Audio Hijack Pro 1

Audio Hijack Pro 1.0
Company: Rogue Amoeba Software

Price: $30.00
$16.00 for owners of Audio Hijack

I reviewed the original Audio Hijack for soon after its original release, and found it to be a splendid little tool for capturing (hijacking, in Rogue Amoeba parlance) audio streams. Best of all, Audio Hijack is able to hijack RealAudio streams to disk, which no other application is able to do.

After stewing in their own juices for several months, the programmers at Rogue Amoeba have come up with Audio Hijack Pro, a substantial improvement to Audio Hijack. AH Pro addresses some of the shortcomings found in the original, and adds several neat features.

Some of the new features are:

Hijacks audio from any application
Hijacks running applications
MP3 and AIFF audio recording from any application
Ability to pause recordings – avoid commercials!
Customizable recording file names
Tivo-like timed hijacking/recording
Enhanced timers with added functionality
Adds DSP effects to any audio
Supports VST and AudioUnits DSP plugins
Supports visual plugins including VU Meters and Menu Bar Meters
Inline Level Meters
Graphical DSP patch area for easy DSP adding
Patch Navigator for easy reference
Ability to save sets of DSP effects (Patches)
Load/Unload plugins at runtime
Integrated help and tutorials
Available in multiple languages
While that’s a hefty laundry list of new features, some jumped out at me. One drawback of the original Audio Hijack is that recordings can be done only in AIFF format, which requires plenty of disk space. AH Pro is able to record directly to MP3, which saves conversion time and effort.

Timers and presets are a huge win for AH Pro. Timers allow you to start AH Pro, and indicate when you want an audio stream captured. You can even create a preset timer to run repeatedly. If you want to capture, say, Car Talk, every week at a certain time, you can set a timer to capture the Car Talk audio stream URL for a particular time duration. Granted, AH Pro must be running to start the process, but it is easy to just set the timer and leave AH Pro in the background. When the time comes up, the desired audio application will start; the hijacking will commence, and run for the preset amount of time. If you do get serious about timed recordings, you’ll appreciate the fact that each successive recording is given a sequential file name; the original Audio Hijack couldn’t do this.

Because AH Pro works at a low level, it captures audio before it gets to the speakers. Just for fun, I started a RealAudio hijacking, hit the AH Pro mute button, started iTunes, and listened to music while the hijacking was recording a recent Fresh Air interview to disk. When the capture was done, I burned the AIFF file to an audio CD to later enjoyment in the car.

The DSP (digital signal processing) features are enhanced, but I didn’t spend much time evaluating them. Bit-twiddling various settings in an attempt to improve the dubious quality of Internet audio streams is not how I want to spend my time. One capability I did find interesting was the level meter to monitor recordings. However, I must confess I can’t quite see the point of monitoring levels of an Internet stream when you can’t adjust the level of the source if there is problem.

The main drawback to AH Pro is a slightly quirky interface. I had to read through the on-screen help file (a printable version would be nice) to figure out how to do captures on a regular schedule, as the interface was a bit odd. Once that was done, operation was easy. While the interface and overall appearance is far superior to many shareware applications, a few things are less than blindingly obvious.

Is Audio Hijack Pro worth the $30 ($14 for upgraders), especially when the original version is still for sale? While your mileage may vary, I found timers and presets make day-to-day usage of Audio Hijack much friendlier. The enhanced DSP features and plug-ins aren’t interesting to me, but the ability to record directly to MP3 is a great timesaver. If all you do is the occasional Internet stream capture to AIFF, you may want to keep the piggy bank closed. But if you do many captures, want to use timers and presets, and make MP3’s without conversion, Audio Hijack Pro is worth the extra money.

MacMice Rating: 4.5 out of 5

David Weeks

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