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)?