Audacity – The Best Free Multiplatform Audio Recorder/Editor?

image A year or so ago, I needed to record 20 minutes of streaming audio from the Internet, and since I am not an audio hobbyist, and have limited experience recording using my computer, I simply launched Windows Sound Recorder and sat back to watch it do it’s job. I thought!

No such luck. I was surprised to learn the maximum recording time on Sound Recorder is only 30 seconds, which was far too short for my purpose.

A mad scramble to find a freeware/open source replacement for Windows Sound Recorder led me to Audacity which, as it turns out, is the most popular free, open source audio editor/ recorder available. It works with many operating systems, including Windows, Mac, GNU, and Linux.

Audacity has a surprisingly easy to use interface, and I found it to be feature-rich and flexible. The first thing that struck me on launching the program was, it advised me I had several hundred hours of available space on my drives in which to record. Not 30seconds!

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Audacity has the capacity to handle multi-track editing, a good number of audio effects including reverb, delay, compression, echo, phaser, wahwah and reverse. Its audio export functions include MP3, OGG, AIFF, and WAV and more.

One of the more interesting features, for me, is Audacity’s capacity to convert tapes and records into digital recordings. I have a large collection of old 70’s and 80’s albums that I have many times considered converting to digital recordings and burning to CD’s. I now have the application to do just that. Now, if I can only find the time!

System Requirements: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP/Vista

The Audacity web site lists the following features:

Recording:

Audacity can record live audio through a microphone or mixer, or digitize recordings from cassette tapes, vinyl records, or minidisks.

With some sound cards, it can also capture streaming audio.

Record from microphone, line input, or other sources.

Dub over existing tracks to create multi-track recordings.

Record up to 16 channels at once (requires multi-channel hardware).

Level meters can monitor volume levels before, during, and after recording.

Import and Export:

Import sound files, edit and combine them with other files or new recordings.

Export your recordings in several common file formats.

Import and export WAV, AIFF, AU, and Ogg Vorbis files.

Import MPEG audio (including MP2 and MP3 files) with libmad.

Export MP3s with the optional LAME encoder library.

Create WAV or AIFF files suitable for burning to CD.

Import and export all file formats supported by libsndfile.

Open raw (header less) audio files using the “Import Raw” command.

Note: Audacity does not currently support WMA, AAC, or most other proprietary or restricted file formats.

Editing:

Easy editing with Cut, Copy, Paste, and Delete.

Use unlimited Undo (and Redo) to go back any number of steps.

Very fast editing of large files.

Edit and mix an unlimited number of tracks.

Use the Drawing tool to alter individual sample points.

Fade the volume up or down smoothly with the Envelope tool.

Effects:

Change the pitch without altering the tempo, or vice-versa.

Remove static, hiss, hum, or other constant background noises.

Alter frequencies with Equalization, FFT Filter, and Bass Boost effects.

Adjust volumes with Compressor, Amplify, and Normalize effects.

Other built-in effects include:

Echo

Phaser

Wahwah

Reverse

Sound Quality:

Record and edit 16-bit, 24-bit, and 32-bit (floating point) samples.

Record at up to 96 KHz.

Sample rates and formats are converted using high-quality resampling and dithering.

Mix tracks with different sample rates or formats, and Audacity will convert them automatically in real-time.

Plug-Ins:

Add new effects with LADSPA plug-ins.

Audacity includes some sample plug-ins by Steve Harris.

Load VST plug-ins for Windows and Mac, with the optional VST Enabler.

Write new effects with the built-in Nyquist programming language.

Analysis:

Spectrogram mode for visualizing frequencies.

Plot Spectrum command for detailed frequency analysis.

Download at: Download.com

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28 Comments

Filed under Audio Applications, Audio Software, Free Full Versions, Open Source, Portable Applications, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

28 responses to “Audacity – The Best Free Multiplatform Audio Recorder/Editor?

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  6. I have used Audacity to ‘digitize’ my old LP’s and cassettes, and I found the best feature (for me) was the ability to “filter” the static hiss, crackles, and pops from the old media.

    But that kind of advanced thing wasn’t exactly ‘intuitive’ or one-click-simple, and I found online tutorials most helpful. I learned that this program has a lot of (free) support from its very large fanbase.
    My only cost was the “Y” cable to connect my receiver to my PC.

    Great program. Great write up!

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  8. Audacity is the best, I recommended for all of you guys

  9. Hi Bill,

    I tried Audacity several times. It was great but then something went wrong with my laptop and I couldn’t get it to work properly afterwards. My wife uses Audacity on hers with no problems at all. I eventually downloaded WavePad and it works a treat. It seems a good alternative to Audacity, although I haven’t done anything with it except record a couple of podcasts, so I don’t know much about the features it has.

    • Bill Mullins

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks for the tip on WavePad – will have to give that a test drive.

      Trust all is well in Nfld.

      Bill

  10. g

    Great program! I use it to make ringtones and my 9 yr old loves to use the speed features to lower and raise her voice.

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  14. Hi Bill,

    All is well here yes, but foggy as hell. lol
    23 degrees and sunny yesterday!

    Hope it’s better in your neck of the woods.

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  16. Adrian

    I’ve been using Audacity for a long time in audio editing. It’s a terrific program!

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  19. Max

    I swear by Audacity. Great program, make sure to get the LAME Mp3 codec so you can save in mp3 format.

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  21. J Harmse

    have been recommended and want to experience audacity