Spectral_03a

Dedicated wave editor Audacity has found enduring popularity, as a free and open source tool for working with sound. It runs on Linux, Windows, and OS X – with support for older Mac operating systems, which these days is sometimes tough to find. But just being free and open isn’t reason enough to use something, particularly when a lot of DAWs do a pretty decent job of wave editing.

This latest version of Audacity, 2.1.0, comes with some additions that might make it worth revisiting.

First, there’s spectral editing. In most software, audio editing is performed by time only. Here, you can drag over particular frequency ranges to select just those portions, for audio repair or simply highlighting certain portions of sonic content. That’s been available in some commercial tools, but it’s not normally found in DAWs and now you get it for free. See the spectral selection additions to the manual.

Second, you can now preview VST and Audio Unit effects (plus the open LADSPA format) in real-time. That’s useful for making Audacity an effect host, and can combine nicely with chains and batch processing. That is, you can preview effects live to adjust them (as you can do in a DAW) and then batch-process a bunch of sound (which your DAW can’t do easily). Plug-in hosting in general is improved, including the ability to work with multiple VST and add any effects to chains.

There’s also a new Noise Reduction effect.

Audacity still isn’t the prettiest software ever (ahem) – aesthetically and functionally, it seems the UI is due for a reboot. But I know it’s an important tool, especially for musicians on a budget. And this version is worth adding to your toolset.

Need another reason to use Audacity? How about the fact that the extreme time shifting capabilities of Paulstretch are built right in?

Check out the Audacity download page:
http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

(Manual links there are broken as I write this, so you can use my links above for that.)

Also worth considering is ocenaudio (note “ocen,” not “ocean”!):
http://www.ocenaudio.com.br/features

It isn’t as full-featured as Audacity – real-time effects preview is limited to VST, for instance, and the spectral view is not editable. It’s also free-as-in-beer; the code is closed. But the UI is substantially cleaner, and it has some nice features like multi-edit support. Thanks to Tom D in comments for the tip.

  • Daniel Courville

    “Audacity still isn’t the prettiest software”. It shouldn’t matter, but it does! I am totally incapable of working with Audacity GUI…

    • Added an additional comment there. That’s a non-trivial complaint, actually – UI is generally not *only* about whether something is pretty or not. It does impact usability. So that’s a fair beef with software, even though it’s free. I’m curious if we’ll see someone crack this nut, generally, in open source tools.

      • Random Chance

        I actually wonder: In what respect is Audacity’s GUI not pretty enough for working with it? I use programs that are no prettier (actually less so) than Audacity professionally and for fun in different areas (most of them not music or sound related) and I haven’t yet to discover that the GUI gets in the way. Maybe it’s not actually the looks but an awkard placement of buttons or too small a ruler for putting markers on or some other quirks that are sort of functional aspects of the visual appearance but not strictly the same as the chrome and polish that some other programs might offer.

    • xonox

      Could you describe what you dislike of the Audacity GUI ? I understand what you mean but i never thought Audacity’s GUI was bad.

  • Daniel Courville

    “Audacity still isn’t the prettiest software”. It shouldn’t matter, but it does! I am totally incapable of working with Audacity GUI…

    • Added an additional comment there. That’s a non-trivial complaint, actually – UI is generally not *only* about whether something is pretty or not. It does impact usability. So that’s a fair beef with software, even though it’s free. I’m curious if we’ll see someone crack this nut, generally, in open source tools.

      • Random Chance

        I actually wonder: In what respect is Audacity’s GUI not pretty enough for working with it? I use programs that are no prettier (actually less so) than Audacity professionally and for fun in different areas (most of them not music or sound related) and I haven’t yet to discover that the GUI gets in the way. Maybe it’s not actually the looks but an awkard placement of buttons or too small a ruler for putting markers on or some other quirks that are sort of functional aspects of the visual appearance but not strictly the same as the chrome and polish that some other programs might offer.

    • xonox

      Could you describe what you dislike of the Audacity GUI ? I understand what you mean but i never thought Audacity’s GUI was bad.

  • Tom D

    I don’t do all that much wave editing but I tend to use http://www.ocenaudio.com.br/ these days – simple, effective, free. I’d love to use Audacity but the UI burns my eyes πŸ˜‰

    • Thanks for the tip! It’s closed and more limited than Audacity, but I see what you mean about the UI. πŸ˜‰ Added to the story…

      • Chip

        Hey, that ocenaudio is a great find! It looks to be heavily influenced by Cool Edit Pro / Adobe Audition 3.0, which are my favorites.

        • I found Ocenaudio a short time ago and also had a heavy love for Cool Edit in my Windows days.
          Do you also have that little metering lag in Ocen Audio?

  • Tom D

    I don’t do all that much wave editing but I tend to use http://www.ocenaudio.com.br/ these days – simple, effective, free. I’d love to use Audacity but the UI burns my eyes πŸ˜‰

    • Thanks for the tip! It’s closed and more limited than Audacity, but I see what you mean about the UI. πŸ˜‰ Added to the story…

      • Chip

        Hey, that ocenaudio is a great find! It looks to be heavily influenced by Cool Edit Pro / Adobe Audition 3.0, which are my favorites.

        • I found Ocenaudio a short time ago and also had a heavy love for Cool Edit in my Windows days.
          Do you also have that little metering lag in Ocen Audio?

  • Audacity is the best editor. Paulstretch included and so many features with superb algorithms. It’s probably the best DAW is you can workaround that latency thing πŸ™‚

    • Yeah, I forgot they’d added that! Added to the story!

      • Cool. Saturation and all these live effects, they are really cool. Better than a lot of the big bucks stuff.

  • Audacity is the best editor. Paulstretch included and so many features with superb algorithms.

    • Yeah, I forgot they’d added that! Added to the story!

      • Cool. Saturation and all these live effects, they are really cool. Better than a lot of the big bucks stuff.

  • VideoClub

    I’m a huge fan of Audacity for audio editing too. I use Logic Pro 9 for everything else including wave editing if I also recorded the original audio in Logic, or for samples with EXS24. But its forced tempo settings for imported audio are borderline hell to work with. Audacity is pretty robust and I know what people complain about with the GUI but I don’t mind. My biggest issue is key commands. In Logic I basically never pick up my hands from the keyboard. Having to switch manually between modes in Audacity kills me every time.

    • LLCoolJeans

      You can edit the shortcuts in audacity

  • VideoClub

    I’m a huge fan of Audacity for audio editing too. I use Logic Pro 9 for everything else including wave editing if I also recorded the original audio in Logic, or for samples with EXS24. But its forced tempo settings for imported audio are borderline hell to work with. Audacity is pretty robust and I know what people complain about with the GUI but I don’t mind. My biggest issue is key commands. In Logic I basically never pick up my hands from the keyboard. Having to switch manually between modes in Audacity kills me every time.

    • LLCoolJeans

      You can edit the shortcuts in audacity

  • xonox

    Whever i looked at a commercial editor, it was either crippled and low-cost or it was the same price as my whole suite (Reason). If i was editing audio for a living, i’d pay the price of a pro editor but since i actually have to spend money making music, things are a bit different. I love Audacity (because of all it does, not just because it’s free).

    • Ashley Scott

      I agree – & this is a multi-decade trend that we’ve had to get used to: I started on Sound Designer in the 90’s (migrating from tape studios) then to Peak, when SD II wouldn’t run any more (PCI PowerMacs) & finally to Amadeus Pro – I can see the addition of feature that are simply ‘chrome’ or make an editor app more like a DAW/multitrack recorder… at the expense of editing & mastering functionality like markers, regions, masterlists & midi/keyboard total control. OK gripe over.

  • xonox

    Whever i looked at a commercial editor, it was either crippled and low-cost or it was the same price as my whole suite (Reason). If i was editing audio for a living, i’d pay the price of a pro editor but since i actually have to spend money making music, things are a bit different. I love Audacity (because of all it does, not just because it’s free).

    • Ashley Scott

      I agree – & this is a multi-decade trend that we’ve had to get used to: I started on Sound Designer in the 90’s (migrating from tape studios) then to Peak, when SD II wouldn’t run any more (PCI PowerMacs) & finally to Amadeus Pro – I can see the addition of feature that are simply ‘chrome’ or make an editor app more like a DAW/multitrack recorder… at the expense of editing & mastering functionality like markers, regions, masterlists & midi/keyboard total control. OK gripe over.

  • Ashley Scott

    as far as I can see they still haven’t added markers, which are kind of a baseline feature for an audio editor.

  • Ashley Scott

    as far as I can see they still haven’t added markers, which are kind of a baseline feature for an audio editor.

  • Marcello

    Nice review but one big mistake: the code is open source, so it’s not free-as-in-beer.
    http://audacity.sourceforge.net/about/

    please change that, thanks.

    • Marcello

      sorry, my mistake, you are welcome to delete this comment…

  • Marcello

    Nice review but one big mistake: the code is open source, so it’s not free-as-in-beer.
    http://audacity.sourceforge.net/about/

    please change that, thanks.

    • Marcello

      sorry, my mistake, you are welcome to delete this comment…

  • jhonlagos

    Whoa, spectral editing, this is big!

  • jhonlagos

    Whoa, spectral editing, this is big!