Record Online Streaming Audio with Ease

Ever wonder how you could possibly record or rip a song that’s being streamed across the Internet onto your computer for free? Trying to download streaming audio directly to your computer can be quite difficult because different sites have different security measures put in place, so one program might work for one site, but not another.

However, one surefire way of recording streaming audio from any web site is to simply capture it via the sound card on your computer. Basically, there are programs that can record whatever is being played by your computer’s speakers, so if you can hear it, it can be recorded. Of course, you’ll have to listen to the entire song since the recording is live, but it’s definitely much easier than trying to download the file from the web site directly.

First of all, we should examine what streaming technology is and what it is used for. The traditional method of listening to music or watching videos on your computer was to download the entire file and play it from your hard drive. Streaming works in real time – you can view the video or listen to the music as it is being downloaded. The data arrives in a “stream” of bits from the server to your computer.

The obvious advantage of streaming is saving time – you can listen to the stream a few seconds after the download is started. Streamed audio and video can also be protected from copying by Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology. This is often done by commercial vendors of video and audio to control distribution of their content.

Even with DRM, however, all audio and video streams can be recorded. The simplest way to record streaming audio is to attach a recorder to the output jack of your soundcard. Any recording device – portable MP3 player, cassette deck, Minidisc, etc. can be used. The problem with this method is that you have to convert the digital stream into analog, and there will be some loss in sound quality.

If you wish to keep the audio stream in the digital domain, you need special software to capture it. Most audio capture software works by emulating a sound card. You feed the output of the emulated sound card to a file, and as the audio is streamed to your computer it is captured to file. Any kind of audio stream can be captured this way no matter whether it is played with Windows Media Player, Real Player, QuickTime, or any other audio streamer.

Note: Dell, Gateway and several other PC vendors have purposely handicapped the standard sound cards/chips that ship with their desktops and laptops, removing the necessary “Stereo Mix” or “What You Hear” device options that are necessary to record streaming audio with the method you have described. With most systems, it is possible to obtain updated drivers that restore this functionality, but you have to tread carefully since installing the wrong driver can disable the audio completely and force you to perform a system restore.

Another cheap ($3) and easy hardware fix is to buy a 3.5mm stereo audio splitter and short male-male 3.5mm stereo audio cable. Simply plug the main splitter lead into the sound card output jack (where you have your speaker cable plugged in), plug your speaker cable into one of the splitters, and then plug one end of the audio cable into the other splitter and the other cable end into the “line in” input of your sound card. Now you can select “line-in” as the device and start recording away!

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