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Get The Highest Quality Download YouTube to MP3 (with Audacity)

Downloading or capturing video or audio from YouTube is against YouTube’s Terms of Service. In some cases, it is even illegal (such as downloading MP3s of copyrighted music).

It is no different than torrenting.

You should know that first and foremost if you are searching for a YouTube downloader or a way to capture YouTube audio on the web.

For our purposes, though, we’re going to assume you have a legitimate reason for capturing YouTube audio and tell you how to do it using free audio software Audacity.

Why use Audacity instead of one of the hundreds of YouTube downloaders available on the Internet, you may ask?

There are two main reasons.

One, when I went to test a few of those downloaders, Malwarebytes warned me two out of the first three sites I clicked on had malware. Shocker!

Two, Audacity is a powerful audio program with exceptional sound capture and built-in tools to improve that sound quality even more.

Record Audio from YouTube

The first step in using Audacity to convert YouTube videos to MP3 is to capture the audio. These instructions are for both Windows and Mac.

1. Open Audacity.

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If you don’t already have Audacity on your computer, you can download it for Mac, Windows or Linux here –


You’ll be redirected to their host site. It looks a little suspect, but it’s their official download host, and I’ve never had any problems with a download.

Make sure you select the installer.

2. In the first drop-down menu (the Audio Host menu), choose “Windows WASAPI”.

On a Mac, choose “Core Audio”.

audacity 2

3. In the second drop-down menu (the Recording Device menu), choose “Speaker” or whatever name the built-in speakers on your computer are called. Don’t choose “microphone,” which will record you instead of the audio from YouTube.

On a Mac, it’s a little more convoluted.

First, you must download and install Soundflower, which acts as a virtual sound card, allowing the audio playing through your computer to pass through to Audacity.

You can get the software here –


Then, choose Soundflower in the Recording Device menu.

Note: When you choose these settings, the mixer on Audacity will automatically set the input volume to maximum.

You are now ready to record.

4. Pull the video up on YouTube and adjust the volume settings.

This is very important. Audacity is a powerful sound recorder. It records hot. So, to prevent distortion, you need low sound input.

I recommend setting the speaker volume on your computer to no more than “10” (out of “100”) and the volume on YouTube to about 1/3 of full volume. This will sound low to you, but be more than adequate for Audacity on most systems.

You will not be able to use the mixer function on Audacity with these settings. You must do it through your computer volume and YouTube.

5. Press the “record” button in Audacity.

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6. Start playing the YouTube video you want to record.

Let the entire video (or section of the video you want to capture) play.

Audacity will show that it’s recording and the audio waves will appear in the program interface as they capture.

Audacity 5

It’s okay if you capture a few extra seconds on either side of the sound clip you want to record. You will delete these when it’s done recording.

7. Press the “stop” button in Audacity.

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Edit Audio in Audacity

Now that you have captured the audio from YouTube, it’s time to tweak it using the tools right there in the Audacity interface.

1. Trim the ends of the audio.

It’s nearly impossible not to record a few extra seconds at each end of a capture when recording with Audacity.

And you shouldn’t try.

Letting Audacity roll for a few seconds at the beginning and end of recording prevents you from accidentally clipping the audio and having to start over.

To trim the ends, make sure the “Selection Tool” button is pressed. It should be by default.

Audacity 6

Then, select the section of audio you want to delete by holding down the left button on your mouse and dragging it over the section. Press “Delete” on your keyboard. The selected audio will disappear.

2. Play the audio in Audacity.

Listen to your recording all the way through.

I find that when the volume settings are correct, Audacity captures sound nearly indistinguishable from the sound you hear through YouTube.

This will not be the case if the input volume is too high. So, if you have distortion during the louder parts of the audio, lower your volume settings and start the recording over.

3. Increase the volume of your recording.

It is highly unlikely your Audacity capture will be too quiet. But, in the unlikely event that it is, you can increase its volume in Audacity.

Click in the empty space of the toolbar to the left of the audio tracks to select the audio.

Then, go to the “Effect” menu and choose “Amplify.”

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The “Amplify” pop-up will appear and Audacity will automatically show you the amount by which the audio can be turned up without clipping. In this test, that number was 2.432 dB.

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Click “OK.”

While there are plenty of YouTube to MP3 converters on the web if you’re looking to download audio from YouTube, those converters are often of questionable reputation and even more questionable quality.

Audacity is a legitimate freeware and the best means I’ve found of capturing high-quality audio from YouTube and other online sources.

6 thoughts on “Get The Highest Quality Download YouTube to MP3 (with Audacity)”

  1. Clearly written article, but I could not get it to work. I see where it states RECORDING in the lower-left corner and can see/hear the YouTube video, but no waveform ever appeared as shown in the article.

  2. Well written and easy to follow. Worked great.
    The device toolbar wasn’t on by default, so I had to check it on the View Toolbars Menu.
    The level recommendations were way too low in my case, but it’s always better to start that way. I just went to the loudest part of the video and set it from there.
    Those were the only tweaks I had to do. Thanks for this!

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