How do I record phone conversations on my Windows computer?
January 15, 2012 1:01 PM   Subscribe

How do I record phone conversations on my Windows computer?

I've got the option to work from home on occasion. The biggest technical obstacle to this that I face is phonecalls.

I don't want to tie-up my home phoneline. I also don't want to have to pay for lots of long-distance calls that I can't expense. I do have the ability to forward calls from work to whatever number I choose.

I've signed up for a free, advertising supported, Internet-based phone service: in case anybody cares. It assigned me a phone number in the same city as the business. So I've got a "dedicated business line."

I can place calls from my computer. I can receive calls into my computer. So good so far. (Well the software is a bit buggy, and there are certain things it does that drives me nuts, but this isn't a software review.)

But I also, because of the type of job I do, need the ability to record those phone conversations. (I'm well award of the legalities of the issue and have them well covered, so I don't need advice on that front.)

I have a Windows 7, 64-bit system. I have the standard Windows Media Player (which I typically don't use). I also have QMP, Gom, and VLC. I thought QMP should do the trick, but if it can, I can't figure out how to make it work. I looked briefly at Audacity, but it looks like it's only in beta for Windows, and I'd prefer something in general release.

I'm willing to download new software. Free is, of course, preferred, but I'm willing to buy something that is reasonably priced. I'm also willing to look at a hardware solution. I have a digital audio recorder, but if I need a bit to plug in between the computer and the recorder, that's fine. Ideally I'd be able to save the files in a WAV format, as that is the standard I'm currently using. If not, I can convert the files later.
posted by sardonyx to Technology (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is Google Voice available there? If so, there is an option to record calls within the interface (though I believe it plays a notice before recording commences).

If you can't find a good software alternative or need something quick in the meantime, you can always record out using the headphone jack to any type of recorder (you would typically then have your headset plugged in to the speaker jack of the recording device).
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 1:53 PM on January 15, 2012

Response by poster: As far as I know, Google voice doesn't operate in Canada.

The hardware advice is exactly what I'm looking for. It sounds pretty simple, assuming I know what to call the connecting cable when I go shopping. I'd need something with a headphone type jack on both ends, right? Does that type of cable have a name?

So if I understand what you are saying....

Computer headphone jack --> mic in [on audio recorder]

Talk via internal computer mic (or USB-attached mic) and listen in via headphones connected to audio recorder?

Or have I got things mixed up?
posted by sardonyx at 2:05 PM on January 15, 2012

You want a 3.5mm male stereo jack on each end.

There is software that does the same thing. Virtual Audio Cable has a free trial.
posted by wilko at 2:26 PM on January 15, 2012

Response by poster: Great. So far that gives me a couple of options to try.
posted by sardonyx at 2:43 PM on January 15, 2012

You might have better results using a USB headset and software like Total Recorder or a combination of Audacity and Virtual Audio Cable linked above.

If you take the audio from the computer to your external recorder your recording may miss out on your side of the conversation as VoIP software tends not to mix the mic signal to the output, unlike a traditional phone handset.
posted by dirm at 3:35 PM on January 15, 2012

Response by poster: Great, please keep the suggestions coming.

As I mentioned, Audacity seems to be in beta for Windows 7. Have you used it? How stable is it? I know there are stable, solid betas and flaky, wonky betas. I'm trying to avoid the latter.
posted by sardonyx at 3:45 PM on January 15, 2012

From doing some googling, it looks like you can to pay freephoneline $50 (one time) for a username and password you can use for any sip client you want. If that's ture, you can just download X-lite, which has a record button built in.
posted by empath at 5:28 PM on January 15, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for that suggestion.

At this point I'm still new to the phone service -- I just signed up over the weekend to test it out. While it can make and receive basic phone calls, it seems to have a few issues with regards to accessing directories, entering options, etc.

I don't know if I hit the service on a particularly buggy weekend of if this is going to be an ongoing issue. If I get all the kinks and bugs worked out on my end, I may consider paying for the SIP option. If not, I figure any of the other software and/or hardware solutions proposed by MeFites should work with other VOIP services.

As I said, please keep the solutionsg coming. The more options I've got, the better the odds of finding a solution that will work.

I'll definitely keep reading and responding to this topic. It's just that given my schedule I likely won't be able to test out many (or all) of the options until next weekend. When I do, I'll post my results back here in case people have similar questions in the future.
posted by sardonyx at 5:53 PM on January 15, 2012

With voip, you get what you pay for. X-lite will work with any sip service (and there are a lot of them out there).
posted by empath at 6:05 PM on January 15, 2012

Response by poster: I'll definitely take your comment and advice under advisement.

As I said, I don't mind spending a bit of money to make sure this works adequately. I just don't want to spend a lot of money willy-nilly without really knowing what I'm getting into our how much I'll really need it.

If it turns out that the working-from-home opportunities are going to become regular occurrences, I'll likely consider getting a better VOIP service. If it's just a random, once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity, I'll probably just try to make due with the bare minimum. This is a pretty new work situation that I'm still trying to figure out at the moment.
posted by sardonyx at 6:23 PM on January 15, 2012

I just ran a test with an old minidisc recorder and it worked.

I used a 3.5mm headphone-style cable with two male ends. One end was plugged into the headphone end of my iphone and connected to the line in one the recorder. Then, the iPhone's mic picked up my audio. I then listened to all this over headphones plugged into the line out of the recording device. My voice was a bit quiet compared to the other end, but it worked, and I'm fairly sure the same process would work with a laptop (though you would want to test all this out, of course, before you do this on a real call).

However, if the software version works, that would save you a ton of hassle as you would already have the files digitized on your system. Though this works in a pinch and is fairly foolproof.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 11:10 PM on January 15, 2012

Response by poster: Wow. Running a hardware test. That goes above and beyond. Thanks.
posted by sardonyx at 3:38 PM on January 16, 2012

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