How to capture Mac desktop audio with OBS

Because by default it’s so dumb. Literally.

obs audio mac

OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) is a great program for streaming and recording gameplay on a PC. I’ve used it quite a lot, but it has frustrated me for a while that the Mac version has – through no fault of OBS – no ability to capture game audio. On the PC, you can capture “desktop audio” or “what U hear”, but that’s not an option on OS X. On older Macs, you could run a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable from the headphone socket to the line in socket, but on newer Macs there’s one socket that does both directions, so that’s out.

A year or so ago I tried to get either of two solutions working: Soundflower, which sort of did but was really fiddly, and WavTap which never seemed to work at all. Recent versions of OS X have actually prevented Soundflower from working as intended at all, so there was no (free) solution and I stopped using OBS on a Mac. Until last week.

Soundflower was still in my system settings, albeit unused, and I’d never got round to uninstalling it. It irritated me every time I saw it there but was always busy doing something else and kept forgetting to remove it. This time, however, I finally looked up how to and in the process came across a new utility which effectively replaces it, and works: IShowU Audio Capture. There’s a full (paid for) software package called IShowU, but all you need for this purpose is the audio capture part, which is free.

How to make IShowU work with OBS

Firstly, download IShowU Audio Capture from this link, and install it as shown. You don’t need Step 6 yet, so do 1-5 and come back.

(time passes)

Done? Hello again!

So, step 6 is going into System Preferences > Sound and choosing IShowU Audio Capture as your sound input device, which will work, but keep reading for an additional tweak.

obs mac audio

All you need to do now is open up OBS and choose a new Audio Input Capture source (click the + under the Sources box), then choose IShowU Audio Capture as the device. That’s it!

obs mac audio

obs audio mac

Only… there’s a snag. This will indeed capture all “desktop audio” (so you’ll probably want to close or mute email notifications and so on when streaming or recording), but crucially it won’t actually output any sound to your speakers or headphones so you’ll be playing mute. This might not be a problem, but if it is, read on.

Open up the Audio MIDI Setup app from Applications > Utilities. In here we’re going to create a multi-output device, so you can output your desktop audio to both IShowU and headphones/speakers/whatever at the same time.

Click the + in the bottom left, and choose “Create Multi-Output Device”. Then, in the right-hand pane for this new device, make sure you tick “Built-in Output” and “iShow Audio Capture”. Leave drift correction set to Built-in Output.

obs audio mac

Close that, and head back over to System Preferences > Sound. You’ll now have an output option for your new Multi-Output Device. Before you choose it, make sure you set your volume level how you want it: you can’t adjust the volume of a multi-output device!

obs mac sound

 

With the volume set, choose Multi-Output Device as your, er, output device, and you’ll notice the volume slider grey-out. It’s time to go back to OBS and configure the Audio Input Capture there – same as before, choosing IShowU Audio Capture.

You’re done, although you might want to remember to choose your usual output settings in System Preferences when you’re finished recording!

27 thoughts on “How to capture Mac desktop audio with OBS”

  1. Bless this post 🙂 It helped a ton! I just wanted to add a note.

    If anyone wants to add commentary too from their mic into OBS, go to Settings –> Audio. I added it in Settings instead of from the main screen where you add sources. It looks like this in the Audio tab for me.

    Mic/Auxiliary Audio Device: iShowU Audio Caputure
    Mic/Auxiliary Audio Device 2: Built-in Microphone*

    *This is just me not having a quality microphone yet, so I’m using what the computer has. Obviously this will be different for those who DO have a nice microphone.

  2. Holy mother of GOD! Finally someone had an answer to my problem!!! I must have spent 2 hours looking for a way to record desktop audio and still be able to hear it and YOU were the only one to have the answer! THANK YOU!

  3. Hey, I did everything as you said. However, when I have the master on, I keep getting this irritating high-pitched noise that goes along with anything I play on Mac. Livestream is clean, the noise I get is on the headphones. Any clues on this? Thanks!

        1. I wondering if maybe you’d set one of the active outputs also as an active input. Are you able to test with some other headphones, perhaps? If they’re Apple earphones with a built-in mic maybe that’s getting involved somehow?

          And just to check – you don’t have the volume whacked up to max anywhere?

  4. It Wont Work For me at all! I did everything You typed for me to do! I tried to get a commentary and It DID NOT work. What do I do!? I set my input audio to the iShow Thing and set the output to the Multi settings and When I TRY TO GET A COMMENTARY it only goes to my mic! No Desktop Audio AT ALL! HELP!!!!!!!

  5. This was so incredibly helpful! Thank you so much, I tried numerous different softwares and tutorials to put sound behind streams and recordings and this was the only one that worked! You are a blessing <3

    1. All I can suggest, is double check everything is set up correctly, make sure you don’t have any volumes set to minimum, and restart your Mac (I Show U might not fully work until a restart after it has been installed).

      Also, I’ve not tested this with High Sierra, so it’s possible it doesn’t work with that if that’s what you’re using.

  6. Wonderful article and extremely helpful. I’d also recommend Acethinker Online Screen Recorder which I have been using for many years. It supports recording system and microphone or both. I always take it to record videos and upload to YouTube so that I can share with friends. Share it here as an alternative to OBS.

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