Record Skype using a Focusrite 2i4

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Using the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 USB audio interface*, you can record Skype using several different methods to include a backup recording for redundancy.

This tutorial is designed for someone who already has the Focusrite 2i4 and is looking for ways to use it to record Skype. That’s because, if you didn’t have any gear yet, my recommendation would likely be to use a mix-minus setup with a traditional mixing board.

Or, perhaps I would suggest moving up to the Focusrite 6i6 so that you could use the included mixing software which would give you more flexible routing options like the kind you’d get from the appropriate mixer. The Mix Control software that comes with the 6i6 lets you create a real mix-minus.

So if you already have a 2i4 there’s no need to buy any new gear.

This tutorial will show you the various ways to use the 2i4 to record Skype either to Skype specific recording software, a DAW (audio editing software), and/or an audio recorder.

My preferred method amongst the following setups is to use a DAW like Audacity or Adobe Audition along with a digital audio recorder. This setup provides the most control over the audio in each recording and provides a backup system should the computer, DAW or recorder fail.

This tutorial only talks about using Skype because of the unique nature of how Skype handles its audio input. Skype only hears channel 1 or the left channel, mono. This is both a plus and a minus depending on the setup you are trying to use but in our case we’ll use it to our advantage to create a pseudo mix-minus.

Because Skype doesn’t hear channel 2, we can use our computer’s output to bring our Skype guest back into channel 2 on the 2i4 and send both our microphone and the guest audio to both an audio recorder and audio editing software.

If Skype took the audio from channel two as an input, the person on Skype would hear themselves receive a feedback loop of their own voice and our setup would not work.

The downside to Skype only hearing channel one is that you cannot input two microphones into the 2i4 and have Skype hear the second microphone. Not without using some additional routing software.

Here are the various setups I have used to record Skype using the 2i4, software and an audio recorder.

Best Setups (1&2) – A DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) and Audio Recorder.

Setup 1: Recording to Adobe Audition & an Audio Recorder

Cabling:

  • 2i4’s USB to computer.
  • 3.5mm stereo to 1/4″ TS cable to connect the headphone/line out of your computer (Skype’s output) to channel 2 on the 2i4.

Skype settings:

  • Input = 2i4 via USB
  • Output = headphones

AA_and_Recdr

 

Audition settings:

  • Preferences > Audio Hardware > Scarlett 2i4 USB
  • Output = any – don’t use Input Monitoring in Audition or else is the audio being recorded to Audition will feedback into your headphones and/or recording on the audio recorder.
  • Select the “Inputs/Outputs” button shown below (two blue arrows going opposite directions) in the options above Track 1.

AA_Inputs-Outputs_Select

  • In each track’s input section (arrow pointing right, seen in the image below) select the appropriate device.
    • Set Track 1 to Mono > Scarlett 2i4 USB: Input 1
    • Set Track 2 to Mono > Scarlett 2i4 USB: Input 2

2i4 to Audition

Notes: You can record multichannel audio into the audio recorder by switching to “Stereo” in the Direct Monitor section on the 2i4.

Setup 2: Recording to Audacity & an Audio Recorder

Cabling:

  • 2i4’s USB cable to computer.
  • 3.5mm stereo to 1/4″ TS cable to connect the headphone/line out of your computer (Skype’s output) to channel 2 on the 2i4.

Skype settings (see Skype settings image above in “Setup 1”):

  • Input = 2i4 via USB
  • Output = headphones

Audacity settings:

  • Output = any – don’t use Input Monitoring in Audition or else is the audio being recorded to Audition will feedback into your headphones and/or recording on the audio recorder.
  • Input (represented in the image by a microphone) = Scarlett 2i4 USB
  • Channels = 2 (Stere0) Input Channels.
    • This will produce two channels on one stereo track. 2i4’s input 1 will get recorded to the left channel and input 2 on the right.

2i4 to Audacity settings

Notes:

  • In post production use the toggle arrow on the recorded audio’s track and choose “Split Stereo to Mono” to break apart the channels into two separated tracks.
  • Audacity - split to monoYou can record multichannel audio into the audio recorder by switching to “Stereo” in the Direct Monitor section on the 2i4.

Second Best Setups (3&4) – Skype Recording Software and an Audio Recorder.

Setup 3: Audio Hijack (Mac) & an Audio Recorder

Cabling:

  • 2i4’s USB cable to computer.
  • 3.5mm stereo to 1/4″ TS cable to connect the headphone/line out of your computer (Skype’s output) to channel 2 on the 2i4.

Skype settings (see Skype settings image above in “Setup 1”):

  • Input = 2i4 via USB
  • Output = Any. It doesn’t matter because Audio Hijack takes over the audio (hijacks it) and all your output settings will be determine inside Audio Hijack.

Basic Audio Hijack settings – Audio Hijack as a variety of setups which allow you to do things like use built in effects, multiple inputs, outputs, etc. The settings here are the basics for recording Skype using Audio Hijack, you can add whatever else you need.  

Step 1 – Setup: Go to Audio Hijack in the Menu Bar > Session > New Session > New Blank Session

Audio Hijack Menu Bar

Audio Hijack New Blank Session

Chose and add “Blocks.”

Application = Skype. Click on the Skype block to view settings and toggle down the Advanced tab.

In the Advanced section, select “Include audio input” and “Split between channels” to include your microphone and send each channel to separate tracks (see image below).Audio Hijack Skype settings for monitoring Source

Meters = Peak/RMS is my preferred meter. When you click on it, you get a really nice large view where you can see, in fine detail, where your audio levels are peaking. This view can be left on while recording and even “pinned” to the top so that they are always seen in front of all other apps.

Recorder = AIFF (uncompressed audio). Click the Recorder block to see advanced settings. I set mine to 16bit, Auto (44.1), Stereo (see image below).

Audi Hijack Recorder Settings

Output Device = Scarlett 2i4 USB

Audio Hijack record Skype2

 

Notes: You can record multichannel audio into the audio recorder by switching to “Stereo” in the Direct Monitor section on the 2i4.

Setup 4: Call Recorder & an Audio Recorder

Cabling:

  • 2i4’s USB cable to computer.

Skype settings:

  • Input = 2i4 via USB
  • Output =Scarlett 2i4 USB.

Skype settings Call Recorder

 

Call Recorder Settings – You’ll find these settings inside the Skype preferences panel.

Call Recorder settings

Notes:

  • Call recorder will separate the channel automatically.
  • To monitor yourself as well as the Skype caller, adjust the Input/Playback dial on the 2i4 so that you can hear both sources. Putting it at the 12 o’clock position works well.
  • Audio levels being output to your recorder will be controlled using the large Monitor dial on the 2i4 as well as your recorder’s preamp.
  • In post production, use Call Recorder’s included apps to break apart the .mov file into separate tracks and convert the files to uncompressed .AIFF.


Call Recorder Split Movie Tracks App

 

Call Recorder Convert to AIFF app

 

 

Unfortunately I do not currently have a computer running Windows to test other apps but it’s likely they are very similar. If you have a Windows machine, make sure your 2i4 has the latest firmware.

To record Skype on Windows, you can still use the first setups shown in this tutorial. Both Audition and Audacity are also available for Windows based computers.

For Skype recording apps, take a look at Pamela. If there are other apps that you prefer for Windows and you’ve tried them out with the 2i4, please let me know in the comments so that everyone can benefit from your experience.

The other way to record is to use a Skype recording app (like those listed above) along with a DAW.

This is a much trickier setup and because it’s my least favorite, I will simply list out some notes I took while trying to create this type of setup. Feel free to get in touch if you need more help.

Call Recorder and Audacity

  • CR hears both channels of the interface even though Skype does not.
  • To dual record with CR, you have to use the RCA or 1/4″ output of the 2i4 as the input for Audacity. In other words, use an RCA to 3.5mm stereo cable out of the 2i4 and then into your computer’s built-in input.
  • Audacity’s output can be whatever you want as long as you don’t have Audacity’s preferences set to “Software Playthrough” or you’ll get a feedback loop. Use the default: “Overdub.”
  • Nothing goes into Channel 2 on the 2i4.
  • Skype’s setup is Mic. = 2i4, output = 2i4
  • Also 2i4 needs to have its Input/Playback dial set to 12 o’clock in order to hear yourself and Skype as well as have Skype go into Audacity. This is because the outputs on the 2i4 get their source from the Input/Playback dial and the volume is controlled by using the large Monitor dial on the 2i4.
  • This works because Skype is sending audio out via 2i4 which means CR only hears ch1 (your mic) because it doesn’t have a ch2 input. Audio is coming from inside the device (2i4). That is why Audacity, using the built-in input can still get your mic and the Skype output.
  • You can’t separate tracks in Audacity with this setup so you’d want this to be your backup.

I hope this help somebody;) This started out as a simple test of a couple of these setups and turned into one of the more detailed tests I’ve ever had to conduct. It’s possible that something in this tutorial is wrong so please let me know if you get different results.

Please ask your questions in the comments or get in touch via twitter.com/podcasthelper.

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About Ray Ortega

Full-time podcast producer and host of The Podcasters' Studio and Podcasters' Roundtable, I enjoy sharing my ten years of experience making podcasts to help others improve or start their own show.

Comments

  1. Thanks Ray for this! Would this solution also work with the Mackie BlackJack?

  2. Hi Ray–thanks for the quick breakdown (super helpful!). We’re newbies (launching in July) and we’ll likely be doing Setup 1 (Skype, Audition, and Mac). You mention that I can’t plug in two microphones because Skype hears only one channel and there are additional routing softwares to do the 2 mics–can you tell me what that software is or give me any suggestions on how I would manage 2 hosts and an interview on Skype? We could record on one mic–it just gets cozy! Thank you again!

    • Hi Winter. I think you’d be best off with a mixer as it won’t have the same limitation of the 2i4. You can interface both your microphones and then record to Skype recording software.

  3. Ramona Pinckney says:

    Hi Ray

    Can I try any of these with the 2i2 and a PC? Thanks

    • Hi Ramona, the 2i2 should work mostly the same. I haven’t tested it but it has the same two channels with some line outs. I don’t think you can split the tracks but if you wanted to input one microphone to Skype and then run Skype back into the 2i2 and out to some software, that should work.

      • I have a 2i2 and this works fine. Only issue is the TS cable you recommended to go from headphone out on my PC to the Scarlett produces poor audio. I tested Skype with it and it sounds ok but when I play music it gets crunchy, bottoms out, sounds pretty bad – the gain knob is set to Line also, not Inst. I’m going to try the stereo version of that cable – not sure when else do do.

        Connecting my headphones directly to my headphone out on my pc sounds great – so maybe it’s related to the Scarlett?

        • That cable is for voice since it sums down to mono so the issue might be the music and stereo. Perhaps the stereo version will help. Definitely let me know.

          • Tried the same mono cable with my mac and there was no noise and it sounded much better. Not sure what’s up with my PC.

  4. Thanks Ray you are the best:)

    I purchased the 2i4 and got it to work just like you say in the video, but now I am hearing a static noise and a hum,I did some research and it seems this may be caused because of the unbalanced cable used for set-up.

    The focusrite site suggests the “ART Cleanbox II that work to prevent audible ground loop issues.” I think I will buy it, but would like your input and to see if anyone else has had the problem.

    • Hi Romona, anytime you take audio out of a computer via a built-in soundcard, there is the possibility for a ground-loop due to its proximity to other electronics and how it was build into the computer. Of course ground-loops can come from other sources as well such as ungrounded plugs.

      I find that when I bring audio out of my iMac via it’s 1/8″ output, I will often get a ground loop and the fix is usually a simple isolate like this http://podhelp.me/pylegroundamazon (affiliate link). If your buzz is coming from the computer then this may be a cheap solution.

  5. Ray, This is only slightly off topic/device – We have a BEHRINGER XENYX 1202 mixer – so we can do the mix-minus for guests via Skype or iPhone but I recently picked up a Behringer U-PHORIA UMC404HD – USB 2.0 Audio/MIDI Interface – I like when we are in studio doing the podcast sans guest to get everyone in their own track in Logic (with backup via Tascam DR-40).
    So I guess the question is – is there a way to utilize the UMC404HD with a guest caller? I have utilized a iRig2 for a version of the mix-minus with the board but I can’t find a solution with the UMC404HD. Thoughts?

    • Hi, Todd. That looks like a cool little unit but I haven’t worked with it. If you’re trying to do a mix-minus using it then it might be tricky cause there is no aux channel. There may be a way to do it with a combination of software but it would take some tinkering to figure out. If Skype can see all the channels of the UMC404HD then you should be able to use a Skype recorder like Call Recorder and then also take a feed off the UMC404HD into the Tascam for backup. Of course you won’t get separate channels in that case.

  6. Hi Ray. I just purchased the Focusrite Scarlett 18i8. We are hosting a live stream meeting, in which some people will dial in, either via skype, or GotoMeeting. I hope to be able to incorporate their questions into the mixer, and allow them to ask questions at the end with a speaker output, and answered with the mics. Any thoughts on how to achieve this?
    Appreciate your input.

    • Hi, Mark. Nice pick up. I think once you get up to the 18i8 you get additional software that lets you do some software routing of the audio. So you’ll want to dig into that and see if you can setup a mix-minus with Skype and GoToMeeting so that those people can come into the stream while also hearing everyone else that is plugged into the 18i8. I have the 2i4 and didn’t get that software.

      Otherwise you’ll need to do a hardware mix-minus with your mixer, you can see my video and guide at http://thepodcastersstudio.com/mixminus.

  7. J Roberts says:

    Thank you so much for the incredibly helpful information! Applying the info above, I finally have Skype connected through my (new-to-me) Edirol ua-25. However I now can’t get the sound out to record on my zoom h-4 via the process shown in the video (using hosa stereo breakout trs to Dual RCA cable). Any advice on what I am missing? Thank you so much!

    • Make sure you are using the RCA 1/2 not 3/4 and that your knobs are outputting to those outs. Also if that doesn’t work, use the 1/4″ outputs or even the headphone output and monitor the audio from the recorder which is what I prefer to do anyways because then you can hear exactly what is being recorded.

  8. Ray – I currently have a Scarlett 2i2 Gen1 and am able to record exactly as you posted here in Audacity. It’s great. The only thing I’m missing is a true mix-minus. I’d like my co-host to hear what I play on my computer as I do – other than a true mixer (which I’m considering), can I do this using Audio Hijack? Or should I look at the Scarlett 6i6 Gen2 for more advanced features? I think the Scarlett pre-amps are really clean and would hate to give them up.

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