Audio editing app Audacity is a classic Windows tool that has been loved by many - at this stage, practically for generations. It’s not slick and it’s not pretty, but it does a basic job (editing audio tracks) exceedingly well. Compare it to pay-for options and you’ll see that for a free program, it’s really very impressive.
A classic audio editor that deserves its good reputation
For quick and dirty (and free) audio editing, you couldn’t ask for more
Audacity has held a spot at the top of the audio editing charts since 1999 (!) and with good reason. This open-source software looks dated, old-fashioned, and frankly unattractive, but can edit an audio file professionally and quickly despite the fact that it’s entirely free.
What Audacity lacks in looks, it makes up for in pure functionality. It can edit audio, record live and computer playback. It cuts, copies, splices and mixes audio; adds effects to tracks, (like silences, fades, and reverbs); and supports a variety of plug-ins, including LADSPA, LV2, Nyquist, VST and Audio Unit.
We’ve already touched on how it’s not the most attractive program, but does offer a very familiar interface, so anyone who has used a computer program in the last 10 years will probably be able to find their way around pretty quickly. It will take a fairly sharp learning curve to decipher what, exactly, all the buttons do, but the Audacity developers have predicted this and offer a lot of help and educational resources online.
Audacity natively deals with WAV, AIFF, FLAC, MP2, MP3 and Ogg Vorbis files which is an ok selection, but not superb. To deal with more modern files, like MA4, you’ll have to convert them online or download additional libraries from the Audacity site. While you’re over there, check out the tutorials section. It takes a little wading around but talks you right through many of the most common (and less common) tasks you might want to do with the program. In the long run, it will save you lots of time.
If you’re old-school, Audacity offers 2 features you’ll likefirstly, the program lets you convert tape and record...um...recordings into digital tracks (if you have the correct equipment), and offers really good keyboard support for commands. Once you get to grips with the program it will make the editing process much faster.
In all, Audacity is never going to replace professional audio studio software. It's great, but it's not polished and most of the edits you can perform are destructive. If you need to do anything elegant or delicate, it's probably not going to be the best software to help you, but if you need to do a quick polish of a podcast, for example, or take some blank spaces out of a recording, it will do just fine.
Where can you run this program?
This version is for Windows and Audacity is also available for Mac and Linux.
Is there a better alternative?
Sure, there are plenty of alternatives to Audacity. It’s important to remember that Audacity is free and open source. If you pay for your audio editor, it will look and feel much nicer but you have, after all, paid for it. If we stick to free versions, Ocenaudio and Wavosaur are two very popular alternatives. Depending on exactly what you need to do with your audio, you'll find that they're just right, or a little too simple. In the event they're too simple, then Audacity might have exactly what you need.
If you're assessing from the other side, you can also get a free trial of Adobe Audition, which will demonstrate what exactly you’re sacrificing by choosing freeware like Audacity.
Unattractive as it is, Audacity has definite charm. It’s functional and effective and can do basic jobs very well. It also offers a lot of features and, if you can take the time to learn to do them properly, it should give you good results. We imagine that the best use case for the software is someone who really does need to do some audio editing, like a podcast editor on a budget. With a definite project, you should be able to get the results you want (or close to them) from Audacity as long as you have the right motivation. For casual jobs or a quick look, we don’t think many are going to fall in love.
Should you download it?
Yes. If you’re on a budget but need to do some serious audio editing, then set aside some time and give it a go. If you’re a window shopper or need only very basic edits, then we think you should look somewhere else.