Does recording desktop sound lose quality?

I have been recording some wav and flac files into audacity today, by playing them on windows media player, and then recording the desktop background sounds in Audacity. I realise this is not an ideal way of doing things, and it would be easier to load the wav and flac files straight into Audacity and chop them up etc…

I was interested to know, does this process degrade the quality of the file? And if so, how so?

Some methods of self-recording send the sound all the way out to the analog section of your soundcard and then bring it back for recording. That sound has been through analog/digital transitions twice and picks up some damage each pass. Some machines have a technique to catch the sound while it’s still digital and turn it around. Those have little or no damage.


Thanks for the answer! Interesting… I have a Focusrite Scarlett 18i8. On Audacity I have the recording device selected as “Line Out (Scarlett 18i8 USB) (loopback)”.
Any idea if this would be keeping it lossless digital or not?

You can import wav to Audacity by clicking file / import.

Presumably then you are choosing Windows WASAPI host in the first box of Audacity’s Device Toolbar? Yes that it is believed digital, but the volume of the achieved recording is set to a fixed level, and any system ding noises also get recorded.

It is almost certainly not “bit perfect” (that is, there are probably at least some sample rate or bit depth conversions going on). To minimise those conversions, it is theoretically best to set Scarlett in Windows Sound to Exclusive Mode for both playback and recording, and set Audacity project rate to the exact same rate that Scarlett is using.

If these things worry you, simply import the file. :wink: