Mac Daniel's Advice

Recording Music on Your Mac

Charlie Ruggiero - 2001.07.25

Q. Now that I have connected my stereo to my Macintosh (see Connecting Your Mac to Your Stereo), how do I record the audio, and make CDs or MP3s from my tapes and LPs?

A: A surprising number of people read last month's article on connecting your Mac to your stereo. I have received a large number of emails asking me what software to use to record audio. A few people pointed out that SimpleText can only record 25 seconds. I should have stated that SimpleText is only an example of a audio recording program that practically everyone has on their computer. My plan in this article is to go over some other applications you can use to record audio to your Mac.

SoundRecorder 1.0 is a free application for the Mac that allows you to record audio directly to your Mac's hard drive. If you do not use this program, make sure you get a program that records to the hard drive instead simply storing your music in memory. If you were to get a program that records to memory and you had 128 MB of RAM, you may only be able to record around 20 minutes of music. Programs that record to your hard drive can theoretically record for several hours.

SoundRecorder

I have picked SoundRecorder 1.0 because it is very easy to use and it's free. If you intend to record audio for later recording onto CD, you need to use the correct format. If you click the format button in SoundRecorder you will be presented with Sample Rate, Sample Size, and Channels. You will need the Sample Rate to 44100 Hz or 44.1 KHz. Sample Size should be 16 bit, and Channels should be stereo. The great thing about this program is that it uses QuickTime to save the file, so you can further compress the audio if you wish. If you intend to put these audio clips onto CD, be sure that you are saving them in the format listed above. When the QuickTime save dialogue comes up you can click under "Export" dropdown menu and select "Sound to AIFF." Then select "44.1 KHz 16 bit Stereo" under the "Use" menu. This will automatically create audio in the correct format for burning to CD.

Once you have your audio clip recorded and saved, set the burning software to record for audio CD and simply drag the audio clip onto your CD burning application (e.g. Toast). If you are using Toast or a similar application, you will be able to move your audio files around the way you want them once all of the sound clips are imported.

If you want to change the audio files you recorded into MP3s, you will need different software. If you have OS 9, you can create MP3s with Apple's free iTunes. Go to the "Advanced" menu then select "Convert to MP3." This will then prompt you to select an audio file to convert. Keep in mind that iTunes will default to saving the file to "Documents : iTunes : iTunes Music : Unknown Artists : Unknown Album" if you are looking for your MP3 when you are done.

Other programs that can convert audio files into MP3: Audion, MPegger, M2MP3 Pro, and Zlurp. All of these cost money but may have lower system requirements than iTunes.

What happens if you record audio and it turns out you recorded too long? You will need an audio editor. I was unable to find a free audio editor that was easy to use and had the ability to manipulate sound from your hard drive (rather than having to load the audio file into memory first). My best solution is use QuickTime Pro. QuickTime is extremely easy to use and costs less than most audio editing programs ($29.99). When you open your sound clip in QuickTime Pro, you can select any part and cut it, then re-save the file.

You may run across some terms when searching for more information on this topic here are some definitions to help you get started:

  • Ripping CDs: This basically means to pull the audio as data off your CD and usually convert it into an MP3. This is better than recording audio from your CD player to your Mac because the audio is being sent as digital not analog.
  • Burning CDs: This means to record a CD.
  • MP3 or MPEG or MPEG Layer 03. MP3 is short for MPEG Layer 3 Audio. MPEG is sometimes used to describe the audio format that is used to encode ".MP3" files. MPEG actually is used for video as well so be sure to specify MP3 or MPEG Layer 3 audio otherwise people may think you are talking about video.
  • MP3 encoder: This is a program that will take audio files or CD tracks and convert them into MP3 format.
  • MP3 decoder: This is a program that will take MP3 files and convert them into audio files usually suitable for recording to CD.

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