As I already mentioned in my article A low-level audio player in C#, there are no built-in classes in the .NET framework for dealing with sound. This holds true not only for audio playback, but also for audio capture.
It should be noted, though, that the Managed DirectX 9 SDK does include classes for high-level and low-level audio manipulation. However, sometimes you don’t want your application to depend on the full DX 9 runtime, just to do basic sound playback and capture, and there are also some areas where Managed DirectSound doesn’t help at all (for example, multi-channel sound playback and capture).
Nevertheless, I strongly recommend you to use Managed DirectSound for sound playback and capture unless you have a good reason for not doing so.
This article describes a sample application that uses the
waveOut APIs in C# through P/Invoke to capture an audio signal from the sound card’s input, and play it back (almost) at the same time.
Using the code
The sample code reuses the
WaveOutPlayer class from my article A low-level audio player in C#. The new classes in this sample are
FifoStream class extends
System.IO.Stream to implement a FIFO (first-in first-out) of bytes. The overridden
Write method adds data to the FIFO’s tail, and the
Read method peeks and removes data from the FIFO’s head. The
Length property returns the amount of buffered data at any time. Calling
Flush will clear all pending data.
WaveInRecorder class is analogous to the
WaveOutPlayer class. In fact, if you look at the source files, you’ll notice that the implementations of these classes are very similar. As with
WaveOutPlayer, the interface of this class has been reduced to the strict minimum.
Creating an instance of
WaveInRecorder will cause the system to start recording immediately. Here’s the code that creates the
private void Start()
WaveLib.WaveFormat fmt = new WaveLib.WaveFormat(44100, 16, 2);
m_Player = new WaveLib.WaveOutPlayer(-1, fmt, 16384, 3,
m_Recorder = new WaveLib.WaveInRecorder(-1, fmt, 16384, 3,
WaveInRecorder constructor takes five parameters. Except for the last parameter, their meaning is the same as in
The first parameter is the ID of the wave input device that you want to use. The value
-1 represents the default system device, but if your system has more than one sound card, then you can pass any number from
0 to the number of installed sound cards minus one, to select a particular device.
The second parameter is the format of the audio samples.
The third and forth parameters are the size of the internal wave buffers and the number of buffers to allocate. You should set these to reasonable values. Smaller buffers will give you less latency, but the captured audio may have gaps on it if your computer is not fast enough.
The fifth and last parameter is a delegate that will be called periodically as internal audio buffers are full of captured data. In the sample application we just write the captured data to the FIFO, like this:
private void DataArrived(IntPtr data, int size)
if (m_RecBuffer == null || m_RecBuffer.Length < size)
m_RecBuffer = new byte[size];
System.Runtime.InteropServices.Marshal.Copy(data, m_RecBuffer, 0, size);
m_Fifo.Write(m_RecBuffer, 0, m_RecBuffer.Length);
Filler method is called every time the player needs more data. Our implementation just reads the data from the FIFO, as shown below:
private void Filler(IntPtr data, int size)
if (m_PlayBuffer == null || m_PlayBuffer.Length < size)
m_PlayBuffer = new byte[size];
if (m_Fifo.Length >= size)
m_Fifo.Read(m_PlayBuffer, 0, size);
for (int i = 0; i < m_PlayBuffer.Length; i++)
m_PlayBuffer[i] = 0;
0, data, size);
Note that we declared the temporary buffers
m_PlayBuffer as member fields in order to improve performance by saving some garbage collections.
To stop streaming, just call
Dispose on the player and capture objects. We also need to flush the FIFO so that the next time
Start is called there is no residual data to play.
private void Stop()
if (m_Player != null)
m_Player = null;
if (m_Recorder != null)
m_Recorder = null;
This sample demonstrates how to combine the
waveOut APIs in C#. As an exercise, you may want to combine this code with the audio effect framework in the article Programming Audio Effects in C#, to apply effects to a live audio input in real-time, although latency may be an issue for certain applications.
Ianier Munoz lives in France and works as a senior consultant and analyst for an international consulting firm. His specialty is in multimedia applications, and he has authored some popular software, such as American DJ's Pro-Mix, Chronotron and Adapt-X.