Free audio editor for recording, slicing, and mixing audio for the amateur audio engineer.
Although Audacity isn’t quite as shocking as the name implies, the free recording software / audio editor is a favorite of many a podcaster and start-up artist. While Mac users have Garage Band, Windows and Linux users are left without a suitable alternative – that is, except for Audacity. Because it’s an open source product, Audacity is constantly improving; adding effects, improving shortcuts, and all around making an experience that was once difficult for new users to master much more user-friendly.
What Audacity Does Well:
The most common use for Audacity is podcasting, and even Mac users who can take advantage of Garage Band should give Audacity a try. Why? Because, while Garage Band is certainly more pleasing to the eye, Audacity makes adding effects and editing extremely quick and easy.
Before you know it, Audacity will become your go-to audio editor even if the recording is done elsewhere. You can zoom into your waveform, clip out problem sections, move around and lock tracks, and use effects like noise removal and compression to lend your recording a more even feel. All of these effects and many more are only a few clicks away: just select the part of the track to edit, click on Effects, and pick whatever alteration your heart desires.
Tips for New Users:
If you’re just starting out with Audacity, and especially if you’re just starting out editing audio, any audio editing program can seem daunting. Because Audacity is a destructive editor (more on that in a minute), the best tip for new users is to record a little scrap of “test” audio and play around with the effects and editing abilities here. Be sure to leverage the wiki for help getting started.
As a new user it’s possible if not likely that you’ll slip up and compress something you shouldn’t have, or put an effect on the track you didn’t know existed and don’t know how to change. Better to make these first-timer mistakes on a piece of “test” recording before jumping into the real thing.
What Audacity Needs to Improve:
This is important because of the aforementioned downside, namely that it is a “destructive” editor. This means that whatever changes you make alter the actual audio rather than being added as “layers.” If you added compression 12 steps ago and want to take it off, you’re out of luck. The only recourse here is to undo 12 whole steps, which is not always possible, and then redo the 11 you didn’t actually want to undo.
The inability to add effects in layers that you can edit and remove later without affecting the rest of the track is one of the main differentiation between Audacity and paid, professional audio editors.
Ultimately, however, many new users won’t find the destructive editing an issue, especially if they follow the tip for new users and test out their edits before moving on to their actual audio. If you know the effects you want to add and edits you want to make, and especially if those effects and edits are on the basic side, then Audacity will blow you away by how easily and effectively it can alter your audio. There are definitely better editing programs out there, but those sound editors aren’t free, and unless you’re an amateur radio station with far greater needs than the average user, Audacity will do everything you want it to and more.
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