Audio from YouTube
April 17, 2020 1:38 AM   Subscribe

What is current best/safe practice for extracting audio from Youtube videos?

I see a lot of programs and websites that claim to extract sound, but I don't really have any way of telling which ones are less dodgy and more reliable. What safe and simple ways of extracting the audio to a computer (Windows) or smartphone (either Android or iOS) might there be?

I'm primarily interested in generating an mp3 I can listen to later.

A (distant) secondary interest is in finding a way to turn Youtube collections or feeds into audio podcast feeds I can listen to with my podcasting app without having to be online at the time.

Please assume I am aware and respectful of copyright considerations. I know there is at least one previously to this question, but it is from 2012.
posted by tavegyl to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If you’re comfortable using the command line, look no further than youtube-dl
posted by STFUDonnie at 1:51 AM on April 17, 2020 [9 favorites]

If you have a little bit of command line experience, then youtube-dl with the --extract-audio option is quite nice for this sort of thing. It's open source and well maintained. And it works with other sites besides YouTube. I'd say it's got little to no dodginess.
posted by ddbeck at 1:56 AM on April 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

I generally use

Downside is it costs money, and there are likely free solutions for each piece they offer. The upside is that it's all in one place, it generally works quite well, and I don't have to deal you know?
posted by wooh at 4:08 AM on April 17, 2020

To be honest, I've had good luck using any of the various websites offering free audio extraction. I've never gotten an mp3 out of the process with an ad inserted or some other nonsense.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:39 AM on April 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

Thirding youtube-dl. Pretty much anything you can stream on the web, you can download with youtube-dl.

Many sources are available in multiple formats in a range of qualities, some of which are video-only, some audio-only and some with both. Youtube-dl can grab any of these individually, and it can also make a combined video+audio file by merging a video-only download with an audio-only one as well as isolating audio tracks from combined downloads using --extract-audio.

It's also not restricted to downloading single videos; give it the URL of a YouTube playlist, or the list of videos uploaded by a specific user, and it will download the lot.
posted by flabdablet at 4:51 AM on April 17, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: MediaHuman YouTube Downloader

I think it will do video too but all I've ever used it for is audio.
posted by Awfki at 5:46 AM on April 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

If using the command line is intimidating, take a look at open-source GUIs (graphical user interfaces) for youtube-dl. Open source doesn't guarantee no shadiness, but it definitely reduces the likelihood IME.

The first result I get in that search seems decent (on the strength of the description; I haven't tried it). It has a portable version for Windows which means you can run it without installing it.

If you'd like to try the commandline youtube-dl though, whether on Windows or Android, and would like help setting it up let me/us know.

An additional option on Android is NewPipe, an open-source frontend for YouTube that has built-in file downloading, though unfortunately it doesn't convert the YouTube audio to the mp3 format - you'd have to convert it yourself later if the audio formats it downloads aren't convenient for you.
posted by trig at 6:21 AM on April 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I use the more antiquated, but for my purpose perfectly adequate method of just capturing the audio using Audacity, but I'm usually just recording working copies of 3 - 5 minute songs that come out ahead of an album release I intend to buy later. It's a bit more like taping songs off the radio, and I'm perfectly comfortable with that for the intended use.
posted by glonous keming at 6:57 AM on April 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

I also use youtube-dl quite a bit. When it fails try to give it the '--update/-U' option and let it self-update to the latest version. It's always a bit of cat-and-mouse keeping up with the ever changing streaming services to keep things working.

On the other hand, I also use a Firefox extension Video DownloadHelper which does a good job of 'watching video' click-button and save it. It takes a bit of getting used to, but can capture the wildest random stream from some random site. If your browser can view it, VDH can probably capture it. Pro-Tip... when it gives you multiple things, choose the largest. It will track the preview and lower-res stuff as well. It has a MP3 function but I've never used it favoring extracting the audio myself. I don't trust it to do the conversion/extraction bit.
posted by zengargoyle at 1:20 PM on April 17, 2020

I have Audacity...but HOW do you capture audio using it?
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:22 AM on April 18, 2020

In Audacity, set your recording device to whatever your normal sound output is. It will vary based on your particular setup. For me, my PC audio is my big TV with the external speakers. It's connected through HDMI, so the Windows audio system picks it up as a audio output device. This is the trickiest part: you'll probably have to fiddle around a bit with the devices in Audacity to figure out which one is actually making the sound come out.

So in Audacity I have the tv (listed as its model number 55r615) set as the recording device. I go to YouTube and get the track queued up. In Audacity I hit the record button. On YouTube I hit play. The song plays the audio through my TV, audacity records the audio. when the song is over I just trim the captured wave, maybe normalize it, then export it as MP3 or whatever.

Here's what it looks like in action:

The "official" tutorial is here, which has links to a subtutorial on how to find the correct sound output device on Win, Mac, or Linux: Tutorial - Recording audio playing on the computer.
posted by glonous keming at 10:30 AM on April 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

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