Help! I need to make telephone calls from my computer and record them!
November 16, 2017 3:05 PM   Subscribe

A really big part of my job is doing telephone interviews, and I need to be able to record them in order to get accurate quotes from them later. My telephone doesn't support call recording (or rather, it only records my end of the conversation, which is useless), but I've had a really successful system of using Skype, with a paid balance to make outgoing calls to telephone numbers and then recording them using the third-party Skype Call Recorder program for Ubuntu. This doesn't work anymore.

There was a forced Skype version update last week that has broken the interface with Skype Call Recorder. The Skype Call Recorder devs have said they have no plans to roll out a fix. This is a big problem for me. I've done two interviews today with no recorder and just trying to take real time notes, but I'm not a fast enough typist, nor can I fully keep my train of thought and be a good interviewer while trying to transcribe everything. I have more interviews tomorrow and really need a solution.

The ideal solution would be some other way to record the call audio using the new version of Skype, but googling doesn't show any solutions. Alternately, I would have no problem using some other VOIP service that supports call recording so long as it: 1. Works on Ubuntu, and 2. Allows me to call out to telephone lines, not just other users.

Do you have any suggestions for me? Please?
posted by 256 to Technology (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm pretty sure Google Voice allows you to record calls.
posted by nixxon at 3:22 PM on November 16, 2017

Uh, I may be being a thicko, here, but can you just turn on a tape recorder in the room with you? Either an actual physical recorder or the voice memo app on your phone? I mean, I'm presuming you're skyping on your laptop, using your computer speakers, and not via a headset or something. The sound quality will be mediocre at best but it should be sufficient for you to transcribe.
posted by Diablevert at 3:36 PM on November 16, 2017

I use a headset. I have considered getting a splitter for my headphone out jack and running one wire into a digital voice recorder, but I don't currently own one and would prefer a software solution.
posted by 256 at 3:41 PM on November 16, 2017

I'm a freelance journalist and when I record my phone interviews, I put my iPhone next to my recorder and talk on speaker. I like this method because my hands are free for notes or typing. YMMV
posted by queen_mob at 3:42 PM on November 16, 2017

Wait, I'm still using Skype Call Recorder (used it today, and all week)--when did it break?
posted by pinochiette at 3:58 PM on November 16, 2017

It broke when I updated to the new version of Skype ( My previous version of Skype stopped working last Thursday, so I had to upgrade. If yours still works, I am jealous.

(Oh, and according to what I've read, it seems to have broken for everyone who has updated Skype, so avoid doing that if you can.)
posted by 256 at 4:04 PM on November 16, 2017

Can you revert to the old version of Skype? What about Audacity or Audio Recorder?
posted by fritillary at 4:19 PM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

There is definitely a way purely in software to make an audio recording program record anything coming out of the mixer to your speakers, but I don't have a recent enough version of Ubuntu at hand to help.

That said, if you happen to have an old creative labs sound card lying around, the hardware exposes an input called "What U Hear" that you can have any program that can record audio use to record exactly what is being output to your speakers/headphones. Since it's a feature of the hardware mixer it works the same in Windows and Linux, happily.

If you're using a desktop that has a free PCI slot, I suspect you could pick up a Sound Blaster Live on eBay for a buck or two.

Another alternative would be a VoIP provider that offers a call recording feature so it isn't tied to the capability of your actual computer. I believe can do that, but double check.
posted by wierdo at 4:33 PM on November 16, 2017

I do recorded interviews for work on a weekly basis, and I would very highly recommend that you just suck it up and get a digital voice recorder and a pickup mic.

This is a pickup mic, in case you're not familiar.

You plug one end of the mic into the recorder, you jam the other end into your ear, then you put the phone against your ear, over the mic. It picks up both sides of the conversation, and the quality is high enough that you'll have zero problems hearing everything after the fact.

The advantage of this system, for me, is that it allows me to record off any phone. Not just my desk phone, but my cell phone, someone else's phone, a payphone, etc. The recorder can be used without the mic to capture speaker calls or in-person interviews. It's a very versatile setup, and it will only cost you like $80 or $100 (or a ton more if you need broadcast-quality audio, but it doesn't seem like you do).

I spent years messing around with software recording solutions, and I would never, ever go back. A purpose-built recorder is so much easier and more reliable. Plus it has features that come in handy, like automatic slowdown for dictation. You need it for work. Invest in yourself.
posted by AAAA at 4:41 PM on November 16, 2017 [6 favorites]

I used a digital recorder for years and second what AAAA said. Mine produced MP3s and those easily transferred to a hard drive.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:24 PM on November 16, 2017

Guys! Audacity was the answer!

I followed this little tutorial and now it beautifully records anything I want, even Skype.

Thanks for the help!

Oh and I also appreciate the pick-up mic selection. I might look into that in the future, but the Audacity solution is going to meet 100% of my current needs and, more importantly, meed them before my first interview tomorrow morning.
posted by 256 at 7:35 PM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

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