Zoom vs. Audacity

This will be a crisper definition of a problem I described earlier, but I hope that it will be easier for readers to grasp and perhaps provide some help.

I am recording Zoom meeting audio, using Audacity. It records just fine and the audio files produced are just fine. However, if we attempt to play a portion of the recorded audio while the Zoom meeting continues in process, the Audacity signal levels bounce merrily away but there is no headphone output. If, during the meeting, we play audio from an app other than Audacity (YouTube video, e.g.) the audio appears in the headphones as we’d expect.

If we playback the recorded segment to the laptop speakers, they play just fine.

The instance we stop the Zoom meeting, the audio then plays through the headphones quite nicely–without making any Audacity changes.

Do we have an Audacity problem? Or Zoom? How should we progress from here?

We are at our wits’ ends with this and really need some expert guidance.

Or Windows: it can be set to mute things like Audacity when there are incoming (zoom) calls …

do nothing.png
Also Windows can assign exclusive control of sound-output to one program, (no sharing) …

do not allow exclusive control.png

Can you record both sides of the Zoom session to at least one sound file in Audacity? Most, or almost all people who try that fail. We’re interested in how you did it.

Also, can you get it to work on more than one machine? There are Unicorns out there who can perform miracles…once. Then they post a YouTube commentary series and nobody else can make it work. I have notes on a podcast maker who regularly cranked out good quality bi-directional conversations with his brother across the country. It seems only he could do that.

We’d kill to make a Zoom how-to page.


“Communications” in the Windows sound panel is new. Was that one of the updates that people hate?


See also related thread: https://forum.audacityteam.org/t/need-help-absolutely-cant-get-any-audible-output/59628/1

Neither. Zoom is doing exactly what it was designed to do - it is taking exclusive control of the sound system (locking out all other audio apps) to provide reliable performance of the Zoom meeting. This is why Zoom provide a recording feature in their software.

Thanks, Steve.

Let me make sure I understand: Even tho, in Windows, I have specified that Exclusive use of the device is not allowed, Zoom is defeating that? That’s exactly what I think I’ve been experiencing.

I am certainly glad to allow Zoom to do the recording heavy lifting, but I’d like to be able to: a) pause the recording during the meeting (and I know that I can do that), but then b) replay the Zoom recording to that point so that meeting attendees can listen to what’s happening so far and then continue recording.

Any possible way to rig that up?

We have NOT been able to pull off what we’ve been trying to accomplish. Thought we had it was not to be. As stated in an earlier response, Zoom appears to take exclusive control of the devices it’s using, and even though Audacity can record a portion of the Zoom meeting in real time, when it’s played back (and Audacity acts as if nothing is wrong) there’s no sound coming out of the output device. Bummer.

I don’t understand exactly what or how Zoom do what they do, but it certainly looks like they are able to force exclusive use for themselves, and the results are impressive. Other than the now familiar phrase (all together now, and don’t forget to point) “YOU’RE MUTED”, Zoom just works like magic 99% of the time.

There’s only two ways that I know of, and I’ve only tested the more difficult version.

The easy version is throw hardware at the problem.
Rather than plug a mic and headphones directly into the computer, use a mixer and USB interface (or USB mixer). Plug mic, headphones and a recorder (could be a second computer) into the mixer, then USB from mixer to computer. You now control the signal paths into and out of the computer. This is the better of the two ways - the only reason that I’ve not tested is that I’ve no need to, and it’s too much effort to set up without a need.

The hard way (which I tested and does work) requires a sufficiently quick computer to run Zoom from inside a virtual machine (I used Virtualbox). Zoom takes over the sound system of the VM, but to the host machine the VM is just like any other in/out audio app, so you can continue to use the real (host) sound system as normal.