Typically, when you download free software, it tends to have limited functionality. Either it’s not very robust or it is missing key features that are only available with an upgrade. Audacity audio editing software is the exception to that rule. With a feature set that rivals larger, costlier programs, it is a powerful tool to mix, edit and convert a multitude of audio files.
Getting files into Audacity is a straightforward affair. You can either open an existing file on your desktop, or you can use your computer’s microphone to record new audio content. You can also import files through a mixing board. Each file you load or open appears as a waveform across the screen. You then have the option of playing them together, merging them or editing them as you need.
Audacity can handle a wide range of audio files including: WAV, AIFF, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, MP3 and MP2. An optional plug-in library opens the support to AC3, AMR(NB), M4A, MP4 and non-DRM-protected WMA files. Not only can the software import these files, but it can convert file types from one to the other as well.
Playing and Editing
Working with your sound file is also a breeze in Audacity. Simple play, pause, stop, record and forward and back buttons allow you to listen and create tracks just as if you were using an analog recorder. You can also drag a vertical line through the waveform to hear a particular section of your track with pinpoint precision. The cut tool allows you to remove sections of a track, the paste tool lets you insert the cut section or any other clip into your tracks, and simple merge functions let you combine two tracks into one, or add one track to the end of another. Effects and fade options along with an equalizer and distortion controls let you have even greater control over your mixes.
An auto “duck” feature allows you to set a function that drops the volume on a certain track as another is laid down. This is particularly useful for podcast recording. The software also allows you to easily reverse audio tracks or clips, trim off silence with a simple click, or even delay recording using a timer or setting a volume control that activates the record feature when a track reaches a certain level.
Audacity lets you stack unlimited tracks, so it’s possible to make very complex mixes. It’s worth noting, though, that the software will begin to get sluggish as more tracks are added.
Another nice feature of Audacity is that it has unlimited undo and redo options, so even if you have been working on a file for hours and need to return to a version you had at the beginning, you are able to back up as much as you need.
Audacity handily provides all of the tools a home audio enthusiast, sample creator, or podcaster would need. While it can do impressive work on a wide range of audio files, it’s not as robust in creating new audio from scratch. For that, you’ll need a program like Garage Band or Adobe Audition. Still because the software is completely free, frequently updated to remove bugs and provide additional features, and super simple to use, it’s a great tool to add to your computer’s store of programs.
Audacity works across a wide range of platforms including Windows, Mac OS X (although at this time, it is not supported in Catalina) and Linux operating systems.