Audacity is a completely free / open source waveform audio editor for Mac, Windows, and Linux, with robust stereo recording and editing, effects support, and basic multichannel features. It’s a great little program getting more and more exposure; M-Audio has even added it to their podcast bundle. But it has a few rough edges, and has gone a long time without an upgrade — until now.

1.2.4b is a relatively minor release bringing together lots of important bug fixes. But version 1.3 is more ambitious, and could bring this free editor into prime time, with real multitrack support, precise selection capabilities, better Mac support, and some innovative new features. Details after the break.

Version 1.2.4b (release notes) fixes numerous bugs, enhances OS X 10.4 Tiger support, adds a “Plot Spectrum” command, and updates translations; it’s the current stable release.

The beta 1.3 release is where things get interesting:

  • Multiple clips per track: This finally turns Audacity into a decent multitrack editor. The way previous Audacity versions worked was so weird and unhelpful it’s not even worth trying to describe, but suffice to say 1.3 finally addresses that.
  • Selection Bar: A status bar that allows precise selections, with selection units like CD frames, NTSC video frames, seconds, and samples.
  • Better Label Tracks: I have to play with these more, but it looks like they let you add label markers to a track and manipulate them, in an implementation that’s reminiscent of Cubase’s Play Order tracks.
  • Expand/collapse tracks: An easy way of quickly changing the size of your tracks
  • QuickTime import and Audio Unit support on Mac OS X

  • There are other nifty, emerging features in there as well, like a transcription view with speed controls and FTP upload for podcasting.

    Audacity is worth a download even if you have an audio editor of choice, thanks to LADSPA support (the Linux plugin format). It has stiff competition from commercial audio editors like Peak and Soundtrack Pro on the Mac and Audition, Wave Lab, and Sound Forge on the PC, but the price is right, and the new feature implementations are intriguing. I’m headed for the beta to see how stable it is, because I’m too interested in the new features.

    Any folks out there using Audacity (aside from me)?

    • carmen

      theres plenty of other free options that are much faster and do the same trick – rezound, sweep, mhwaveedit, gnusound, snd..the architecture of this app puts it at the bottom of the list in terms of performance and flexibility. it uses tiny blocks of audio so when it crashes (and it will) youre left to piece together a mountain of headerless snippets into the file you had before. that and every edit involves a modal progressbar as it grinds away writing the changes to disk. compare this with samplitude or ableton live where it just stores the edits and fx without touching the original wave data…instantaneous. i'll give it another look at 2.0 if they rewrite it from scratch:)

    • admin

      I haven't had huge performance issues like what you're describing. (But then, I haven't lost work to a crash, either.) Also, I don't think the other options for Linux have the same feature set. Any way, it's certainly not the only application to do destructive edits to the waveform — though it does sound like it can have performance issues (and I won't argue it's a "lean and mean" performer, don't get my wrong).

      Are you running this on Linux, Carmen?

    • poster

      I use it when I need to do stuff to waveforms that Tracktion won't do (which isn't much). I'm on Mac OS X, 10.3. I've never lost data in a crash, though I did have that happen several times on the Windows side of the house. One of Tracktion's native formats is AIFF and Audacity has to import AIFF, so in my usage, it's not a destructive editor at all. 🙂 I'm glad to hear it's been updated — it seemed to drop off the face of the planet there for a while.

    • johnsrude

      I use Audacity for ripping tapes and MDs to MP3s that I can use on MP3 players for practicing. I tape all shows and rehearsals of my band The Nettles. I rip the tapes and MDs onto a laptop while I work on other stuff, clean them up and then export them to MP3 or write them to audio CDs if I need to make a practice CD for a bandmember who doesn't have an MP3 player.

      Audacity is weird but it was a lot easier to figure out how to use out of the box than other editors I've used.

      I have a practice rig consisting of Traveler Guitar, Korg Pandora headphone amp/effects box and a Creative Muvo TX MP3 player. The whole rig takes up less space then a tennis racket but gives me a full-scale length guitar with effects to practice when I'm away from my studio.

      The Nettles

    • dutitloud

      8) i am trying to start my own studio and audacity has worked great for me since i dont have the money to get the $150 programs i just run teh input through a mixer tehn into my comp. and it does the rest, got the file that lets me convert to mp3's so know i can mak cd's right off my comp., it is great

    • adam90

      good free audio editor. But when I try to play a sound with Audacity, and any other audio player, my Windows XP crashes at once, and must be rebooted.

    • Andy

      audacity v1.2.3 was prone to crash on my windows xp machine but v1.2.4 runs fine

      i just got v1.2.6 and hoping it will be just as stable

      i tried ableton and it seems to gobble up hard drive space converting audio into its format

      i tried cubase sx3 and it just eats memory and then refuses to run

      i tried propellerhead reason 2.5 and it just spits errors up and crashes

      i tried cooledit pro and that does have some extra features than audacity but it costs money

      in my opinion audacity is an essential program if your editing ogg vorbis mp3 or wav files with a good set of effects built in such as phaser and wah wah effects delays and speed and pitch and eq plugins

      i just downloaded ladspa plugin set so i dont know if it will be stable

      note to carmen and anyone else who thinks the .au format used is annoying to piece back together then no offence but the good folk who put the file/save as or file/save options put it there so you dont have to piece them little 11 and 7 seconds of .au into your project

      get yourself a mixer and connect your record decks up to your computer and install audacity v1.2.4 and you can edit the crackles out one by one and record a live mix set

      top notch program with ability for nyquist ladspa and vst plugins for absolute free it cant be all bad

    • I've been having trouble with not it crashing my Windows XP , but recording using my Lexicon audio/midi interface. Someone hit me if you have any info on this!!!!

    • I hope it dont crash my computer!!!!

    • Yeah Its really easy to use and and I love it but it never really mixes the tracks together on the same tempo on my computer which sux. I run on 2000

    • Erwin

      This is the first time I'm gonna use this audio editor so untill I use it I really don't know what to say, but hey thanks for shareing it

    • I've used Audacity since version 1.something and found it useful. However I find the mandatory use of proprietary project files a major nuisance for the purposes I put it to.

      My main use – invoking it from my multitrack software (n-Tracks) and passing it a file I want to clean up by removing noise, muting start and finish. With other editors I can just close and save when I finish – the edited track is automatically saved over the original in the same format. With Audacity I have to specifically export it and make sure I choose the same format (I record 24 bit files), and then have to fend off the invitation to save as an Audacity project. I wish I could defeat this behaviour!

      Perhaps I should stop griping, download the Audacity code and customise it.

    • alekos

      i've been looking a program like this for a long time…..thankssssss

    • hi

      i cant download any music for it