Audio Hijack 3: Tom's Mac Software Pick

Use Audio Building Blocks to Create Complex Recording Sessions

Audio Hijack 3 Icon
Courtesy of Rogue Amoeba

Audio Hijack has been one of my Mac Software Picks in the past, and for good reason. This app from Rogue Amoeba lets you record audio from just about any source on your Mac, including apps, the microphone input, analog inputs, your favorite DVD player, or streaming audio on the web.

Pro

  • New interface lets you build a recording session from predefined blocks.
  • New template chooser gets you started by setting up an appropriate session type.
  • Full-screen mode fully supported.
  • Block settings can be saved for later reuse.
  • New audio effects blocks.

Con

  • No manual routing when connecting blocks.
  • Audio Grid limits how blocks can connect together.

Audio Hijack 3 is new, with a fresh and welcome change to how it's set up and used. I’ve used earlier versions of Audio Hijack Pro for capturing web podcasts and recording interviews performed with various VoIP apps. It's also a great way to grab any sound from your Mac. In fact, that's where the name comes from: the ability to hijack any sounds your system or apps may make, and funnel them into recordings you store on your Mac.

The new version adds to the app's capabilities. The overhauled user interface is truly unique, and perhaps more important, effective at letting you create simple or complex recording sessions to meet your needs.

Audio Hijack Interface

Audio Hijack 3 abandons the audio source as the center of all recordings and instead promotes the concept of a session.

Sessions are reusable collections of audio processing blocks, as well as their settings. You arrange Audio blocks to create a route audio will pass through. For example, a simple session for recording the audio from a web site would contain an Application block, set to Safari as the source of the audio, which is then routed to a recording block that is set to record audio in MP3 format.

Neat and simple, but that's just the beginning. With over 40 different types of Audio blocks, and no restrictions on the number of times an Audio block can be used, you can create very complex audio chains that can take care of most types of recordings you're ever likely to make.

Audio Grid

Audio blocks are stored in a well-organized library that sorts the blocks into six categories: Sources, Outputs, Built-in Effects, Advanced, Meters, and Audio Unit Effects. You can grab any block from the library and drag it onto the Audio Grid, where you can arrange the blocks to define the route audio will take. An example would be to place a source, say the mic input of your Mac, on the left-hand side of the grid, then drag out a Volume block, so you can control the microphone volume. Next, perhaps add a VU Meter block, so you can have a visual representation of the audio level, and then a Recorder block, to allow you to record the sound once it passes through all of the blocks you dragged onto the Audio Grid.

The Audio Grid has a left-to-right flow, with Source blocks placed on the left, and Output blocks, including recorders, placed on the right. In between are all of the Audio blocks for transforming the sound in the way you wish.

With such a wide selection of Audio blocks, the Audio Grid can fill up pretty quickly. Luckily, you can resize the Audio Grid as needed, or even jump to full-screen if you really need the room.

One example of a somewhat complex session created on the Audio Grid would involve creating a podcast with multiple inputs. Let's keep it basic and say you have two microphones and an app you use for sound effects. You would start by dragging two Input Device blocks and an Application Source block to the Audio Grid. Set the two Input Devices for your microphones, and the Application Source block for the app you use for sound effects.

Next, add three Volume blocks, so you can control each input device's volume. You may also want to add two 10-band EQ blocks, one for each microphone, to enhance the vocal sounds. Next, a recorder for each microphone channel, so you have individual recordings of each podcast participant, and lastly, a final recorder that records all of the channels, the two microphones with their EQ, and the sound effects channel. You can, of course, create even more complex sessions, perhaps adding Pan blocks to control placement in a stereo field, or a low-pass filter. Audio Hijack lets you create simple or very complex sessions to meet your needs.

One minor problem I ran into was the automatic connection of blocks. Audio Hijack uses an intelligent system to automatically connect the input and output of the various blocks you add. As your Audio Grid increases the number of blocks, the fineness you need to nudge a block here and there to get the automatic connections made can be a bit of a pain. I'd like to see the ability to manually cut or make connections as an option.

Recordings

Recordings are made to files in AIFF, MP3, AAC, Apple Lossless, FLAC, or WAV formats. AIFF and WAV support 16-bit or 24-bit recordings, while MP3 and AAC support bit rates up to 320 Kbps. Audio Hijack keeps a list of all the recordings you have made.

Scheduling

Once you create a session, you can add a schedule to automate when recording or playback occurs. With schedules, you can record your favorite Internet radio show each week, or even use Audio Hijack as an alarm clock, to wake you up each morning to your favorite streaming radio station.

Final Thoughts

I’ll start with the obvious. I really like Audio Hijack 3; it’s a wonderful improvement over the previous version of the app, which I also liked. The new user interface makes it much easier to create complex recording sessions; at the same time, the simple tasks, such as recording from a web site, remain easy as pie.

My only complaint is a minor one involving the Audio Grid; a bit more versatility is needed there. First, the ability to manually make the connections between blocks when needed, and second, it would be a nice touch if you could customize the block colors to make it easy to ascertain their purpose at a glance.

And one last nit-pick: The forced left-to-right flow in the Audio Grid is understandable, for easily connecting blocks, but I wouldn’t mind being able to go bottom to top, or even create a rat's nest of interconnects, if that was what I needed.

In the end, Audio Hijack 3 deserves at least a look-see by anyone who needs or wants to record audio on their Mac, not just those of us grabbing sound from a web site.  Audio Hijack 3’s ability to create complex recording sessions makes it a viable tool for just about any audio enthusiast.

Audio Hijack 3 is $49.00, or a $25.00 upgrade. A demo is available.

See other software choices from Tom's Mac Software Picks