Rogue Amoeba Software’s Audio Hijack 4 has arrived with significant interface enhancements, new features and enhancements. The audio recording workflow app should be easier for existing users, smoothing out and removing quirks that annoyed us in version 3, and quicker to master for newbies. Edits and additions allow for better control and audio mixing during recording, allowing you to capture a live session as something close to the final version for broadcast or distribution, or maybe even good enough to be downloaded immediately.
Audio Hijack provides a clearly expressed workflow for capturing, editing, and outputting audio. You set up a “session” to grab audio from any source on a Mac, whether it’s an app, mic, digitizer, or virtual audio device, and route it through “blocks”, workflow units that act on or visualize the audio. Sessions typically end with a record block to write the processed audio to a disk file or an audio output block that sends audio to headphones or other listening devices. You can also direct the output to RTMP-compliant live streaming services.
You can split blocks to send audio over multiple paths: you can record an audio stream and produce a highly compressed mono MP3 and an uncompressed AIFF file simultaneously. You can also merge paths from blocks to combine multiple audio sources into a single processing stream or recording. For audio intended for later editing, one path can produce a merged, compact MP3 file for immediate publication, while the other saves separate tracks for each speaker in a conversation as uncompressed AIFF audio files.
Audio Hijack is widely used by podcasters and Mac-oriented audio studios to capture separate mics for in-person recordings and audio channels for recordings via VoIP and video conferencing applications like FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom. New features in Audio Hijack 4 should make it even more popular.
Version 4 groups major changes into three piles: interface, new blocks, and improvements to existing blocks. Taken together, they reduce friction and make using the app more enjoyable.
The previous version of Audio Hijack introduced an innovative way of connecting blocks. Drag them close to each other and a connection appeared to put the blocks together. Nice, but problematic. Swiping had to be precise, and small movements could cause connecting lines to be sucked from block to block. Complicated workflows could end up with ping-pong connectors everywhere or result in a huge virtual space that made it impossible to see the entire workflow at once.
Rogue Amoeba has made automatic connections an option in Audio Hijack 4. Some users may prefer them for quickly creating workflows, allowing the app to create connections based on proximity as blocks are moved. But for complicated paths, it’s now easy to deselect Session > AutoConnects to disable autoconnect mode, then drag the blocks into arrangements you can analyze more easily. You then connect the blocks by dragging between the plus signs (+) that appear on the left and right sides of the blocks.
The company has also updated the connector style of Audio Hijack 4. Connections now have blue arrows that point in the direction of the audio flow and can curve for better viewing instead of appearing as segments of straight line ; they are animated and highlighted in orange when a recording session is active and a given source or connection between blocks has active audio. The new Light Mode interface option also makes it easier for many people to view blocks.
Audio Hijack 4 sports other interface improvements. The previous version used a space-consuming layout to display sessions. It is now a much simpler and more compact list. Instead of offering a passive summary, the session list allows all sessions to be monitored and controlled. Audio Hijack 4 also placed most session list commands in an optional system menu.
In Audio Hijack 3, it was often a chore to find recordings after finishing a session, like recording a call. Each session in Audio Hijack 4 now provides a tabbed sidebar that organizes recordings, including a sound visualization preview of what was recorded, as well as scheduled session auto-run times, scripts (also news) and general information.
Three new blocks
For those recording people talking or playing, three new blocks make it easier and better to set up complicated sessions and produce audio directly from a session for live streaming or quick publishing to a file.
- Mixer: New Mixer blocks can mix up to five sources with volume controls with presets and fades. In a multi-mic setup, having this capability fully in Audio Hijack allows for real-time audio balancing and moving people on mono mics into a stereo space to give listeners a sense of location .
- Single compressor: The new Simple Compressor block offers a tailored approach to compression, the commonly used volume difference reduction process for voice recordings. Compression equalizes loud and soft sounds into a narrower minimum and maximum volume range without distortion, allowing for more comfortable listening at a set volume on speakers, headphones/headphones or in a car. Without compression, a listener may repeatedly struggle to adjust the volume in order to hear quiet sounds or avoid puffing up their ears. The Simple Compressor block compresses both soft and loud sounds, with four options for pushing the result to a particular output type: Music, Movie, Voice, and Radio.
- Magic boost: Magic Boost offers a subset of compression to target a particular collection of quiet/loud enhancements: many mics and some podcast guests sound too quiet compared to the rest of a recording. Magic Boost “magically” compresses softer tones on an input or input path while leaving the rest of the mix the same.
Rogue Amoeba has also improved existing blocks, mainly to make more information available about the “face” of the block – its appearance as a unit in the interface – or to provide better access to its functionality as viewing in one peek is a key part of Audio Hijack’s approach. For example, volume blocks that change volume as audio passes through them now have levels on their faces, channels show action in inputs (like swapping left and right), and l The 10-band EQ (EQ) reveals the positions of the sliders for each of the 10 adjustable bands. An Input Switch block that allows switching between two sources can be defined as a floating palette visible in all applications. All Blocks can now save and load presets, allowing reuse of settings across the app.
Independent of these improvements, Rogue Amoeba has finalized the previously beta live streaming feature of Audio Hijack to send output directly to streaming services that use the RTMP protocol, such as Facebook Live, Twitch, and YouTube Live. The live stream also lets you set a preview video image that can include text and images, including audio visualizations, sent with the stream.
As a longtime Audio Hijack user, these improvements have proven to be a real boon to many of my routine activities. I expect others who work with the app will find it a significant upgrade as well. But Audio Hijack 4 really shines in reducing the learning curve for new users who have yet to discover the glories of taking control of their audio and steering it in new directions.
Audio Hijack 4 costs $64 for new users or $29 for upgrades from Audio Hijack 3. You can download a trial version which lets you try out all the features but adds unremovable noise after 10 minutes of active session. If you want more information on how to use the app, you can also buy Kirk McElhearn’s update Take control of audio diversion when paying at the Rogue Amoeba store.