or you have a microphone that records only on the left channel and you’d like it to be mono across both the left and right channels. Just insert a Channels effect after the Input Device block and choose its Mono option.
And you’re not limited to one source and one destination per session. If you’re recording a podcast with a multi-channel interface, for example, you can direct each channel to record to a separate file, which you can then mix in an audio editing app. Or you could record each channel (or multiple recording devices) to a single track, mixed together.
And speaking of podcasts, there’s Skype and its integration. You could incorporate Skype into previous versions of Audio Hijack, but doing so was confusing. It’s now much easier. Just drag in an Application block, configure it to record from Skype, drag in one or more Input Device blocks to record local audio sources, and have then all connect to a single Recorder block (and drag in an Output Device block to monitor the whole thing through your headphones).
The block options
If you’re following along at home with the trial version you’ll notice that when clicking on a block, that block’s options are revealed. Each block can be turned on or off, which is helpful when you want to compare a sound with or without an inserted effect or you want to monitor the audio playing in an app but would like the freedom to easily switch off monitoring.
This On/Off switch is also key to monitoring what your workflow will actually record before you commit to the recording. Turning off the Recorder block acts as a kind of record-enable switch. When you switch this block off and click the Record button (which now turns white) you’ll hear the results of your workflow but not record it. This allows you to make adjustments to your blocks (as they can be adjusted, added, and subtracted as you’re monitoring or recording) before recording for real.
Apart from the On/Off switch you find other options here. For example, suppose you have more than one microphone – your Mac’s mic and an attached USB mic. To choose the mic you’d like to use, you’d click on the Input Device block and select your preferred mic from the Audio Device pop-up menu. Similarly, you can choose the output format for your recording – MP3, AAC, Apple Lossless, AIFF, WAV and FLAC are available – by clicking on the Recorder block and selecting the setting from the Quality pop-up menu. You can also name and tag your recording in this expanded view. If you’ve added an Audio Unit effect, clicking on the block reveals its controls (you can choose to see its generic or custom interface). And you needn’t start from scratch with many block options. Many of them allow you to save your settings as presets, which you can then call up in other sessions.
Not all block options are tucked away, however. The Recorder block displays two buttons that you can access without exposing the blocks options – Pause and Split. You might use the former to pause a long dictation session when your phone rings and the latter to separate tracks when digitising an old LP.
Staying on schedule
Also like the previous version of Audio Hijack, version 3 has a scheduling component. Just click the Schedule button at the bottom-right of the window and a Schedule window appear where you can request that Audio Hijack initiate a session at a particular date and time. You might use this feature to record an internet radio broadcast at the same time each week.
Along similar lines, what’s missing is a feature that tells Audio Hijack to stop or split a recording after a configurable period of silence. It’s not something that podcasters would find helpful, but if you’re digitising streaming audio or old LPs and tapes, it saves you from sitting in front of your computer and clicking Pause and Split buttons as you record. Rogue Amoeba would likely direct you to its Fission editor for this kind of ‘silence splitting’ after the fact, but still, having the ability to record without babysitting your Mac would be welcome.
The bottom line
While Audio Hijack 3 certainly allows you to do some things you couldn’t do before, much of the release is about making existing features easier to use – to the point where you get more (and better) audio work done. It’s no mean feat to rethink an interface so that an app takes on a new life. Rogue Amoeba has admirably done so with this release of Audio Hijack 3. If you’re a current user of any version you can upgrade for US$25. And you should. If you’ve stayed away because of its challenging interface, it’s time to give it another look.