Audacity, Zoom US, an audio interface AND a perfect mix. Is it possible?

Hi all, I’m a newbie and this is my first post. Here’s hoping a few of you might be willing to share some experience and expertise.

My wife and I have set ourselves up to record podcasts. We’re using an iMac (Catalina 10.15.7) which is connected to a Tascam US-4x4HR USB interface running two mics.

Audacity recognises the box just fine and records as you’d expect, but things get complicated when we start exploring how to record calls/interviews via Skype or Zoom US on the same iMac at the same time.

Anyone already shaking their heads?! :smiley:

I’ve got it working, using a ‘loopback’ setting with the Tascam interface, but I’m wondering whether I’m asking too much of Audcacity and/or the iMac soundcard to be able to mix the inputs, recognise the internet call and record the whole lot as well.

Does anyone have any advice?

Some of the specifics I’m pondering:

  • Ideally I’d like the caller on Zoom US to hear us through the Tascam interface and mic-set up, rather than a webcam mic/built-in mic
  • I’d like to control the volume of the Zoom guest on a third input on the interface
  • Do I need a separate standalone recorder, or to use Audacity on another laptop that’s not having to juggle all of the above?
  • Is there a better solution to run the lot?!

Many thanks.

Anyone already shaking their heads?!

Holding up hand.

Do I need a separate standalone recorder

That’s how I did it and that’s how several of the communications companies recommend you do it. Everybody wants the One-Button-Push solution and those actually do exist. Use Skype in Hands-Free mode, put your phone on the table between you and the computer, and press record on the phone; and push the button that tells Skype/Zoom to record it for you. I think that’s the whole list.

There is Pamela. Last I looked that was Windows-only. Check it.

Zoom takes over the computer. It has to in order to juggle all the pathways and quality processes. There is no “and run a recorder.” Even if you do manage to force the computer to do it, that process is likely to work right up to the next Zoom update. Even Pamela had this problem a while back. The only people who survived that were the separate recorder people.

“I don’t know, either. This all worked last week.”

There are a lot of problems that vanish with a separate recorder. For one, it doesn’t matter which service you use. Skype, Zoom, WeChat, etc. etc. As long as the service has their own, nice comfortable computer to run on, the connection works perfectly leaving the actual recording up to you—somewhere else.

This is how the broadcasters do it. They can’t be messing about with special software and settings during a news event.

I had an older and newer Mac and they both had stereo line-in and line-out. Those don’t exist any more but you can do well with an adapter such as the Behringer UCA-202.

This could have used cleaning up before I took the picture, but the Skype computer is on the right and the Audacity Recorder on the left. The left-hand Mac had a pathway left over and I used that to play music into the mixer.

Also give a thought to sound routing. You can’t send the guest voice back to themself. That echo is super disorienting. disorienting. disorienting.

Denise doesn’t sound like she’s four time zones away does she? This was an engineering test and heavily edited. It was not a show.


There is one point that can make any connection sound better. Put all the participants on headphones. Don’t need special microphones or heavy soundproofing although those are nice. Just climb into headphones before the connection. Instantly, Zoom doesn’t have to do echo suppression and feedback cancellation. No more honky sound or voices in a milk jug (although you do still have to deal with room sound).

There was one posting from someone who used Pamela and they stopped because they had to wait for Pamela to ship sound files around. I always thought Pamela worked locally, on your machine, but maybe not.

I’ve never used it.

If you have two local performers, you will need to straighten out headphone feeds. Listening to yourself in real time can be odd (but you get used to it). Strong coffee works well.

The two computer thing was only because I had them. That was overkill. You only really need a simple sound recorder that has nothing to do with the Skype machine. One poster had a mixer with a recorder in it. That seemed to work well.


Koz, thank you for your reply and experience - that’s given me some good food for thought.

You’re right about Pamela being Windows only.

I was wondering whether an option might simply be to use the Zoom.US recording function, as many beginner podcasters do, but I then wondered how much quality I’d lose by not recording directly out of my Tascam USB interface. In other words, does Zoom record the internet-based call quality of ALL parties on the call, or does it record a nice clean feed of your local set-up with only the guest impacted by the internet sound. I feel like there would’ve been little point me buying decent kit if I was simply going to use Zoom.US to record my audio.

That was the complaint about Zoom recording. Everybody has Zoom Voice. On the up side, I understand Zoom will, on request, record all branches of a Zoom call separately. That leaves you to individually correct and filter each branch rather than have one feed with everybody jammed into it. No, we can’t split those up if you get stuck with the mix.

There was another Zoom complaint. Everybody On Earth piled into Zoom at the same time and it took them two weeks to send you your files. I think that’s gone now. They figured out the gold they had and threw bucks into it.

Zoom record the internet-based call quality

Which doesn’t have to be trash. Does Denise sound like she has Skype Voice? To be clear, we’re both wearing headphones. We’re both broadcast professionals, but I believe she said she was talking into the Mac laptop microphone in her sewing room. Nothing special.

This is where you get to make the “Producer” decisions. If you have compelling content, you don’t have to hit broadcast line quality. For one example, Joe Rogan. Insanely popular, but he only recently figured out how to run his microphone. I think he hired a Sound Person. Several of his annoying sound problems vanished and he does multi-person interviews now with few if any technical glitches.

And guess what? they’re all wearing headphones.

Screen Shot 2021-02-15 at 9.39.31 AM.png

I did a Magic Marker® doodling on napkin about the mixer setup. Searching.


This is actually how to do Mix-Minus.

The Skype computer gets Special Handling. This doesn’t show the regular microphones. That would just fuzz up the explanation.

Plug the Skype voice into the mixer. It gets mixed along with everything else, other microphones, music, etc. Send to the recorder from the two RCA connections (Audacity Record) on the right.

Skype Send is special. That doesn’t get the total Mix. That gets Effects Send. FX SND. All the participants in the show get that knob turned up (black row) Except Skype. That gives you Mix Minus. Mixer total, minus Skype Voice. That prevents the guest from hearing themself coming back one second late, but they still hear everything in the show—other microphones, music, etc. Everybody can hear everybody else and can ask questions, etc.

Also, and I can’t stress this enough, it doesn’t matter which program or connection is running on the “Zoom” computer.


the caller on Zoom US to hear us through the Tascam interface and mic-set up

I think you talked yourself into a multi-channel mixer right there. We should remember the computer only has a Record and a Playback sound pathway, and Zoom needs them both. It insists on it. Have a happy day.

I did discover a technological advance that kind of messed some of this up. Newer sound mixers come with special effects conveniently built-in. That means you don’t have an Effects Send—send the sound out to a separate effects generator over on the credenza. I’m not sure how to get around that. Four-Channel mixer? Two for the show and the other two for Skype Send… I guess.

When your headache goes away and you get something working, post back how you did it. And remember it has to work through different chat programs and their updates. Other wise you just created a short-lived unicorn.


Tascam US-4x4HR USB

That’s not a mixer, is it? It’s just a really good four channel preamp and interface.

Then it’s easy. Figure out how to make Audacity record all four individual channels on the separate computer. Plug Skype Voice into the third channel. You’ll need two headphones plugged into the Tascam to hear the other side. I have no idea how the headphones work on that interface. All my interfaces mix everything down to one mono blob. There is no custom theatrical mix.

You can’t use the computer sound for headphones because the delay will be horrendous.

Use the Skype computer built-in microphone for Skype Send. Whatever is in the room gets sent.

This is a really bad place for noisy laptops.