Recording both ends of a land-line phone conversation

I need to record a telephone conversation via a land-line telephone onto Audacity for airing in a podcast. How do I do that?

I’ve done it using Skype, but the new interviewee is not equipped with Skype and doesn’t know anyone who is. The interview will be edited and portions of it aired in conjunction with musical recordings.

I am using Windows XP and Audacity 2.0.1

John Birchard

I do it with a special purpose microphone.

That’s an Olympus TP-7 or TP-8. The TP-7 needs that little extra tiny sound adapter to work. It should plug right into your Mic-In on your Windows machine (on the left in the top illustration). The blowup illustration is used with a white USB sound adapter for computers that don’t have Mic-In. Like my Mac.

You jam it in your ear under the phone. You do have to be careful not to make noises when the guest is performing, since you’re both in the show at once.

Past that, you’re looking at a telephone hybrid or equivalent. Many hundreds of dollars.

You can try the “telephone recorders” from Radio Shack, but try them before you commit to the show. I have all of them and they are, I’ll be polite and say “Not Useful.”

Can’t you pay for a Skype license that you can call with a POTS? If you already have Skype working, that’s the best bet of all.


There is one note on the microphone. If you only have a cellphone and not another landline, two things will happen: The Near-Far sound balance will be much better since cellphones don’t have “sidetone,” but the down side is the cellphone RF signal may get into the recording. You need to juggle wires and positions of equipment to suppress it. Again, make calls first before you commit to a show.

Post back and tell us what you did and how well it worked.


In the old days, I had good luck with one a [u]pick-up coil[/u] plugged into a cassette recorder. But phones are made differently now, and I have no idea if it would still work.

A quick search turned-up [u]this page[/u] with lots of suggestions & information.

The best way by far is to let both ends record their own voice with Audacity during the call.
You share e.g. a drop-box folder and the guest places his track there.
Most regular podcast producers rely on this method if the procedure isn’t to cumbersome for the guest–it needs some convincing and test time.
You can always apply a telephone-equalization to simulate the phone conversation.
A mutual autoduc effect on both channels will suppress any artefacts from the phone speaker itself.

pick-up coil plugged into a cassette recorder.

Grand idea, but those work by sensing the magnetic field around the earphone part of a standard telephone deskset. Nobody said the poster had a real telephone… probably not. The microphone and Skype license work no matter what.

The best way by far is to let both ends record their own voice with Audacity during the call.

Agreed, but anybody on a landline that refuses to Skype is not likely to want to fiddle with Audacity and associated microphones, etc. The impression I get from the posting is that this guest is reclusive but a “valuable get” and no further fuss is welcome. Indeed, I bet the next step is to send someone to the guest to record their voice. In that case the show would be exactly like the one I shot where the guest in Los Angeles was simulated to be in their studio for the interview. I still don’t know where the real studio was. Nobody said and my guest managed the sound files — apparently successfully.

You can always apply a telephone-equalization to simulate the phone conversation.

True, but the theatrical version of this is simulating the guest joining you in your studio, so given that, the clearer the better.

When I did the abbreviated and not particularly successful testing of a Skype podcast, my “guest” sounded like she was in my “studio” in spite of being 3000 miles away across the country. That part worked fine.

I’m dying to see what they use and how well it worked.


Recording Telephone Calls – Phone Losers of America

Look at that. They hit all the high points. There is one big problem with that site. They suggest that all these applications and techniques work perfectly and that hasn’t been my experience at all.

POTS or Plain Old Telephone Service is aggressively balanced on those two wires. Anything you do to those wires that affects the balance will cause noise and buzz. That’s what killed the two Radio Shack telephone recorders.

As you get higher in complexity, you do achieve certain benefits. Many of those tricks do not separate the two callers. To get that, required for a studio operation or mixing desk, requires a real balanced hybrid (why they’re still sold) or some other technique that does the same thing. I bet the Skype license can do that.

Equipment that uses the telephone handset to do the direction management will never get much better than poor because of sidetone. That’s when a little bit of your own voice is sent back to you as a confirmation of quality. That’s why you rarely hear somebody on a landline phone yell, “CAN YOU HEAR ME OK?” Cellphones don’t have sidetone.