The Sound Recorder that comes with Windows will capture the audio stream and save it as a WAV you can edit or convert later on. But there's room for improvement, and there are more than a few choices, when it comes to recording digital audio with your PC. It's possible to spend staggering amounts of money on pro audio suites that really don't handle most users' needs any better than Free Sound Recorder by CoolRecordEdit. Like the Windows tool, it records whatever your sound card is processing, but Free Sound Recorder adds scheduling, more output formats, hot keys, and some unique extras. Several premium upgrade levels are available if you need still more.
Free Sound Recorder's interface resembles a media player, and in fact it is one, at least in part. A set of media player controls beneath the Files List addresses one of the most serious shortcomings of many versions of the Windows tool: the inability to play back recordings. The recording controls, two-channel level display, and counter also give Free Sound Recorder that "music" look. Clicking Options opened a tabbed dialog box that let us choose to save files as MP3s, WMAs, WAVs, or Ogg files. There's a useful option to create file names based on the date and time; it's selected by default. Hot key and Schedule settings are fairly standard, but the Automatic Gain Control certainly isn't. This feature can limit the High Level, Low Level, and Attack Time of recordings when the source is too loud, too soft, or too dynamic, producing a more even sound. The Voice Active System let us set the threshold for reading sound levels as silence to accommodate clean high-quality audio or noisy recordings. It's not as complicated as it sounds, as we found when we clicked links labeled "What Is This?" that open the program's clear, comprehensive Help file on the appropriate pages. The Files List and Mixer panels can be minimized.
We've made digital recordings of many LPs as well as live audio and other sources, and Free Sound Recorder is a definite upgrade in quality, capability, and convenience over the built-in Windows tool.