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Working with audio and video data on your PC

This page shows you how you can use free tools for sound and video capture and processing on your PC. You can also download this page as a PDF. If you want to replay audio from a web page, see How to play audio from a web page.

Audio capture from microphone

Sound recorder

If you are capturing short sounds from a microphone or the line input, the Sound Recorder application that comes with Windows is just about adequate. On Windows XP, you can find it under Start/Programs/Accessories/Entertainment. Note that Sound Recorder has some strange default settings, including a limitation to record a maximum of 60 seconds.
One tip about Sound Recorder is to change the default recording sampling rate. Before you record, choose File/Properties and Format Conversion/Convert Now. Then on the format dialog (see below) choose "PCM/22.050kHz 16-bit Mono". This is adequate for most speech work.
Once the speech is recorded, you can use Sound Recorder to change the compression format to save space on you disk. Do not do this if you want to perform instrumental analysis on the signals. To save as a compressed audio file, choose File/Save As, then change the file format specified at the bottom of the save dialog box.


The WASP program allows you to record single-channel audio in WAV format up to the limit of your computer's memory (many minutes, typically). This program can also display a spectrogram and a pitch track. It does not have any editing facilities and cannot save in compressed audio.


The Audacity project is building a cross-platform open-source audio editor. This is a sophisticated program that allows you to edit and mix audio and save in compressed formats.


Audio capture from an audio CD


The CDex project is home to a "CD ripper" for copying audio from CDs on to your hard disk. The program has support for the CDDB database of track titles and can compress audio to a number of different formats through installable CODECs. However, if you plan to analyse the audio, just save in uncompressed, or "PCM" format.