Best Free Audio Editing Software

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Introduction

Back in the old days, recording and editing audio was not a simple task: mainly because not everyone had access to the required equipment and because of the limitations and high prices of the devices. Today, you can simply use a computer, audio editing software and a PC microphone (or the line-in on the sound card).

Of course, the latter isn't going to be a pro-task, but the majority of people who just want to record themselves or external equipment in a simple way, and be able to edit the recorded material in the digital world, will probably use the quick and cheap method mentioned above.

If you want to get more serious with your recordings and editing capabilities, investing in good audio equipment and/or extending the capabilities of your PC (via hardware and software), will bring you a big step forward into the pro audio recording and editing world.

Presuming you already have a PC with a built-in sound card, and you want to record something and edit it later on, or you just want to edit an audio file that is on the PC already. Then you just need an audio editing software to make changes to the sound you want to manipulate.

These days one can achieve amazing results with relatively cheap equipment, and for those who wish to discover the world of sound recording and editing, and have at least the basic equipment (mentioned earlier), then you are settled to learn what audio editing is all about and what you can achieve with it.

Once you have selected one of the applications reviewed here, you should have everything you need to get started. That said, it depends on what it is you are hoping to record/edit and how good you can make or want that recording/edit to sound. The basic idea, you need to know, is your audio editing software you choose, and how good you can make something useful with it.

Either of the reviewed applications will allow you to: create; record; import audio data; and edit its contents with the help of a graphical representation. All software listed here will give you a true picture of your audio data.

Whatever you will do, one of these applications should suit you, unless you are hoping to use more than 16 tracks simultaneously, in which case you might need to spend some cash for a pro application.

Commercial alternatives for multi-track recording and editing are not cheap, and if you are going to spend your cash on commercial wares of this type, it's best to spend a bit more rather than a little, but that's subjective for what you want to achieve. That said, you can get great results with cheap hardware/software if you know what you're doing.

 
Discussion

AudacityAudacity... As far as single track editing goes, there is very little that cannot be achieved with Audacity, and achieved easily and cleanly. Really though, track editing is just the tip of the iceberg with this application: its functionality for editing is balanced with its equally powerful functionality for recording, and also applying effects and modifications to existing audio tracks.

With Audacity you can record tracks in either mono or stereo using a sample rate of up to 96 kHz, and up to 32 bit floating point sample format - depending on your hardware. The process of recording a track (either from an internal or external source) could not be more simple once you have configured your devices, and one of the - many - neat things I really like about this application is right there in front of you: it's a little slide control that allows you to adjust the input volume of whatever it is you are recording without having to go back into the config panel. Audacity is also capable of multi-track recording, but this also is dependent on your hardware. To be honest, Audacity wouldn't be my first choice for multi-tracking, but it can do the job if required.

When you have your audio track, whether you are recording a new track or simply importing an existing track, there are virtually no limits to what you can then do by way of editing and manipulating that track, from a simple EQ tweak or fade in or out, right through to applying the most exotic VST based effect you can find, and it's so easy, and if you're not happy with the result simply CTRL+Z (undo) and your track is restored to how it was: Audacity has unlimited undo capability.

You also have the facility to cut, copy and paste, which is useful and can save time. Another cool feature of Audacity is the spectrogram view, for spectrum analysis. Audacity does come equipped with a fairly comprehensive list of effects, but VST plugins are supported: to use VST plugins you will need to download and install the Audacity VST Enabler, for which I will provide a link. Also supported are LADSPA plugins.

Supported file types are: Ogg Vorbis, MP3, WAV or AIFF sound files.

To sum up, Audacity is as simple or as complex as you want it to be, but either way it is excellent freeware and one that I wouldn't be without.
Audacity VST Enabler
 


KristalKristal Audio Engine is a powerful multi-track recorder, audio sequencer and mixer - ideal for anyone who  wants to get started with recording, mixing and mastering digital audio.

According to their website, "It is designed as a modular system. The main application provides a mixing console, while the audio sequencer, live audio input and so on are loaded as separate Plug-Ins".

It supports an ASIO audio driver, which may be appealing to those who are concerned with latency during multi-track recording. It's based on a 32-bit floating-point audio engine that can handle sample rates of 44 to 192 kHz with word sizes of 16, 24 or 32 bits. It comes with a three-band parametric EQ and supports WAVE, AIFF, FLAC, and Ogg Vorbis file formats.

It can only handle a maximum of 16 audio tracks, though the website mentions an upcoming version 2 that will handle more tracks and provide support for MIDI, virtual instruments, and a wider range of VST plugins. Like all media-editing programs, Kristal requires a modern, fast PC. Don't even think about using it with a sub-1Ghz machine.

 


WavosaurWavosaur weighs in at a total uncompressed filesize of 708 KB and is the only product in this review that requires no installation, which makes it extremely portable.

What surprised me about it was that, for such a small program, Wavosaur packs a lot of advanced features including: resample, bit-depth convert (8,16,24,32 bits); pitch shift; vocal removal; DC offset removal; auto-trim; silence remover; interpolate; auto detect region; crossfade loop; and export of multiple .wav files from regions. It also supports ASIO drivers and VST plug-ins, has many analysis tools and is skinnable.

Thanks to subscribers Jay Eitelman, Rinchen Tsepal, and Brandon Tanner for contributing to this review.

 
Related Products and Links
 
Quick Selection Guide

Audacity
5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Interface is easy to use, easily applies noise profiles, capable of saving in multiple compressed formats
Support for VST Plugins is available via a separate plugin
http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
2.0.5
21.2 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Open source freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows 98 - Windows 7, Mac OS-X, Various Linux Distros
Kristal Audio Engine
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Modular system - Many different plug-ins, supports ASIO
Can only handle 16 audio tracks maximum, requires a fast PC
http://www.kreatives.org/kristal/
1.01
3.51 Mb
32 bit only
Free for private use only
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 98,ME,SP,2K,XP,Vista, Win7
Wavosaur
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
No installation required, edit sounds like a pro user
N/A
http://www.wavosaur.com/
1.1.0.0
288 KB
32 bit only
Unrestricted freeware
This product is portable.
Windows 98,ME,SP,2K,XP,Vista, Win7

 
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Tags

best free audio editing software, top free edit audio software, edit audio file free

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Comments

by vandamme on 6. December 2013 - 17:21  (112806)

I still think OcenAudio beats Audacity, most of the time. Better set of tools, and smaller download. I just installed the latest version on LinuxMint, piece of cake.

by Anupam on 29. January 2013 - 19:49  (104941)
by Anupam on 29. January 2013 - 19:43  (104940)

Waveshop : http://waveshop.sourceforge.net/

Still in beta though.

by Epsilon on 27. December 2012 - 7:30  (104010)

I haven't found any mention of "Power Sound Editor Free". It looks clean and easy to use with enough functions to meet most needs.

Added after brief testing:

Now I see why there's no mention. It only saves to wav files. Easy enough to convert of course but why go to the extra trouble when there are other programs that do save in multiple formats.

by MidnightCowboy on 27. December 2012 - 7:48  (104012)

Beware of unwanted bundled components during the install process. The same product is also marketed under different names, but all relate to Tech Evolve GmbH. MC - Site Manager.

by Daniel Hernandez (not verified) on 22. November 2012 - 18:10  (102745)

Thank you very much for the advise!!!

by mwalimu (not verified) on 15. October 2012 - 4:30  (100769)

I needed to do what should be a stupid-easy task, which is to extract a sample a few seconds long from the middle of an .mp3 file. Mark the start and end points, listen and adjust as needed, cut the marked area, and save it to a file. I opened up Audacity, thinking it couldn't possibly be very difficult to figure out.

An hour later, I still didn't have my sample file. By then I had gone over and over the help file on the website, trying to follow the instructions as carefully as possible, getting increasingly frustrated when it wasn't working. I finally had to walk away before I put my fist through the monitor.

To anyone who says Audacity is supposed to be easy to use, I beg to differ. And I'd love it if anyone has any suggestions on a program for extracting clips that really is easy to use.

by laupnaicul on 15. October 2012 - 14:18  (100785)

It actually is very easy to use for cutting out (extract) a sample from a track in just a minute, for a super easy task, and a couple of minutes for a more detailed task.

-> Open Audacity
-> Import or drag&drop an audio file
-> Select a loop area (region area) and fine tune the start and end points while you listen, zoom in and out (Ctrl + mouse wheel) on the waveform
-> When you're finnished, just hit Ctrl+C on your keyboard (or 'Edit -> Copy' on the file Menu), then Ctrl+N (or 'File -> New' on the File Menu)
-> A new window appears, hit Ctrl+V (or 'Edit -> Paste' on the File Menu)
-> Listen and save if you are satisfied
-> END.

//

Images:

http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/94/01fulltrackselectedarea.png/

http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/803/02selectedtrackarealoop.png/

http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/88/03newsample.png/

//

Another method would be to use the same window for all the process, while creating multiple tracks and edit them easy enough wih processes of all kinds.

by mwalimu (not verified) on 15. October 2012 - 15:09  (100790)

After looking again, I think I figured out a little more about why it's not working.

Both the image you posted and the one in the tutorial I referred to show the selected area in a different shade of gray. It never looked like that when I was trying to work with the file; the selection was always the same color as the rest of the track. It looks like I haven't properly "marked" or highlighted the portion of the song I'm trying to select. Now if I could only figure out how to do that...

by laupnaicul on 15. October 2012 - 15:20  (100793)

Left-Click anywhere on the waveform and drag to create a region area.
Then adjust the start point and end point while hoovering wih your mouse cursor over one of the ends (start or end) and when a hand tool icon appears, left-click and drag your point left or right while keeping the left mouse button clicked. Then unclick. Afterwards don't click anywhere on the waveform, because that will unselect your region area. Instead, click on the Timebar, that's over the waveform, to point out a playback position for you to listen to.

by mwalimu (not verified) on 15. October 2012 - 14:38  (100787)

That is essentially what I was trying to do, though I was following the steps outlined in the "Tutorial - Editing an Existing File" in the section headed "Step 5: Create a 10-second clip from your audio". I had selected my start and end points, but when I hit the spacebar to listen to the selection (or for that matter if I hit any key or click anywhere, it seemed like), it would lose/unmark my endpoints. Whenever I thought I had them selected just right and went to the edit menu to trim to the selection, the commands I needed to use to do that were grayed out. And one time, when I though I finally had it down to the selection and went to save it to a file, it saved and encoded the entire original file, not the selection. This is the kind of stuff that kept happening over and over while I was trying to mark and extract a selection.

by laupnaicul on 15. October 2012 - 15:10  (100791)

Just click on the timebar (the upper bar with those numbers indicating seconds) to select the playback point, so you won't unselect the looped area.

by Jojo Yee on 15. October 2012 - 6:03  (100771)

For this purpose Mwalimu, you might want to take a look at products recommended in this article Best Free Software to Cut or Merge Audio Files.

by mwalimu (not verified) on 15. October 2012 - 14:40  (100788)

Thanks for the tip. I'll be checking those out when I get a chance.

by George.J on 11. October 2012 - 16:48  (100650)

Traverso DAW vs Audacity compared

http://pikimal.com/audio-editing-software/vs/traverso-daw/audacity

Traverso DAW gets top spot at Pikimal.

by watcher13 (not verified) on 6. September 2012 - 15:46  (98873)

I'm afraid a clarification needs to be made in your otherwise fine and very useful article. You claim as one of the selling points for Wavosaur that it:
"is the only product in this review that requires no installation".

This may have been written before you discovered that there is a portable version of audacity (actually has been for at least a year, probably longer), so it may have slipped your mind that you need to remove the above sentence.
Obviously, Audacity Portable requires no installation.

There seems to be confusion among many of Gizmo's excellent editors on this point. Obviously, no installation required (or no installer) = portable and vice versa. I would just like to remind the editors to look for this because some developers just don't think to use the word portable and some folks when reading program descriptions forget that "no install required" - as you correctly noted on Wavosaur - means it's portable.

by watcher13 (not verified) on 6. September 2012 - 16:02  (98875)

Oops, I afraid I might need a clarification, too. What I meant to say in my last point about portable apps is that anyone who's concerned about software making unwanted changes to their system can just use a portable app instead, if one's available.
That's more meant for Gizmo's editors in general, since your excellent article shows you've already got a grasp of these things.

by Nick Somebody (not verified) on 3. August 2012 - 10:52  (97148)

I use Audacity and I love Audacity, but I gotta say that it has one big problem: when you want to apply an effect (EQ, compression, reverb, whatever), you call up the effect, adjust the settings and Audacity will play you like an 8 second preview of the resulting sound. For EQing this just isn't good enough, you need more time, you need to be able to change settings as you go and listen to the results live. Audacity can't do this.

So I got Wavosaur which CAN do this. With Wavosaur you can load up as many VST effects as you want, play the track and adjust the effects to your heart's content. When you're happy you hit the "Apply" button and it will apply the effect/effects. But (as far as I can see) it can only handle stereo tracks.

I have Reaper v0.99 (the free version) which CAN do multi-track, multi-effects projects.

I also have WavePad which has better than average noise reduction tools (also freeware).

Finally I can heartily recommend Bedroom Producers Blog (http://bedroomproducersblog.com/free-vst-plugins/). Here you'll find reviews, not only of free VST effect, but of free audio editors too. More than are listed here.

I hope this helps someone.

by vandamme on 30. July 2012 - 13:00  (96884)

I used to be an Audacity fanatic, but I just downloaded and played with OcenAudio, and I am impressed. It does have a slightly different set of toys beyond the usual filters and editing tools; it seems to be better at the more mathematical stuff if you need that. The FFT is fast! And you can generate sweeps and DTMF tones, very useful. It runs natively on Linux (and inferior operating systems). It's 9 MB, not so bad.

by mous123 (not verified) on 6. July 2012 - 23:22  (95835)

Can someone recommend me a free audio editing program for my needs from the above list? I know very little about audio editing. Here is my situation for what needs edited:
I have two audio files with file #1 about 30 seconds longer than audio file #2. I want to start #1 and have it play sound for about 45 seconds (so #1 and #2 are playing at the same time for 15 seconds). And I want #1 to fade out toward the end of the 45 seconds and then go silent. The remainder of the sound will only be from #2. So there will be the first 30 seconds audio #1 playing. Then 15 seconds of #1 and #2 playing the same time. Then the remainder of the time just #2. Which program will be easiest to combine these two files into one as described? thanks

by mous123 (not verified) on 7. July 2012 - 21:19  (95870)

Never mind...looks like audacity can do it.

by Anupam on 14. March 2012 - 16:09  (90600)

Audacity 2.0 has been released.

by chesspatzer (not verified) on 19. April 2012 - 13:03  (92287)

Audacity 2.0 jumped in size by 10 times it's earlier size to 20MB. I'm not sure that qualifies as "small".

by laupnaicul on 20. April 2012 - 11:29  (92320)

Sorry for that, I didn't bother with the filesize when I downloaded v2.0 to test it, and I forgot to mention the file size change. I know that for some people it matters. Thanks for pointing it out.

The portable version is 7.7 MB, so this one is at least smaller than the installer (without the help files).

by chesspatzer (not verified) on 20. April 2012 - 13:23  (92327)

WOW! Lightning fast updates on web pages! That's one reason that I love this site - well maintained, current, and relevant. Good Job.

by keithc on 7. December 2011 - 22:43  (84600)

Minor correction: Audacity does have a portable version, at least for Windows. I don't think you can get it on the main site, but it is on portableapps.com

by garth on 8. December 2011 - 10:56  (84645)

You are correct and i don't how i overlooked that error in the software details, thanks for drawing my attention to it. :)

by prabu (not verified) on 7. December 2011 - 9:52  (84567)

can you tell that the Wavosaur s/w cause any problems to the P.C , how can i uninstall that s/w from my P.C .
Can you tell any multi-track audio editing Software for free .

by david b. (not verified) on 29. December 2011 - 15:14  (86172)

since it's completely portable you only need to delete it's folder from your HD.

by garth on 8. December 2011 - 11:02  (84646)

If it's causing issues you might try Revo uninstaller, also available as a portable if you don't want to install it on your machine. http://www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-program-un-installer.htm

Kristal Audio is a free multi-track audio editing and recording software that will hopefully meet your needs :)

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