Ubuntu: Record 'What you hear' on Ubuntu with Audacity

How do I record what I hear in Ubuntu? here's how...
Audacity is a free, easy-to-use audio editor and recorder for Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux and other operating systems. You can use Audacity to:
  • Record live audio.
  • Convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs.
  • Edit Ogg Vorbis, MP3, WAV or AIFF sound files.
  • Cut, copy, splice or mix sounds together.
  • Change the speed or pitch of a recording.
PulseAudio Volume Control (pavucontrol) is a simple mixer for the PulseAudio sound server. In contrast to classic mixer tools this one allows you to control both the volume of hardware devices and of each playback stream separately. 

Here's how to use both to record what you hear from your PC...

First install audacity and pavucontrol:
sudo apt-get install -y audacity
sudo apt-get install -y pavucontrol

1) Launch Pavucontrol from the terminal: 
2) Open the recording tab, no applications should be currently recording (at least not until record is pressed later in Audacity):

3) Check which interface (if you have multiple - like I do) is monitoring your sound source. To do this play your sound source, this could be any program. In Pavucontrol go to the Input Device tab, check that "Show All Input Devices" is set and you should see the line level meter flickering away against the interface that is monitoring your playing source:

4) Launch Audacity and press record.

5) Back in Pavucontrol under the Recording tab you should see Audacity recording and the interface it is currently monitoring.

6) Set the record monitor "Capture from" in Pavucontrol to capture from the monitor interface identified on the Input Devices tab. With the source still playing, use the drop down in Pavucontrol to select the same interface identified on the Input device tab. Once you have the right interface you should see the line level meter flickering with the sound source:

7) Stop Audacity recording and then set Audacity to record the appropriate monitor interface, for me Default:Line0 worked. To test the appropriate interface is being recorded press record and you should see the audio signal being captured in Audacity, if not repeat the selection of the record monitor until you find the correct monitor (for me at least the names do match up)

8) Now you're ready to record away.

Some thing that is worth checking is that in Audacity the project sample rate is set to that of your recording source.


  1. Sweet! Just installed Ubuntu 12.04, followed by Audacity. I need to record some old cassettes for the father-in-law and your set-up worked perfectly! By the way, my set-up also use "default:line 0" as the correct input. Thanks for posting this.

  2. thank you so much! =) "All input devices" was all i needed to figure out the rest =)

  3. Thanks from Thessaloniki

  4. thanks a lot! clear, concise, and ... it works like a charm.

  5. Perfect! I only had to add one extra step: going to "Configuration" and setting it to "Analog Stereo Output"

  6. Thank you!!!

    I needed a simple, straightforward explanation and that is exactly what you provided!


  7. You saved my musical soul! Thanks for posting!

  8. I couldn't do it with alsamixer but yes with pavucontrol: http://manual.audacityteam.org/man/Tutorial_-_Recording_Computer_Playback_on_Linux . Regards

  9. Holy crap! What Chris said, only louder. And almost a year later!

  10. Hello,
    It doesn't work!
    The recording is not identifying Audacity recording...
    Please help

  11. Works great, thanks for the detailed instructions.

  12. Why does the recording come out sounding slower than the original source when I record with pavucontrol from the sound card output?

  13. Mathew Presti - if your pitch is lower, it may be due to a discrepancy between the sampling rate in Audacity and the playback rate in your source. But it's easy to fix in Audacity - just go to Effects > Change Pitch and, for an increase or decrease of one musical tone, just add 8 or -8 respectively.

    Great blog post ConfoundedTech - been here a couple of times. Cheers!

  14. thanks for the help! Easy to follow instructions worked without a hitch

  15. Still good for 16.10 LTS ... a few years down the line! Couldn't find instructions this simple and successful (key combination -- especially the latter!) on AskUbuntu. Thanks!

  16. It is very simple and easy to understand. Thanks.


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