If you’re looking to edit and mix audio, and you’re on a budget, then Audacity is hard to beat… as it’s free.
What is Audacity?
It’s a free audio editing and multitrack package that’s available for Windows, Mac OS and Linux. Audacity will allow you to record, edit and mix audio, and is ideal for recording podcasts, basic editing, audio compilations, and quick audio tidy-up jobs
It supports the following:
- Recording and Playback of audio in WAV, MP3, OGG and AIFF file formats.
- Audio editing and basic clean-up
- Mult-track audio mixing (with fade)
- Noise reduction
- Audio effects such as pitch-shift, echo, compression, fade and normalise
Given that it’s free, Audacity is a great tool for manipulating audio. You can use it as a basic editing tool to “top and tail” some audio that you have imported, or you can use it to mix lots of different bits of audio into a single stereo mixdown
Editing with Audacity
Editing is pretty straightforward. You open your recorded audio, and use the Play, Rewind and Fast Forward controls to listen through the audio. If you need to edit something out, you select the edit tool (which looks like a capital I), and highlight the bit you want to edit out. Once selected, press Delete, and your edit is made. There are multiple levels of Undo, so if you get rid of something you shouldn’t have deleted, it’s not terminal.
Here is a screenshot of a basic audio edit:
Audacity has some other handy tools, such as the “Silence Finder” – this is especially handy for situations where you have dubbed across the contents of an audio cassette, and want to split out the recording to tracks or chapters. There’s also a Spectrum Analyser to look at the frequency range of a recording.
If you have a noisy recording, you can use the Noise Removal tool to take a sample of the noise, then remove that noise from the entire recording. It’s not perfect, but it does a decent job of removing tape hiss and mains hum from recordings. You can also use the Click Removal tool to clean up nasty spikes and electrical crackles that tend to find their way into older recordings.
As we mention, it’s free, and you can download it for Windows, Mac or Linux from audacity.sourceforge.net
Note that if you plan to export audio from Audacity in MP3 format (typically for a podcast), then you will also need to download the LAME MP3 Encoder, which you’ll find linked to from the Audacity site.
Whilst Audacity is a great free product, it does have its limitations, notably a lack of support for a number of audio formats, and, at least for us, a slightly non-intuitive interface for creating multi-track recordings.
It’s hard to criticise a free product, and for many we know it does exactly what’s needed. For the team behind this website, our audio editor of choice is Adobe Audition. Audition is not free, but for us, it’s a more comprehensive and intuitive package. See our Adobe Audition Overview
Audacity How To
If any of our readers are interested in more information about how to use Audacity for some of the more common audio tasks out there, please let us know. If there’s enough demand, we may look to adding some “how to” guides for working with Audacity. Please get in touch, and we’ll try to help.