Recording Skype into a Digital Recorder

Recording Skype into a Digital Recorder

Recording an interviewee or co-host remotely is one of the most common practices in podcasting.

Though there are many tools and apps that can record calls online for you, some podcasters prefer to put their faith in the trusty digital recorder.

So how do you record a Skype call into your digital recorder? Well, there’s an almost infinite number of possibilities out there.

I’ve put together instructions on 3 different setups that cover a wide range of podcasting equipment.

None of them involve working with mixers, and if you already own a mic and a digital recorder, you can put together any of these setups at a very low cost.

All of these setups use a 3.5mm – 3.5mm cable, which is a great bit of kit to have handy in your studio or recording area.

Got a Mic With a Headphone Port?

Some microphones (the Samson Q2U, the Blue Yeti) have headphone ports on them which allow you to directly monitor what you’re recording.

If you have one of these, along with a 3.5mm – 3.5mm cable, then we can record directly into a recorder without the need for any XLR or 1/4″ inputs.

Plug your mic into the computer via its USB cable.

Plug one end of the 3.5mm – 3.5mm cable into the microphone headphone port.

Plug the other end of 3.5mm – 3.5mm cable into the recorder’s ‘line in’.

Plug your headphones into the recorder.

Set your mic as both the Input and Output inside your Skype preferences.

This method will record both yours and the guest’s audio as one single track, so be extra diligent when setting your audio levels inside the Skype settings.

My Mic Doesn’t Have a Headphone Port

Some mics, such as the Blue Snowball iCE, don’t have headphone ports on them. If yours doesn’t, here’s an option that might work well for you.

Rather than having the audio from your microphone and Skype going into your recorder, you can record your own side of the conversation into Audacity and sync the two tracks in the production phase.

Use the 3.5mm – 3.5mm cable to record the Skype audio into your digital recorder. Plug one end into your computer’s headphone port, and the other end into your recorder’s ‘line in’.

Open Audacity, select the microphone you’re talking into as your input, and record your own side separately.

This means you’re going to have to mix two audio tracks together in post-production, but it gives you a lot more flexibility than having everything recorded on a single channel in your recorder.

3.5mm to 1/4" adapter, with 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable

3.5mm to 1/4″ adapter, with 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable

Own A Recorder With 2× XLR ¼” Inputs?

If you have a device like the Zoom H4, Zoom H5, or Zoom H6 then this process can be a lot easier for you.

I use a Samson Q2U microphone, which I’d connect to one XLR input on my Zoom H5.

I’d then pop a 3.5mm to ¼” stereo to mono adapter onto the 3.5mm – 3.5mm cable and feed that from the computer headphone port into the other input on the H5.

An alternative to using a 3.5mm – 1/4″ adapter is to get a 3.5mm – 1/4″ cable.

I could then either run a USB cable from my Q2U to the computer, or (if I didn’t have a mic with both XLR and USB connections) use an additional built-in mic on my computer.

That way, whoever I was chatting to on Skype could hear me.

Plug your headphones directly into your recorder, that way you can hear everything – and that’s exactly what is being recorded.

A big bonus with this set up is again the fact that you have two independently recorded channels, which will give you a lot of control during the production process.

Zoom H5 being fed by XLR and 1/4" inputs

Zoom H5 being fed by XLR and 1/4″ inputs

Also, it’ll be much easier to sync than the Audacity method, as your recorder will start (and stop) recording both tracks at exactly the same time.

Summary – Whatever Works For You

Remember there’s no right or wrong methods with stuff like this. Sure, there are better sounding ways, easier ways, and cheaper ways, but it’s all about finding what works for you with the equipment (or budget) available to you.

There are many other ways to record Skype interviews too. If you’re interested in learning about setups using mixers, mix-minus, etc, then our guide on recording Skype calls for a podcast might be for you.

Or, perhaps you’re not keen on the thought of tinkering with mixers, plugs, inputs, and outputs. The good news is that there’s loads of ways to record your podcast online now with little or no hardware. For more on this, check out our roundup of the best online recording tools.

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18 Comments

  1. I’m using method 2, but when I plug my microphones USB cord my recorder will not hear my computer. And my guest cannot hear me. How do I get my laptop built in mic to allow my guest to hear me while my recorder picks up both my Samson q2u and my laptop? Thank you for your help!

    Reply
    • Hi Sergio, because you have the Samson Q2U you won’t need to involve your built in mic in the process.

      1. XLR cable from Zoom (port 1) to Q2U
      2. Put 3.5mm – 1/4″ adapter on one end of your 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable
      3. Plug 1/4″ adapter end into Zoom (port 2)
      4. Plug 3.5mm end of cable into computer headphone port
      5. Connect Q2U to computer with USB cable
      6. Plug headphones into Zoom
      7. Select Q2U as microphone in Skype
      8. Select your speakers as output in Skype (this will send audio straight to your recorder through the cable)

      Reply
  2. I have a new Zoom H5. I also have a USB / XLR capable mic (AT 2005). I don’t have any 3.5 cables or 1/4″ adapters. What do you recommend? Affiliate links are fine too if the price is fair. I’m not sure what cables to grab. Also, with this gear, option 2 or 3 a better choice? Thank you!!!

    Reply
    • Hi Lonnie, I’d go with option 3 with your AT2005.

      Reply
      • Hi Matthew,

        Should my cables be mono or stereo? What about the splitter? Have one in mind to recommend? Thanks!

        Reply
      • Hi Matthew,

        I’m all set up with option 3. Only problem so far is volume. I can barely here anything through my headphones with every setting turned up as high as possible. I’m running on windows 10, Zoom H5 recorder. Any ideas? I’ve checked settings on Skype, my recorder, and windows.

        Reply
        • UPDATE. I did not have LR selected. That was a loud awakening in my headphones. Now, my audio going in is lower than the audio coming back from skype. Since this is one channel, am I missing a setting?

          Reply
          • Hi Lonnie. You’ll want to adjust your input/output recording levels to suit both in Skype (Tools > Options > Audio Settings) and in Windows (Speakers icon on bottom right of screen > Playback Devices > Speakers > Properties > Levels)

  3. Hi Matthew,

    I’ve tried options 1 and 2. I keep getting a high pitched sound in the audio as soon as I turn it all on. I don’t know what else to do. Any idea? Funnily enough, I can record myself talking over a youtube video without the squeal. Sigh. I was starting to believe this would be easy. My bad. Ha!

    Reply
    • Hi Lonnie. In my experience, problems like this are best solved by process of elimination, so trying different cables, different computers, different recorders, and trying to isolate what is causing the issue. I appreciate this might be difficult if you don’t immediately have another recorder option, access to another computer, etc, but if you can get a loan of some kit then it might help you to identify the problematic cog in the machine.

      Reply
  4. When I recorded a test skype call, I could hear the guest fine but barely my own voice. I have an ATR 2100 which has the headphone input. I have a cable going from that to my recorder and my headphones straight into the recorder. Looks like option 3 above says I need a splitter with 1 line going into my computer and 1 going into the recorder. Could that be the issue?

    Also, I was trying to use my recorder as a backup to online recording software like Pamela. It looks like Pamela tried to record something (i.e. there’s a saved file) but nothing is coming out. Is there some special setting needed so I can record both ways?

    Finally, I noticed my recorder (sony icd ux533) stored my 10 min test call into about 50 files. I guess every time there’s a pause in the talking, it ends the recording and then starts again when the talking picks back up. Is that normal? I’m guessing it’s going to be a huge issue in post production.

    Reply
    • Hi Glenn, with Q1, I actually just got round to updating this article and removed the bit about the splitter as I didn’t feel it was necessary. The setup you’re using should be fine, have you set your input level inside Skype? With Q2 I’d need some more info as I’m not too sure what you mean, sorry. With Q3, that sounds like a setting inside the recorder that would need to be altered. Agreed, that would give you a bit of a headache in post-production!

      Reply
      • Q1: I re-read the post and missed the point about the skype setting. I guess the problem is you’re recording it all on one track. Don’t you want it on 2 tracks? So what if I used a splitter in the 3.5mm mic input on the recorder. I’ll attach one of the splitter connections to the headphone port on the mic and the other splitter end to the xlr port on the mic with a 3.5mm to xlr cable. Would that then allow me to record on 2 separate tracks?

        Q2: I’ll open up Pamela and record a skype call. It’s fine. Once I also do the setup with the digital recorder in parallel with Pamela, Pamela doesn’t record. Rather, it’s recording something since there’s a Pamela file created but there’s no audio with it. Something with the digital recorder is messing up the Pamela recording.

        Q3: I hope you’re right. I’ll call Sony and see if there’s a solution. I hate to have to spend more $$ for a more expensive recorder.

        Reply
        • Hi Glenn, ideally you do want 2 tracks yes but the post initially refers to using a recorder that only has a single 3.5mm line in (Zoom H1, for example). The 3rd option refers to a recorder with XLR inputs (Zoom H5, for example), and that’s where you can do the independent track recording.

          Reply
  5. As an alternative, I met a podcaster who doesn’t want to deal with the potential issues with skype (bad internet connection, buggy recording software, reliant on guest having decent headset and/or comfort using skype at all, etc.). So he uses an audio interface. I believe he plugs his mic and his iphone into the box and the box into the computer. It goes into garageband where it gets recorded (I guess you could use Audacity via PC). This way his guests just use their smartphone to call his smartphone. It’s a no brainer solution. What are your thoughts on that setup? Would the quality be significantly worse that using a voip solution like Skype?

    Reply
    • Sound quality with phone interviews will always have their limitations but they’re still a handy way to do a remote interview. From a listener point of view you probably wouldn’t want to go any longer than 15mins with a phone interview though, or consider splitting it into multiple parts if you run longer.

      Reply
  6. I bought a new recorder with 2 xlr inputs (tascam dr-40). It sounds great when I record directly into it but when I do the setup above to record skype, there’s a pretty loud hissing sound (I don’t even have to be using skype to hear it). I saw a video someone posted which mentioned this hissing sound they experienced with another recorder. They eliminated it by connecting the 2nd xlr input on the recorder directly into the ATR 2100 3.5mm jack (instead of into the computer). It worked for them but I’m still getting a pretty noticeable hissing. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    • Hi Glenn, I’d look to identify what part of the chain is making the hiss most prominent. Trying setup on a different computer, and experimenting with different cables if you have access to them.

      Reply

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About the author: Matthew McLean

Matthew is the head of audio production at The Podcast Host, taking care of client podcasts and our own shows alike. He also produces audio dramas galore, and talks enthusiastically about them on the Audio Drama Production podcast every week.