Review – Audio Hijack 1.0

On October 29, 2002, in Review, by David Weeks

Audio Hijack 1.0
Company: Rogue Amoeba Software

Price: $16.00
http://www.rogueamoeba.com

There are plenty of sound capture and sound processing applications for Mac OS X, and the list is growing every day. Even pro-level tools are beginning to hit the market. So why would you want to buy another shareware application that captures and processes audio?

Audio Hijack, from Rogue Amoeba Software, is different from the run-of-the-mill audio processing application in that it provides the ability to manipulate your audio output in real time. Other sound processing applications may have more extensive equalizers, waveform shapers, etc., but they will only work after the capture is complete. Audio Hijack gives you immediate feedback about your equalization choices.

The Rogue Amoeba web site provides a list of Audio Hijack features:

* Add an Equalizer to Apple’s DVD Player, RealOne Player, Windows Media Player, and any other application to create the perfect movie watching environment.

* Tweak Real and Windows Media audio files to perfection with your own combination of our DSP plugins.

* Increase the volume of one application, such as your music player, above all your other applications via the Double Gain plugin.

* Turn on the Reverb and Echo effects.

* Use the Flanger effect to turn your audio into abstract swooping soundscapes.

* Sing along to your favorite music videos using the Karaoke plugin!

* Add bass to your game sounds for a life-like rumble. Feel your enemies approaching from behind in Quake!

Buried in that list is a hint of the special power of Audio Hijack; this is the only application that allows you to capture RealAudio streaming audio files to disk. More about this later.

Downloading and installation are straightforward. Audio Hijack is provided as a .dmg Disk Copy image file. After downloading and mounting the disk image, just drag the application to your hard drive. The Read Me is short, but worth a glance, as it tells you that you must start Audio Hijack before starting any application whose sound output you wish to process.

I chose iTunes for my first trial, as I wanted to compare the Audio Hijack equalizer to iTunes’ built-in equalizer.

Firing up AH, I selected iTunes as the target application in the Configuration window. Audio Hijack allows you set save various configurations, so that you don’t have to re-configure each time.

Clicking the Launch button starts the target sound application (iTunes in this case). You run the target application normally. Switching back to Audio Hijack allows you to adjust sound quality via the DSP (digital signal processing) window, and to record the audio stream directly as an AIFF file to a location of your choice.

The Audio Hijack equalizer allows more off-beat (no pun intended) choices than does the iTunes equalizer. While iTunes has more presets, Audio Hijack allows you to add effects like Reverb, Flanging, and Karaoke (strips out the vocals for singing along). If you crave extra volume, you can try the Double Gain feature, although this caused the built-in speaker on my G4 to grossly distort at high volume settings. My SoundSticks had no trouble cranking out the high dB’s, however.

So, we have a $16.00 shareware application that allows you to capture audio to disk after doing some modest sound manipulation. Would I cut loose $16.00 to register this application? Not really. I don’t need the real-time manipulation that Audio Hijack provides, although some people want to.

But…

The overwhelming attraction of Audio Hijack for me is the ability to capture RealAudio streaming audio files to disk in AIFF format. I’ll pay $16.00 for that capability in a heartbeat!

If you frequent Macintosh web sites, you know that one question that comes up about once a month is “how can I capture RealAudio sound streams?” Invariably, the answer comes back as “you can’t.”

The RealPlayer application generates its’ audio output in such a way that it cannot be captured by “normal” Macintosh audio capture applications. Rogue Amoeba’s programming geeks have figured out a method to “hijack” (hence the name) the RealAudio output and capture it to disk.

So, registered users of Audio Hijack can “timeshift” their favorite RealAudio files (many radio programs archive their programs in RealAudio format) burn them to CD, and play them when desired. For a more in-depth discussion of the legalites involved in RealAudio stream capture, read this interview of Rogue Amoeba president Paul Kafais. Kafais presents his case that RealAudio capture is “fair use,” much like taping TV programs with a VCR, for later playback. The interview also includes an interesting history of the Audio Hijack application.

Testing this feature was easy. I set up Audio Hijack to use RealPlayer OS X as the target application, launched RealPlayer and got the desired program running, switched back to Audio Hijack, and clicked “Start Recording.” AH obediently began to capture the RealAudio stream to the specified location on my hard drive. When the program was over, I clicked “Stop Recording,” and the capture ceased. On my desktop lay an AIFF file of the captured program, suitable for playback in an audio application, or for burning to an audio CD.

I know dozens of audio programs that I missed out on listening live, and I plan to use Audio Hijack to capture their web-archived versions, and then burn the AIFF file to a CD for listening when I commute to work.

RealAudio stream capture is easily worth $16.00!

MacMice Rating: 5 out of 5


David Weeks

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