Recording Skype Calls for a Podcast: The Definitive Guide

Recording Skype Calls for a Podcast

The world is flat, so we’re told. Flat? I thought we’d figured out it was round quite a few decades ago…

Well, I’m assured that this is just a slightly cryptic way of saying, it’s not that big after all. Now, that I can agree with.

One of the many reasons that our world is shrinking in relative terms is the proliferation of free, high quality communication systems. There’s no excuse not to stay in touch now! But, not only can we stay in touch, we can collaborate, we can create, we can Podcast!

Skype is one such tool, and probably the best known. I’m going to concentrate mainly on recording Skype calls for Podcasting in this guide, but a lot of what I say can just as easily be applied to Google Hangouts, Appear.in or one of the many other Voice over IP (VOIP) systems. If it’s a Skype specific tool, I’ll tell you, otherwise it’ll work just fine with anything that lets you speak to someone on your computer.

Why Podcast with Skype?

Podcasting with Skype is ridiculously common these days, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a more common format than any other, including solo. VOIP just makes it so easy to collaborate with others on creating great content. How else could two people on different continents work together on a regular Podcast? Never mind different continents, I do a Skype Podcast with someone that lives less than 20 miles from my house – it’s way easier than driving!

Playing a PodcastBut, why Skype over other communication devices? Well, firstly, when Skype works, it’s about as good quality as you can get short of a dedicated ISDN. Granted, it doesn’t always work perfectly, but having recorded dozens and dozens of Podcasts via Skype, I can say it’s let me down on probably less than 20% of attempts, which isn’t too bad I’d say.

You could record via normal phone – this isn’t a terrible choice, not exactly – but the audio resolution offered by standard phone lines isn’t a patch on that offered by Skype. The up-side of a phone is that it wont drop out, and it wont turn flaky – something that Skype can be prone to on those 20% of times, or even just once or twice on otherwise good calls. But if you listen to a Podcast recorded by normal phone, you’ll quickly hear the difference.

Recording a Podcast with Skype – The Options

Ok, down to the details – how do we do it? There are a few different setups, all with their own pros and cons. Let’s have a look, from beginner level to Pro:

1. Entry Level – Skype Call Recording Software

This is the easy way in – simply install a piece of software that records your Skype calls, and then make your call as normal. An example of this for the PC is called Pamela. Pamela installs on your computer, and then, whenever you want to record a call, you boot up both Skype and Pamela, click ‘Record’ on Pamela, and then make your Skype call as normal.

audacity podcast editing softwareAt the end of the call, Pamela will package up a recording of your call, save it as an audio file, and then you can edit it, produce it and release it to the wild.

The Mac equivalent of Pamela is imaginatively called Call Recorder, created by Ecamm. I’ve not used it, but by all accounts it’s a good package, and works in exactly the same way.

Both of these packages are paid products, so this isn’t a free way in, but they don’t cost a lot – perhaps around $20 – so it’s not going to break the bank.

The big downside to this approach is that it relies entirely on your computer and the software itself. If something goes wrong during recording, the computer crashes or otherwise, then the whole recording is gone. Imagine that happening when you’ve managed to line up the biggest interview of your life…

  • Pros – Quick, simple, no barriers to recording
  • Cons – No options to control your recording. If computer crashes, you lose everything.

2.  Mid-Level – Skype and the Digital Recorder

The next level requires a new bit of hardware – a digital recorder. This is something that is part of the normal lifecycle of a podcaster, so as you build your skills and your kit, you’ll be looking to get one of these at some point. Have a look at my digital recorders for podcasting article for recommendations. Or, if you want a quick recommend, the Zoom H1 is a good low-budget option here, and the Zoom H5 for higher budgets and heavier future-proofing.

The benefit of a digital recorder is that it’s build to record audio, and it’s damn good at it. It wont crash, it wont fall over. So, when your computer explodes mid-interview, you’ll still have the recording on your external device. Plus, a digital recorder is useful for so much more than Skype recording, so the money you spend pays for itself just a little more than that spent on something like Pamela.

Recording Skype on a digital recorder takes just a little bit of settings wizardry, mainly in how the PC handles your microphone. The aim is to turn on the volume of your own mic so that it’s audible in your headset output – this is turned off by default as normally you don’t want to hear yourself speak. In the audio settings, though, it’s pretty easy to turn this on and adjust the volume. Then, when you speak into the mic, you hear your own voice in your headset.

Now, all you have to do is to plug the headphone output into your digital recorder’s external microphone input. Now it’ll record both the Skype output AND your own voice.

The only problem here is that now you can’t hear your Skype co-host because you have something else plugged into the headphone socket! You can get around that in one of two ways.

  1. If your digital recorder has a headphone monitor, then use that. Easy.
  2. If there isn’t a headphone monitor on your recorder, then get a splitter and plug in both your recorder and your headphones into it.

audio splitterA splitter simply has one 3.5mm (headphone) socket on one end, and splits that into two on the other, so you can plug two devices into one socket.

The big improvement here is that now you can control each channel separately (not to be confused with recording each channel separately – see next section). This means if your co-host is loud and you’re quiet, you can turn him down via Skype, and you up via your PC settings. You can match levels much more easily and create a better balanced podcast recording.

A downside to this is that you have to then hear your own voice on the headphones and this can cause some people a bit of trouble, especially is there is a little latency and it’s a bit behind, creating an echo effect. I’ve found you can get used to it quite quickly though, so it can work well for some.

For more on such setups, check out our post on recording Skype with a digital recorder.

  • Pros – More reliable. More value for your money in buying a multipurpose device. Control over individual channels.
  • Cons – Can be complicated to adjust settings. Echo can put people off. May require a splitter.

3. Pro Level – Recording a Podcast on Skype with a Mixer

mixer for podcastingThe final, and most powerful way to record Skype calls for a Podcast requires the introduction of another piece of equipment. This is one that many people have a love/hate relationship with – the Mixer.

A mixer really is the proper way to manage the previous approach, and brings even more advantages besides.

Firstly, mixers allow fine control over every channel, and much more readily than your computer settings. If someone’s loud, push the fader down instantly. Done. You’ll have Skype on one channel and you on another, so you can handle each one in any way you see fit.

Next, with a mixer you don’t have to hack the settings to record your own voice. You’ll be bringing in both your mic and Skype separately, combining them in the mixer, and outputting to the digital recorder.

On top of that, because it’s a dedicated audio device, there will be no latency and so the echo problems associated with hearing your own voice associated with the previous levels are gone. You’ll hear yourself, but dead on-time, and actually this allows you to monitor your own levels and audio quality, which is an advantage in itself.

Lastly, and possibly most importantly, only with a mixer can you effectively bring in external audio and allow your co-host to hear it. This means you can live produce, playing your intro music, FX, recorded calls and short interviews, and it can be played over Skype to your co-host so s/he can react to it. This allows you to record as if you’re running a live radio show, cutting down on post-production and massively speeding up your podcasting workflow.

To achieve this, you need to use a mix-minus setup, something I explain more on my article on mixers for podcasting, so check it out if you’re interested in that and in recommendations for good mixers.

On the downside, it’s pretty simple: mixers cost a lot, and they can take a lot of practice to learn fully. If you want a mixer, I’d recommend getting a decent one, with room to grow, and that costs a fair bit. It also means there are a lot of knobs and buttons to get used to. Don’t get me wrong, once you’ve figured it out, it’s a big advantage, but it’s definitely a barrier to recording, and takes you away from quick, simple workflows that allow you to get content out there easily.

  • Pros – Full, instant control over channels. Reliable. Live production capable. No echo of your own voice.
  • Cons – Expensive. Complicated.

Conclusion

I’ve now explained all of the ways you can record Skype calls to create a podcast, so it’s up to to choose what might suit you best.

I’d say the middle option is not optimal, and most people will start with option 1 and move straight to 3 when they develop their skills and expand out their kit.

Try a call recording package like Pamela first and see how much you enjoy using Skype to record your Podcast. If it works well, and you consistently get a good connection then you can think about the mixer in future. As I always say, start simple and work your way up. Your wallet will thank you in the long run, and you might find yourself reverting to the simple option sometimes for quick calls that just don’t justify the complication of a mixer.

2017 Update

There are an increasing number of tools for recording a podcast online, and we recently put together a list of our favourites in this roundup post.

Get Better Interviews with our Skype Checklist for Guests

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Download our pro-designed checklist for interview guests. It makes you look great & side-steps interview disasters.

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33 Comments

  1. Thanks for the info! Worked great first time out!! Love the fact that we can use sound effects, etc now and it’s not post production…

    Allen
    Moments Without Reason

    Reply
    • Great stuff Allen, happy to help. If you have a second, I’d love to hear how much time you think it’s saving you being able to podcast with a mixer and not having to do that in post-production?

      Reply
  2. I’m reading that Pamela doesn’t work with Skype anymore, at least newer versions. I can verify this as I am trying to enable the recording with Skype on a new laptop (WIN 8) and cannot get it to work properly. Pamela used to automatically connect once the call connected, but now nothing happens. Any suggestions as to what is working at this time, such as another app? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi Ken, yes I’ve heard quite a few of the apps are having trouble with the new Skype protocols. To be honest, my most reliable way of recording online these days (apart from mix minus which is how I do my main podcast interviews) is to do a Google hangout on Air and record the call that way. The video then ends up on youTube and I’ll extract the audio from there using one of the various tools that allow it.

      Hope that helps!
      Colin

      Reply
  3. Thank you Allen! You just solved all of my on air interview problems and headaches with this post. I have been going nuts trying to figure this out. This is the best and by far most thorough post I have seen on the web! Thanks again!!!

    Reply
  4. Want podcast that callers can call and speak on subject and it goes out live while spending .less than $100. a year for the set up. I have a great mic, and a 5 year old pc laptop.

    Reply
  5. Love your site. Great info.

    I am not sure how to configure my equipment in order to maximize the capability of my podcast setup.

    -I have an Audio Technica ATR 2100 XLR mic (with JVC headphones) and conduct my podcast with a co-host using Skype/Call-Recorder
    -I have a Tascam DR-40 and Behringer 1204 USB mixer
    -My editing software is Garageband

    Please advise.

    Reply
  6. I’ve found one of the easiest podcasting setups to be the Samson C01U Pro mic as it has built in headphone monitoring for both the mic itself and the computer audio so it’s a one cable USB solution. iFree Skype Recorder is totally free and we use it to record every interview perfectly for our podcast. Ringr is taking shape too as a fantastic alternative to Skype.

    Reply
  7. Zencastr is a great tool to record the audio with skype. I did have a problem with skye though…if the interviewee plugged in headphones, her audio did not come through. We did the interview with her not wearing headphones so there was a little bit of overlap. And the skype connection was terrible…so much echo and delay. Maybe we just had a bad connection but I’m very hesitant to use skype again!

    Reply
    • Hi Kara, what was your guest using to record?

      Reply
      • Skype and Zencastr. Zencastr was a dream…skype not so much!

        Reply
  8. Good article, but you’re missing one key strategy that may be the cheapest, easiest and produce the best quality. Each person records their own audio. You record as if you’re doing a solo podcast, then send your file to one person who simply mixes them into one track. This removes Skype from the recording equation entirely as well as any specialized software. This works with two USB mics and garage band or audacity on each PC which means all you’re paying for are the mics. Obviously, this won’t work as well with other hardware configurations. The one caveat, is you have to wear headphones or else you’ll get rather echo-y.

    Reply
    • Absolutely Ray, big fan of doing interviews this way on my own podcast. Cuts out any potential Skype lagging issues and makes the interview sound like it was done on location. I’ve found that even with headphones you can sometimes get a bit of bleed through into the recordings. If I’m in a patient mood I’ll run through the whole thing in the multitrack and cut out or mute all the silences. Takes a bit longer, but the end result is worth it. Cheers.

      Reply
      • Yeah…. but, good luck trying to get people to do this. Most of our interviews are with people who aren’t technically skilled and also have busy schedules; no way they’re gonna go out of their way to record a quality file, and THEN UPLOAD IT! Almost no one I know has as fast an internet connection as me, and for sure, some older people will not be willing to give so much bandwidth/time over to sending me their file!

        I’m completely open to suggestions and more workable ideas, though. I really need to bump up our game, and getting away from phone convos!

        Reply
  9. PODCAST HELP NEEDED

    MY PROBLEM:

    I’m using a…

    * Behringer Xenix Q1202USB mixer
    * MacBook Pro
    * Blue Yeti Pro mic (XLR cable to mixer)
    * Headphones

    I’m trying to record a SKYPE audio only interview w/ECAMM.

    I can hear the SKYPE test call clearly, but I can NOT hear myself in my headphones. However, I CAN hear my voice in the playback…just NOT in my headphones during the “conversation.”

    I’m really new at this. Where am I going wrong?

    WHAT I’VE TRIED

    Settings (Mac): Input/Output are both set to “USB AUDIO CODEC”

    Audio MIDI Setup (Mac): Input/Output are both “USB Audio CODEC”
    – 0 in/2 out on the OUTPUT, and 2 in/0 out on the INPUT

    Again, the problem I’m having is that I can’t hear myself during the phone call in my headphones. Please help! Thanks so much!

    Reply
    • Hi Jamie. It may be that you’ve been plugging your headphones into the port on the Macbook, rather than the mixer?

      Reply
  10. Hey– anyone talk about JK Audio’s Broadcast Host digital hybrid devices anymore? I had one briefly, cauln’t make it work, sent it back and haven’t looked at hardware since. So now, I’m curious. Need to get something, though.

    Reply
  11. Hey Collin,
    This article was exactly what I was looking for except…
    I’m still hazy over getting Skype to play nice with my setup.
    Currently I have;
    Behringer Xenix Q802USB mixer plugged into my Desktop PC.
    Audio-technica BPHS-1 broadcast stereo headset with dynamic boom mic (plugged into their respective locations)
    A Xitel Pro HiFi audio link (also plugged into a USB port)

    Do I want to change the output setting on my Skype audio to “PC Speakers” and plug in a 1/8″ cable to my “Speaker out” on my sound card and into my FX send?

    The heartburn, I’m having is not being able to hear my partner’s voice from his Skype broadcast.

    Any help from anypody would be greatly appreciated!

    Regards,
    Bob

    My confusion lays with the Behringer Xenix Q802USB mixer being hooked up to the same computer as my Skype server.
    All of my computer’s audio goes into the Q802 through the USB port.

    Reply
    • Hi Bob, have you tried selecting your USB mixer as both your Skype input and output? If you do this, and you’ve plugged your headphones into the mixer, then that should do it.

      Reply
  12. Hi there, I just found this post and found it, like so many others before me, incredibly informative.

    I just have a question about doing this either through Skype or Google Hangout (which they just now changed to YouTube Live).

    So I tried an interview with YouTube Live, and did what you’re talking about with extracting the audio from the video.

    One of the things I noticed is that there’s quite a bit of audio ducking going on, where if we end up talking at the same time (as things sometimes happen in a conversational tone) the audio briefly ducks out, as the software is attempting to quiet one person while the other one is talking.

    Is this a hardware limitation, or is it a problem with the typical video chat protocol? Because I’ve heard certain podcasts who say they are talking via Skype and I never seem to hear that problem, and these conversations sound pretty normal. Are the hosts just very practiced at waiting for their guests to speak, or is there something else going on?

    I’m starting my own podcast, but the first interview I did is riddled with this audio ducking issue (my guest was a friend and we were laughing a fair amount).

    Do you have any suggestions for how to get rid of this problem?

    thanks again for everything you do for newbs like us to get started on this podcasting train.

    Reply
    • No worries at all for the help Jelani, it’s what we do 🙂

      I couldn’t say for sure, but I think this is a particular feature of Hangouts (YouTube Live). You’re right in thinking they try to quieten background noise when someone’s speaking, so that’s what causes ducking if people talk over each other.

      It happens less often with Skype, but it is something that seems to go on when the connection isn’t great. From my experience, Skype will prioritise one or the other feed to preserve bandwidth.

      I don’t get this trouble at all when recording on a good connection with Skype, so that would be your first bet. Next, you could try one of the growing range of ‘double-ender’ apps, such as Ringr, or Zencastr. They record each person’s side individually so they get around that problem altogether. Bandwidth stops being an issue.

      Hope that helps!
      Colin

      Reply
  13. What Digital recorder in the Zoom lineup is a good start for your second option? Does that option use the built in mic of the recorder for my end, or should Ii be looking for a recorder with external mic capability? I already have an AT-2005USB mic. I would like it to have a bit more gain, but the sound quality is good.

    I just experienced an hour of recording my guest over Skype only to discover the recording was full of awful buzzing noises in some places, long silence and missing audio in spots, and my guest and I speaking over each other for 45 second intervals. I had no idea this was happening in the Pamela recording. This was with the newest Windows 10 update (yesterday), Skype and Pamela update all before making the call. I have some very busy and successful people lined up for interviews on Skype in the near future. I won’t get a second chance with these people. I would appreciate your help.

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Lonnie,

      So, you can use any of the Zooms for that option, actually. They all have headphone outputs so you can plug the computer into the recorder, and then listen to both audio streams through the recorder headphone socket.

      If you got yourself the Zoom H5, you’d have the option to do better in-person interviews too. With it’s double XLR inputs you can plug two lav mics, or two handhelds, into it and then do the interview that way. Just a nice bit of futureproofing, but at more than double the cost of the Zoom H1. It’s up to you how you see your recordings going in future.
      Hope that helps!
      Colin

      Reply
  14. yes the pamela and skype integration has gone a bit crazy of late. lots of people experiencing buzzing chirping noises!

    Reply
  15. Thanks Colin, Great post.
    I am a newbe and tried using Skype and Pamela yesterday and had lots of issues and will have to try to do the interview again. Maybe the connection was not great from Bulgaria but there was lots of lag and loud buzzing on the recording. Will it be better to have the computers hard wired rather than over wireless when using Skype?

    Reply
    • Always a bit more reliable to do that whenever possible yeah Chris. Hearing a lot of reports about Pamela playing up at the moment!

      Reply
  16. Hopefully someone can help,

    Ive been using call recorder to record my successful UK gaming podcast for over 6 years now, but I have a problem in the last few weeks that’s very annoying.

    I’m the host and record the other guys chat with mine in one take.,
    so there’s 3 of us, when editing the recorded audio, i get my audio channel, and the audio of the other 2 in there own separate channel (but together).

    Now the major problem is, there audio is way louder than mine, but we have played with the settings virtually every week, but this weeks show was the worst yet, all 3 of us are very high and somewhat distorted.
    But, when they record there audio with the exact same settings they use when recording the show, there audio is very low at there end, matching there mic levels they have set.

    so can someone tell me how or why are we getting very high actual recorded levels, but the Mic settings on all of us seem at a normal level.

    To be honest, they have always been a touch high, but for some reason lately very bad.

    So is it my end, there end, mixture of the two.Skype settings?, what??

    The show audio is suffering, and its driving me crazy, i just cant seem to track this down.

    you can take a listen to this weeks audio at the link below.
    This has been heavily edited in Audacity.
    I just want all our levels to be as close to each other as possible.

    thanks in advance
    julian
    http://www.crankygameruks.net

    Reply
    • Hi Julian, the link isn’t working for me so I’m unable to have a listen. Ecamm Call Recorder does compress the guest’s side of the convo so it’s always a lot louder than the presenter and needs a bit of balancing out in post. It still shouldn’t distort though if you’ve checked that your mic and Skype settings are set appropriately. You might want to look at something like Zencastr for a better 3-way recording option that’ll improve your sound quality too though.

      Reply
  17. I’m just planning out my first podcast and intend on interviewing people via Skype from my Mac. My guests will not be tech savvy people so I think Skype will be the easiest option for them. I understand from this very helpful article what I need on my end, but what about the guest? What equipment and/or software do they need to have installed on their computer? Can I record everything from my end or do they also need to record on their end? Should they wear headphones or not?

    Reply
      • Awesome! Thank you!

        Reply
      • One last question… Can the guest do the Skype call using their built-in microphone on their computer or is that a big no-no? I know the quality will be worse than a stand-alone mic but question is how MUCH worse?

        Reply
  18. Just a word to share my feelings about what a wonderful contribution Colin is making for the podcasting community.
    Stan

    Reply

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About the author: Colin Gray

Colin has been teaching people how to podcast since 2007. He's worked with Universities, businesses and hobbyists alike. He started The Podcast Host to share his experience and to help as many people as possible get into Podcasting. He runs Podcraft, to spread the art of podcasting, and does the Mountain Bikes Apart podcast whenever he can. Who doesn't like to talk bikes, after all!