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

 
Editor

This software review is copy-edited by Ian Richards. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

 
Tags

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

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Comments

by operarobert on 22. June 2014 - 15:56  (116873)

I have an iMac 10.9.3 and have used Audacity on several occasions. I have used Peak LE for many years, but it is no longer in business and freezes very frequently. Peak was perfect for my use since mostly I am recording a voice concert on a digital recorder and then editing and adding tracks to make a CD. When I now use Audacity, tracks is another matter since it is set up to do multiple tracks. Is there an easy and quick way to separate songs for CD tracks when editing?

by vandamme on 22. June 2014 - 16:33  (116874)

I just did this with a cassette tape of our choir. I connected my cassette player into the line in of my pc, and recorded it to one file (didn't need to babysit it, just let it run). I opened the file and by zooming in I can see where songs begin and end. I highlight what looks to be one song with the mouse and copy and paste that one song (and a little extra) to a new file. I trim it to just the right length, apply any filters etc. then save as a mp3 and wav file (for CD).

I used OcenAudio on LinuxMint, but Audacity should work the same way.

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.

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