Microsoft released a major feature update to Skype that people have been wanting almost as long as Skype has been around, integrated call recording.
This isn’t a slap dash feature by Microsoft either, it seems well thought out on a number of levels. When on a call, users on either end can simply press a plus icon to activate calling. All participants get a notification that a recording has started. It’s about as simple as it gets.
When I first read about the feature, I assumed it would only capture audio. But in a major surprise, video is included as well. The downloaded video even does a split screen mode automatically.
I also expected Microsoft to use the feature to leverage Skype users to pay for OneDrive storage, given that calls are saved to the cloud for 30 days. But so far I haven’t been asked to opt into a paid storage tier to keep cloud stored videos. It’s a nice move.
So why the title for this post? Quite simply, the quality is borderline unusable.
Now I know that Microsoft is probably going to use this as a consumer alternative to Zoom and WebEx to a certain extent, and eventually they’ll link this to Skype for Business. In that regard, the quality is acceptable, in that I can mostly understand what is being said by the participants.
But as a podcast producer, I was hoping the feature would make recording Skype interviews much easier. Until now, podcasters have had to use third-party apps to record calls. These mostly work well, but I’ve been burned by Skype updates that break a workflow right as I need it. I was hoping an integrated Skype option would work well.
I knew I was in trouble when i couldn’t find any settings for call recording in the Skype preferences. Still, I was curious. I decided to use my standard Audio Hijack recording alongside Skype’s integrated option. The differences were stark and immediate:
I saved the audio from the Skype MP4 to a WAV file. Both received the standard Levelator treatment, and exported to 96kbps MP3s. Skype’s recording sounds almost comically compressed. It genuinely makes it difficult to listen to. While the raw Audio Hijack recording isn’t perfect, it does a good job of capturing the local side of the conversation with full clarity, and not adding any additional noise to the remote side of the conversation.
The one killer feature that Skype’s call recording has is uniformity and mobility. It’s available (or will be) on every platform you can install Skype on. Right now to record a Skype call, depending on if you’re on macOS, Windows, or Linux you have to find a different workflow. Having mobile call recording is also a novel feature, although I’m not sure how much I’d ever actually use it.
Skype call recording is fine if you need to just document a call. But if you have any eye for quality, it’s not really an option.