If you need a tool to start a podcast, record music, or assemble and convert some audio samples, it’s hard to misuse Audacity. Audacity, a powerful free open source audio editor that has been available for years, works seamlessly with up to 32-bit / 384kHz audio and has built-in dithering.
The program of Audacity
The program allows you to easily import, mix and combine audio tracks (stereo, mono or multi-track recordings) to render the output into one. It also offers flexible editing down to the sample level, as well as spectrogram and spectral views for analyzing the frequency response. Unlimited undo and redo is possible, but Audacity’s edits are almost always destructive.
So they don’t replace a suitable digital audio workstation like Editors’ Choice Avid Pro Tools. Nevertheless, Audacity is still the choice of many for fast and dirty audio work and it’s easy to see why in the testing process.
Start recording podcasts and music
Audacity is available on Windows, macOS, and Linux. The system requirements are too small to be worth mentioning. If the PC has been turned on and built sometime in the last 10 or 15 years, then no problem. I tested Audacity 2.3.2 on my MacBook Pro 15 inch (2017) with 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD, macOS Mojave 10.14.6 and Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 audio interface.
To start Audacity, drag the sound you want to edit to the main window, or click the Record button to begin recording from your computer’s built-in microphone or connected audio interface.
The drop-down menu below the sound level meter at the top allows you to quickly select an available audio source. Audacity allows you to set a timer to start recording after a small interval, such as when the recording location is somewhere with the computer itself.
In addition, boldness can be recorded when a sound is heard at a certain threshold. Even if recording starts early, you can cut off the problem part later. The meter clearly displays clipping (if any) and can be easily seen indoors.
Recording and effects
Audacity allows you to record in 16-bit or 24-bit audio. One of Audacity’s best qualities is the ability to smoothly transform and combine the sound you drag, regardless of sample rate and format.
When it comes to editing, users can cut, paste, duplicate, or delete audio, arrange multiple clips on the same track, and draw edits right up to the sample level. The Envelope tool also lets you add custom fades.
Audacity provides a huge number of basic effects by default. Preset EQ curves (e.g. AM radio, phone or 100Hz rumble) give you a live preview in a dialog with a single click. There are simple bass and treble adjustments as well as high and low pass filters. Simple compressors, limiters, phasers, reverbs, and wah effects also appear in the options. With just one click, you can reverse or mute the audio.
The auto-duck feature lets you add narration to your podcast or radio track. Best of all, Audacity supports a batch process using a series of commands. For example, you can adjust a series of sound effects or stings all at once without having to repeat the same task over and over.
Version 2.3 adds several important features, including punch-in recording, drag-and-drop playhead, resizable volume, and speed toolbar. And as always, the Audacity team has been overcoming over 100 bugs since the last time they tested the app a year ago.
Audio editing and conversion
All edits are destructive, which is the biggest limitation of Audacity and why we want to move on to other steps like Apple Logic Pro X, Adobe Audition or Ableton Live. In Audacity, you can edit audio in any kind of way, but you can’t undo or adjust each edit later unless you step through the undo history and lose all the work you’ve done in between.
Simple built-in mixer lets you get accurate relative levels and stereo position. You can also mute or solo individual tracks (all of these adjustments are not destructive). However, while multi-track layering with Audacity is possible, nonlinear editing programs such as Reaper or GarageBand (with real-time effects) are more suitable.
The contrast analysis feature compares the average root-mean-square volume between different tracks, effectively balancing the voice with the background atmosphere or music. Beyond that, especially if you need to comply with broadcast standards for movies, television or radio, upgrade to Adobe Audition.
Audacity imports and exports WAV, AIFF, AU, FLAC, and Ogg Vorbis files. You can now import and export MP3s by default. For the first time in version 2.3.2, the LAME MP3 encoder was finally bundled with Audacity, which now expires its former patent.
The FFmpeg library option lets you export AC3, AAC, and WMA files. Audacity also supports third-party VST and audio device effects plug-ins. However, at this point a nonlinear editor such as GarageBand or Avid Pro Tools may be a better option, so you don’t have to commit your changes in order.
Rugged Stereo Editor
Audacity is a competent editor that offers the same power that you used to pay for with Sony’s Sound Forge or Bias Peak (long gone). Audacity doesn’t replace a suitable digital audio workstation or other nonlinear audio editors like Editors’s Choices Apple Logic Pro X and Avid Pro Tools, and can’t replace Propellerhead Reason when composing music with virtual instruments.
But if you want to start a new podcast or trim 100 sound effects at once for an indie game, Audacity is the first step. Audacity can be the last if your needs are light enough.
emptied. Various editing options ideal for trimming dialogue, sound effects and music tracks. Support multi-track audio and batch processing.
Destructive editing only. Multitrack audio support is very basic.
It’s hard to misuse Audacity to start podcasting or music recording. Audacity, a powerful and free open source audio editor available for many years, is still the choice for fast and dirty audio work.