How to Bypass Stereo Mix to Record Streaming Audio (VB-Audio)

Streaming content is a well-used method to share media. Unfortunately, time shifting can be a problem. It is possible to record the audio as you hear it through Audacity, but for some hardware set-ups, things like Stereo Mix remain persistently muted even after extensive troubleshooting. Realtek, apparently, is notorious for causing problems recording audio as you hear it. If you are unable to get Stereo Mix working (after enabling it, after temporarily disabling all other devices, after plugging in analogue speakers/headsets/earbuds to the audio jack, and even after removing a USB headset), there is an alternative method of getting audio recorded as you hear it without buying additional hardware (namely a cord that connects to both the headset jack and microphone jack). What you will need is a virtual cable. This method completely bypasses the need to record from something like Stereo Mix. There are plenty of virtual cable solutions out there like Virtual Audio Cable (VAC), but I chose VB-Audio Virtual Cable on this one as a free alternative.

Download and install VB-Audio Virtual Cable

VB-Audio Virtual Cable can be found on the VB-Audio website. Download and unzip the contents somewhere convenient on your computer. This package comes with a 32 bit installer and a 64 bit installer. If you have a 64 bit computer, I would advise using that installer. Now, since this is a driver you are installing, you’ll need administrative rights to install it.


To install under administrator, right click on the setup file and click “Run as Administrator”. In the subsequent screen, simply click on the “Install” button. The screen may appear frozen for a moment during the process, but let it run. I can confirm that this is normal.

When done, you’ll need to restart your computer for the changes to take effect.

Download and install Audacity.

You’ll need the next major component of this task. Audacity. To get Audacity, head over to the official Audacity Sourceforge site and download this program from the download section.


When you first run the installer, you will get a screen allowing you to select a supported language. Click OK.


Click “Next”.


You can read information about Audacity here, but when done, click “Next”.


Choose which folder you want to install Audacity to.


Decide if you want a desktop shortcut.


Review the install tasks that you asked Audacity to perform and then click “Install”.


Optionally read more information about Audacity. Click “Next” to continue.


Decide if you want to launch Audacity when you are finished with the setup. Click “Finish” to continue.

Configure Your audio drivers

You will now need to set up your drivers so Audacity can hear and record the application in question you want to record.


Click on your Start Menu and click on “Control Panel”.


Click on Hardware and Sound.


Click “Sound”.


In the subsequent window, you should see the VB-Audio driver as an option for both the Playback and Recording tabs. If you haven’t already, right click on a blank part of either screen and ensure both “Show disabled Devices” and “Show Disconnected Devices” are ticked. By default, “Show Disabled Devices will be left unticked.

Now, start up a program that will create sound. It can be anything like your favorite media player playing something on loop or something that you can stream on the web for a good period of time. As long as you can generate sound, you’ll be able to tell if the driver is working correctly or not.


For recording, click on the CABLE output and then click on the “Set Default” button. You’ll see the green tick mark move from a different icon to the CABLE output.


When you go to the playback tab, click on “CABLE input” and set it as default as well. Any audio you hear will be muted, but the real moment of truth is if you see green moving in the meter I’ve highlighted above. It should be picking up any sound you are playing on your computer. If you see green, you know that this system is working properly.

If you want to go record something, disable all of the devices in the recording tab except for your “CABLE output”. In the playback, disable all of the devices except CABLE input and whatever you want to use as a primary listening device (i.e. headset). By doing this, you accomplish multiple things:

1. Avoid the possibility of multiple devices coming into the VB-Cable that could cause distortions (i.e. unexpected echo effects)
2. Helped make configuring audacity much easier by forcing it to generate an error message for every possibility except for the one option that actually works (otherwise, you’ll be getting that dreaded flatline with many option combinations)
3. Enable you to be able to hear what is being recorded at the same time.

Configure Audacity to record


You’ll notice I circled MME. you have to set that option to MME to record. The two options after is where the trial and error occurs. Sometimes, it’s just the plug-in in both the audio and recording, but for me, it ended up being the main analogue speakers (even though it was disabled) and my headset microphone for the recording. At any rate, if you select a combination that produces an error message, just try another combination. In all likelihood, it will either be the virtual cable or a piece of hardware currently connected to your computer. If you hit record with the correct combination, Audacity will begin recording sound being fed into your computer. This includes the appearance of waveforms in the main screen and possibly the activation of the db readers in the top right corner (depending if these monitors are activated or not). Because you enabled your headset for playback in the previous step, you should also head what you are recording as well.

What to do when you are done recording

When you are done your recording, you should set your drivers back to where they were before. Re-enable all of the devices that were enabled before and set what you want to use as a microphone and audio playback back to default in your Sound window. This is so that you can go back to using your audio devices as per normal.


How do I convert the audio I recorded to WAV or MP3


To convert the audio to a WAV file, you can simply click on “File” then “export”. For MP#, you’ll also need to install the “LAME MP3 encoder” which can be found in the Windows download section.

When I set everything back to normal, I can’t hear Audacity play the audio. Is it broken?

This can involve some guesswork, but in Audacity, click on the playback pulldown menu (the one next to the speaker that I highlighted earlier) and click around. For me, it was, weirdly enough, the Virtual cable that got it working again when playing back audio in Audacity.

I went to record something again and the settings I used last time in Audacity don’t work this time.

Try doing your guesswork again. There’s only so many combinations there and one combination always seemed to work for me. Essentially, the names are practically meaningless when recording with this virtual cable.

4 thoughts on “How to Bypass Stereo Mix to Record Streaming Audio (VB-Audio)”

  1. Thanks for this! It made it possible for me to solve my recording music problems … what worked for me by the way was in Sound Recording Devices Cable Output Listening make Cable Output listen to Cable Input … it makes sense then in Audacity just Cable Input as playback and Cable Output as recording ) thanks again mate, it was useful, my Sony Vaio had no stereo mixer due to piracy issues I guess

  2. The VAc you recommend is absolute junk. The set-up jump scrambled (“downloaded”) 26 Fucking times onto my computer. IS won’t even let me open it in regular double click fashion. Total bullshit. So glad it worked for YOU. For me, just screw me in the rear, I guess.

    1. Sorry to hear the download link didn’t work for you. Not sure what happened as I didn’t encounter this problem when I downloaded it. I’m assuming the download just doesn’t complete for some reason? I wish I could recommend an alternative, but finding this workaround in the first place took ages in and of itself. If it’s any consolation, if one solution can be found for this particular problem, it may be possible to find another solution out there. Unfortunately, I haven’t found anything else out there that didn’t cost money and was legal at the same time.

  3. I am in no way gay BUT I love you!!!!
    I’ve been trying to set up a system to record high quality audio off what my computer plays for a long time. Each time, I got a hollow echo effect on my recordings. I’d almost given up.
    But this works beautifully!
    Thank you sooo much!

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