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How to record audio using AVAudioRecorder

Written by Paul Hudson    @twostraws

While it's not hard to record audio with an iPhone, it does take quite a bit of code so give yourself a few minutes to get this implemented. First you need to import the AVFoundation framework into your view controller, like this:

import AVFoundation

You will need to add three properties to your view controller: a button for the user to tap to start or stop recording, an audio session to manage recording, and an audio recorder to handle the actual reading and saving of data. You can create the button in Interface Builder if you prefer; we'll be doing it in code here.

Put these three properties into your view controller:

var recordButton: UIButton!
var recordingSession: AVAudioSession!
var audioRecorder: AVAudioRecorder!

Recording audio requires a user's permission to stop malicious apps doing malicious things, so we need to request recording permission from the user. If they grant permission, we'll create our recording button. Put this into viewDidLoad():

recordingSession = AVAudioSession.sharedInstance()

do {
    try recordingSession.setCategory(AVAudioSessionCategoryPlayAndRecord)
    try recordingSession.setActive(true)
    recordingSession.requestRecordPermission() { [unowned self] allowed in
        DispatchQueue.main.async {
            if allowed {
            } else {
                // failed to record!
} catch {
    // failed to record!

You should replace the // failed to record! comment with a meaningful error alert to your user, or perhaps an on-screen label.

I made the code for loadRecordingUI() separate so you can replace it easily either with IB work or something else. Here's the least you need to do:

func loadRecordingUI() {
    recordButton = UIButton(frame: CGRect(x: 64, y: 64, width: 128, height: 64))
    recordButton.setTitle("Tap to Record", for: .normal)
    recordButton.titleLabel?.font = UIFont.preferredFont(forTextStyle: UIFontTextStyle.title1)
    recordButton.addTarget(self, action: #selector(recordTapped), for: .touchUpInside)

That configures the button to call a method called recordTapped() when it's tapped. Don't worry, we haven't written that yet!

Before we write the code for recordTapped() we need to do a few other things. First, we need a method to start recording. This needs to decide where to save the audio, configure the recording settings, then start recording. Here's the code:

func startRecording() {
    let audioFilename = getDocumentsDirectory().appendingPathComponent("recording.m4a")

    let settings = [
        AVFormatIDKey: Int(kAudioFormatMPEG4AAC),
        AVSampleRateKey: 12000,
        AVNumberOfChannelsKey: 1,
        AVEncoderAudioQualityKey: AVAudioQuality.high.rawValue

    do {
        audioRecorder = try AVAudioRecorder(url: audioFilename, settings: settings)
        audioRecorder.delegate = self

        recordButton.setTitle("Tap to Stop", for: .normal)
    } catch {
        finishRecording(success: false)

That code won't build just yet, because it has two problems. First, it uses the method getDocumentsDirectory(), which is a helper method I include in most of my projects. Here it is:

func getDocumentsDirectory() -> URL {
    let paths = FileManager.default.urls(for: .documentDirectory, in: .userDomainMask)
    return paths[0]

Second, it assigns self to be the delegate of the audio recorder, which means you need to conform to the AVAudioRecorderDelegate protocol like this:

class ViewController: UIViewController, AVAudioRecorderDelegate {

With the code written to start recording, we need matching code to finish recording. This will tell the audio recorder to stop recording, then put the button title back to either "Tap to Record" (if recording finished successfully) or "Tap to Re-record" if there was a problem. Here's the code:

func finishRecording(success: Bool) {
    audioRecorder = nil

    if success {
        recordButton.setTitle("Tap to Re-record", for: .normal)
    } else {
        recordButton.setTitle("Tap to Record", for: .normal)
        // recording failed :(

With those two in place, we can finally write recordTapped(), because it just needs to call either startRecording() or finishRecording() depending on the state of the audio recorder. Here's the code:

@objc func recordTapped() {
    if audioRecorder == nil {
    } else {
        finishRecording(success: true)

Before you're done, there's one more thing to be aware of: iOS might stop your recording for some reason out of your control, such as if a phone call comes in. We are the delegate of the audio recorder, so if this situation crops up you'll be sent a audioRecorderDidFinishRecording() message that you can pass on to finishRecording() like this:

func audioRecorderDidFinishRecording(_ recorder: AVAudioRecorder, successfully flag: Bool) {
    if !flag {
        finishRecording(success: false)

Available from iOS 3.0 – see Hacking with Swift tutorial 33

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