Aside from commercial alternatives, the preferred open source audio editor tool is Audacity. Early releases of Audacity were unquestionably rough around the edges, in terms of both stability and features, but thanks to the efforts of the open source community, the software is steadily improving.

Version 1.2.5, released this week, is the new stable version, with Intel Mac support, bug fixes, and now FLAC audio support. (Seems the FLAC support alone is worth keeping it on your hard drive, even if you prefer other tools.)

The 1.3.2 beta is where things start to get more interesting:

  1. New selection bar and improved selection tools
  2. Dockable toolbars
  3. New “Repair” effect, other improved effects
  4. Auto-save and automatic crash recovery

Audacity Homepage
New 1.3 Features

I’ve been playing around with the beta a bit and am finding it fairly stable; there are lots of stability improvements and fixes in the 1.3.2 beta as well as the 1.2.5 stable release. Given the auto-save and crash recovery in the beta, I’d actually skip the stable build and move straight onto the beta, if you can.

Also new with this release: 90 LADSPA plug-ins (the open source plug-in format, standard on Linux audio apps) have now been ported to Windows:
Audacity Plug-in Effects Downloads

Again, it might be worth downloading Audacity just to gain access to these LADSPA plug-ins. Now, I’ll repeat a plea before to commercial developers: please, consider adding LADSPA support to your application. Cakewalk? Ableton? Adobe? Anybody? It’d be great to have this open source format become more of a standard outside Linux; everyone would benefit from wider adoption.

Audacity itself is still worth a try if you can’t shell out cash for a commercial audio editor. I still think it’s worth investing in a wave editor if you rely heavily on this tool in your work, but it’s still important to have open source alternatives.

[tags]audio-editors, open-source, linux, mac, windows, mactel, universal, software, upgrades, beta, free, plug-ins, LADSPA[/tags]

  • Adrian Anders

    Even better would be if someone would create a LADSPA -> VST, DX, RTAS, and/or AU adapter(s). Make it so that EVERYONE can get in on the open-source plugin fun.

  • Seems like that should be technically possible, at least. I would see native support for LADSPA as being more practical than trying to follow the moving targets of AU and VST, honestly. On the visual side, the open FreeFrame plug-in format is absolutely catching on in commercial applications, so why not have a standard audio format?

  • Adrian Anders

    Well, Peter you probably know LADSPA better than me so perhaps you can answer me this: Can LADSPA plug-ins, or things based off LADSPA technology be anything other than open source? Because if not, THAT's the big hurdle to having widespread support for the format.

    Now, there's alot of freeware VST/VSTis for the PC right now… but I would say about 70% of it is based off of Synthedit alone… and about 75-80% if we consider all of the other plug-in development environments… all of which are commercial ventures. Which leaves about 20% which are hand-coded honest to god freeware plugs. We must also consider that alot of these remaining plugs were at one time or another commercial plug-ins that for one reason or another didn't sell enough for the company to survive (Impulse, JXSynth, Ninja, etc.). And let's face it, the likelyhood of an ex-developer giving away ALL of the source code to an old project, even a now freeware one is slim. Especially when we consider alot of the technology behind music software/plug-ins is based off shared technology through licensing agreements between totally separate developers.

    I would say less than 10% of the freeware Windows VST plug-ins in existence are free and open enough to have their source released under the GPL. All the others for legal or technical reasons simply could not make the jump.

    Now, for most host developers, the prospect of spending a significant amount of R&D, and let's face it, legal time/money on a format that has only a fragment of the support that VST has isn't going to really get them all fired up.

    Now, that's not to say that there won't be some developers (Jorgen Aase, Plogue, and Sensomusic for example) that will add LADSPA support. I'm just saying, don't expect it in the next version of Cubase, or Sonar.

    FreeFrame's situation is a little different as there were only a few, not widely supported visual plug-in formats when it first started. In order for LADSPA to be widely supported, it would have to at least dethrone DX as a secondary PC standard, and VST as a secondary Mac standard.

    I don't think that an open source plug-in format could do that for non-linux DAWs. At least, not anytime soon.


  • From the LADSPA site:

    "LADSPA has been released under LGPL (GNU Lesser General Public License). This is not intended to be the final license for LADSPA. In the long term it is hoped that LADSPA will have a public license that is even less restrictive, so that commercial applications can use it (in a protected way) without having to use a derived LGPL library. It may be that LGPL is already free enough for this, but we aren't sure. Does anyone want to pay for a lawyer? In the meantime, please mail me if this is an issue for you."

    So I think what the commercial apps would have to do in the meantime is use a library under the LGPL, in other words. This format is relatively new; I can just see it becoming popular in the longer term. And it seems a wrapper would work. The advantage of the wrapper is, unquestionably, that you solve the problem once rather than independently for each app (which often involves creating a wrapper anyway). So I think we're in agreement, given the practicalities of the situation.

    Someone else may be able to give a more detailed and informed answer, though, I'm sure.

  • Gene

    It looks like VST support already exists:

  • Oh, yeah, Audacity does have VST support. What we'd like to see is broader support for LADSPA, an open format (VST is controlled by Steinberg), but it sounds like a number of things need to happen first.

  • bliss

    Well, whatd'ya know? Audacity actually works with my sound card now — woo hoo! It's never worked – I have a RME HDSP9632 and since at least four years ago Audacity would only recognize the Built-In audio function of my Mac, I have tried every version right up to this beta. So, cool, I'm happy! 🙂

  • 1) there is no "library" to use for LADSPA. it consists of a header file and nothing more. I am one of the authors of that file. Proprietary developers can freely develop their own proprietary plugins using LADSPA. The LGPL doesn't prevent this in anyway, particular because LADSPA has no object files, merely the header.

    2) LADSPA has no support for plugin-defined GUI/editors.

    3) LADSPA has already been superseded by the new LV2 ("LADSPA version 2") specification which attempts to fix a number of the problems we have encountered since LADSPA was first designed. It offers ways to include a GUI/editor for the plugin (but the GUI is not part of the same process as the host). LV2 support in Linux and ported OS X hosts is still weak, mostly because we're all too busy.

    4) GMPI was intended to be the cross-industry, open plugin API but it foundered on the shoals of committee development and lack of clarity about the overall process. The GMPI spec still exists and I hope that at some point, we will see something like it emerge as a real, non-proprietary plugin API that has wide support.

  • Version 1.2.5 has Flac support?

    Flac isn't listed as a filetype in the open dialog pulldown. Dragging Flac files over the window sometimes opens them, sometimes throws an error. When it opens them, playback is just garbage.


  • Johannes

    nice tool! thx

  • Nicole

    I am having a problem. I just downloaded Audacity for Mac Os 10.5 compatible. However, when i try to open the application it says "where is the Waves Plug-ins folder?" I have no idea what folder it is referring to. Can someone please help me??? 🙁