Piezo: A Refreshing Approach to Audio Recording

Audio recording and editing on the Mac can seem like an pretty daunting task. Many of the available tools are extremely powerful, but as a result, too complex for the average user. Piezo, the little brother of Audio Hijack Pro, a favorite among podcasters and broadcasters, hopes to change that by focusing solely on recording audio from any application on your Mac, forgoing any addition features. With its extremely simple interface, invaluable utility, and affordable price tag, can it be the David to the audio recording Goliaths? Read on.

Interface

Piezo's interface is simple and charming.

Piezo's interface is simple and charming.

Let’s face it, Piezo looks and feels amazing. It is one of a growing number of Mac apps that looks like every pixel has been perfectly sculpted to fit the aesthetic. Every button click or keystroke triggers beautiful, subtle animations that remind you just how much care was put into the creation of Piezo.

The interface is pleasantly minimal, with a VU Meter, audio source drop down menu, a recording timer, and a big red record button -that’s it. There’s nothing to configure and you can get started recording right away. Compared to its professional-grade alternatives, this should be a welcome change to the average consumer. There’s a growing trend of affordable single-purpose apps these days, and Piezo fits in wonderfully. In fact, I sometimes find myself leaving the app open, only because of how nice it looks.

Using Piezo

Apps like Logic Pro, Audio Hijack Pro, and even GarageBand can be overkill for many people, they’re big, bloated and feature-rich. In contrast, Piezo’s lightweight approach is a stellar solution for anything from recording lectures, to podcasts, to music. As with any capturing app, you should be conscious of your area’s copyright laws as well as any limits the app your recording from may set (e.g. recording Rdio music for public use is frowned upon, to say the least), but all that aside, and as long as you use proper discretion, Piezo is really set it and forget it.

Recordings from my MacBook Pro’s built in Microphone were on-par with any other recording solution, so Piezo should work fine for recording lectures or notes. If you plan on recording anything worth distributing publicly, a nice microphone is a worthwhile investment -regardless of what you use to record. Rdio recordings sounded superb, as did recording Skype calls, although, since there is no option to auto/record or stop when a song plays or a call is initiated, you’ll likely want to look elsewhere if this is something you plan on doing on a regular basis. Piezo can record in 128/256 MP3 and 64/128/256 AAC file formats which is noticeably limited compared to other solutions, but should work fine for 99% of users.

Why You Need It

If you plan on just recording audio from a microphone you likely won’t see any need to use Piezo, as QuickTime is completely free and handles those jobs just as well. Most people will want to use Piezo for what it is -a stripped down version of Audio Hijack Pro. You’re able to capture the sound directly from nearly any application with ease -and if you see a need to do that, Piezo works perfectly.

The simplified settings and customization options force you to focus less on the app itself and more on what you want to record. We’ve tested it with Rdio, Safari, Google Chrome, and Skype and the output sounded great across the board. In addition, Piezo is a great companion to the Internet radio feature in iTunes, allowing you to record songs or talk radio quietly in the background without much hassle. I now keep Piezo open whenever I use my Mac, just in case there is some recording to be done.

Where it Falls Short

Piezo's settings are among the most minimal I've ever seen in an app.

Piezo's settings are among the most minimal I've ever seen in an app.

Piezo’s minimalist interface is still missing some features that could make it a truly stellar product that’s more than worth your ten dollar investment. Perhaps the most glaring omission from the app is any sort of sharing capabilities. With its consumer-focused design, I excepted the ability to share my recordings over the Internet, especially with the newfound popularity of services like SoundCloud and Tumblr.

Next, if you want to record multiple audio sources at once, let’s say the built in mic and Safari, you’re out of luck. Piezo is single source only. In addition, if you plan on recording a favorite radio show, you’ll likely want a more advanced app as Piezo has no way of scheduling audio recordings. Finally, if you plan on producing music with Piezo you’ll likely be disappointed, as there is no option for adding Album Art or meta-data of any kind beyond the basic title and description. This is undoubtably a lengthy list of restrictions and if you can’t live without anything listed about you’ll want to look into Audio Hijack Pro, which is far more feature inclusive.

Conclusion

Piezo does a great job of finding a middle ground between professional programs like Logic and the basic audio recording feature built into QuickTime on every Mac. With its ability to capture audio from any application Piezo can expand the functionality of your Mac exponentially.

Since Piezo does what it says, and what it does it invaluable to many users, I can say that it’s a great buy as long as you can live within its glaring limitations. It’s stable and priced well considering the cost to functionality ratio. In short, Piezo represents a sort of PhotoBooth of audio capturing apps: it’s simple, beautiful, and fun.


Summary

Piezo is a wonderfully simple app, perfect for capturing sound from any application on your Mac. Just be prepared to live with a virtually nonexistent feature-set.

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  • http://www.garthdb.com Garth Braithwaite

    With the example of recording a skype call, does it record your mic and the skype audio as separate tracks?

    • http://alexarena.com Alex Arena

      Nope, that’s an Audio Hijack Pro feature. Piezo is single track only, but it does record full Skype calls.

      • http://www.garthdb.com Garth Braithwaite

        Thanks. I actually find I use Screenflow a lot to record audio. I’ve used Audio Hijack in the past, but a few times the audio tracks didn’t sync up correctly.

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