Capturing desktop sound in Windows

Hi all, does anyone know how desktop sound can be captured and routed to an Ardour audio track? I’m using Windows 10. Thanks!

The usual way to do that with Ardour is using JACK Audio Connection Kit. There may be other ways to accomplish the same thing on Windows, but JACK is cross platform, and was first developed on Linux, which a large number of Ardour users use as their main operating system.
JACK downloads

JACK can be a little daunting to setup if you are not used to that type of routing application, but essentially you install JACK, start jackd.exe, then in the Ardour audio setup window you find the system audio outputs and connect to your Ardour audio track.

Finding someone who runs JACK on Windows will be your best source of specific information, the specifics of how you get the system audio to show up in JACK is different between Windows and Linux.

If you get stuck and cannot easily find Windows specific help, reply back here and someone may be able to get you past your immediate hurdle.

Thanks Chris. I was a long time Linux user and used JACK (with Ardour). Recently I switched back to Windows (well some apps such as EZdrummer, my guitar multi-effect editor, band-in-a-box etc.) got me drawn back to Windows. I can give JACK a try, was hoping there is an easier alternative though… thanks

Also it would be great if Ardour could do this natively, like OBS Studio.

Chances of this are about as close to zero as anything. That doesn’t mean we would not accept a new well-thought out audio/MIDI backend for Windows that made this possible, but this is just not a goal for a DAW with capabilities and functionality focus of Ardour. Given our limited resources, it would absolutely require somebody else to implement this.

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Most HDA Intel soundcards do allow hardware loopback. At least all systems with Intel chipsets that I have have used since 2008, incl a 2021 Thinkpad allow this using the soundcard’s mixer.

I think ASIO4ALL may be an alternative. A quick web-search indicates that it can create a virtual device for loopback, but I don’t know the details.

Possibly, I could not find a description of how to do that in the manual.
The problem is you would really need someone who used Windows for serious audio work to jump in, and the intersection between people who use Windows, people who do their audio work on Windows, and Ardour forum users is very small for some reason.

That is a good point, I have not been using an interface recently with an internal mixer, so that possibility had slipped my mind. Would desktop sound be available through the main interface though? Does Ardour not open an interface for exclusive use on Windows like it does on Linux?

If it works the way it does on Linux, you set the “capture source” for the HDA device to be the loopback. At this point, rather than recording from the mic or line in or whatever, Ardour would be recording from the HDA loopback (i.e. whatever is being played, in theory).

Only ASIO requires exclusive access. If you use the WinMME sound system instead it can coexist with other windows desktop applications.

PS. You can also just configure Arodur to only open the device for recording, so another application can use the same for playback.

I haven’t used this company’s software, but it appears to offer the functionality you seek and be an easier solution than running JACK on Windows.


Do you want to record only sound from the desktop, or that plus external inputs as well?

Maybe there is a hardware solution to this. I use MOTU 828x and I connect SPDIF-in to SPDF-out. Then the computer sound is available in MOTU’s CUEMix software, and also directly in every other application (ARDOUR, Audacity,…). I have not checked whether other interfaces handle this in a similar way.

With MOTU you have to use an actual cable. With RME you can do it within RME:s Totalmix.

Depends on the MOTU interface, for instance in my MOTU AVB you can route a loopback through USB easily from either a USB output or a mix including the main mix.


EDIT2: Fix my sed explanation

I checked my Windows machine, and it has a Realtek audio controller, which does not seem to have an internal loopback. The USB interfaces I use have hardware monitoring that mix input and computer audio back to the physical outputs, but do not have any internal matrix type control that can mix computer audio back to the USB input, so I guess the OP would need to give more information about the audio hardware in use to know if there a way to do that with existing hardware, vs. setting up ASIO4All loopback, or using jackd, or vb-audio or similar software solution.

So, Eliarbel, what audio interface (sound card) do you use?

Beside the software solutions other posters mentioned, some desktop audio interfaces have loopback channels as well, the Arturia Minifuse2 I use have one: you just have to select loopback as output in the app you want to record, and as input in Ardour.

If you have an internal interface you could work around the lack of loopback by plugging it in the external one, but quality and latency won’t be as good as an internal loopback, with the DA->AD conversion unless you have s/pdif (or hdmi, or any digital I/O, possibly with another equipment in between).