How to get what you hear

November 25, 2007

Vista busy cursor In a comment to my previous post, Jay of vistasucks fame pointed out that Microsoft deliberately disabled the “what you hear” and “stereo mix” audio input options in Vista to stop people using software such as Audacity to strip DRM from audio content.

It makes a lot of sense. You could play back an encrypted song on say iTunes while recording it off the “what you hear” channel using Audacity. The resulting sound file would be a new, unencrypted recording.

I guess there would be some loss of quality because the recording is capturing the signal after conversion from digital to analogue for playback over your loudspeakers. Still, many users wouldn’t care too much about that.

Jay is probably right about Microsoft crippling part of the audio functionality in Vista deliberately to thwart DRM circumvention and please the record labels. He is not alone in being of that view. It would be entirely in keeping with the pandering to the studios that has led to the elaborate copy protection systems built into Vista for HD video playback.

Happily, Microsoft’s dabblings are not terminal. All you have to do is flush out Microsoft’s DRM friendly audio drivers by installing the drivers provided by the soundcard manufacturer. In most cases, the proprietary drivers will support “what you hear”. The low down on the whole process is described here.

In my case that meant downloading and installing the Asus AudioMAX drivers for my on-board sound chip. I could then enable “what you hear” and “stereo mix” from the Sound applet in the Windows Control Panel as described in the Audacity link above.

I call this the Silk Purse solution.

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  1. im not needing the option for recording. im needing it so i can use manycam to broadcast the audio and my screen while playing games over msn/blogtv

    i need to bypass the mic because i am using a headset, my mic cant very well pick up the sound from those and even if i had speakers i still would like to bypass the mic so that the sound quality is good.

  2. It’s easy enough, I found a sound recorder for Windows Vista that work without Stereo Mix or What U Hear inputs http://www.abyssmedia.com/isound7/

  3. alternatively you can just run a jack from the speaker output directly into the microphone input and monitor the levels onscreen. tedious and substandard i know, but it is vista.

  4. Just as a postscript, after installing the AudioMAX drivers for a while I lost the sound out of the speakers. It turned out that SPDIF had been set as the default output device.

    By right clicking on the Sound icon in the notification area of the taskbar, I was able to make the speakers the default device but had to reboot for the change to take effect.

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