A solid audio editor might not seem to belong at the top of your must-have list. It is, however, a tool that can go a long way toward helping you with your business. How? With an audio editor, you can add audio to your business website, create and edit a podcast to help promote your service or product, record and submit audio for radio ads, and more. But what software titles are available from the open source community? Believe it or not, some of the finest audio editors available are open source and offer power and options you might expect only in costly, proprietary software.

Let’s take a look at five open source audio editors and see if there’s one that will fit your bill.

Note: This article is also available as an image gallery.

1: Audacity

Audacity (Figure A) is the software I’ve been using for years to record Zombie Radio. It’s a powerful multi-track recording app, and it’s easy to use. Audacity allows you to record live audio, record from your desktop, convert old tapes/records, edit various formats, cut/copy/splice/mix audio, add effects, change speed/pitch, and much more. At first blush, you might think Audacity is an out-of-date application. But do not let appearances fool you. Audacity is one of the single best recording apps I’ve ever used. For features and ease of use, you can’t beat this recording tool. Audacity is available for Linux, Windows, and Mac.

Figure A

2: Ardour

Now we’re talking real recording power. Ardour (Figure B) is a digital audio workstation that isn’t for the faint of heart. It is to musicians, engineers, soundtrack editors, and composers what Audacity is to podcasters — the best tool for the job. Not only can you record audio from multiple inputs, you can cut, move, stretch, copy, paste, delete, align, trim, crossfade, rename, snapshot, zoom, transpose, quantize, swing, drag, and drop. The caveat to all of this power is that Ardour comes with a steep learning curve, and It’s overkill for podcasters and those wanting to create simple sound recordings.

Figure B

Hundreds of plugins are available for this amazing piece of software. The best way to experience Ardour is by downloading and installing Ubuntu Studio or installing on OS X.

3: Traverso

Traverso (Figure C) leans more toward Audacity, but it relies upon the same underlying system that Ardour does: Jack. So although the interface is vastly easier to use than Ardour’s, the foundation for connecting to devices (mics, instruments, etc.) is far more complex than Audacity.

Figure C

You can use Traverso for a small scale recording session on a netbook or scale up to recording a full-blown orchestra. One outstanding feature that’s built into Traverso is the ability to burn your recording straight to CD from within the UI itself. Once you’re finished with a project, just burn it and you’re done. Traverso is available only for Linux.

4: QTractor

QTractor (Figure D) is another digital audio workstation that requires the Jack Audio Connection Kit. QTractor is a multi-track audio and MIDI sequencing and recording studio. It requires a much better understanding of Jack than Traverso does. But it also delivers a level of power you won’t find with lesser applications.

Figure D

QTractor lets you drag, move, drop, cut, copy, paste, paste-repeat, delete, split, and merge. It offers unlimited undo/redo, has a built-in patch bay, and much more. QTractor is a great solution for anyone who wants the power of Jack but not the massive complexity (or flexibility and feature set) of Ardour. QTractor is available only for Linux.

5: Linux Multimedia Studio (LMMS)

Linux Multimedia Studio (Figure E) is geared toward songwriters, offering a beat editor and an FX mixer. LMMS includes an incredible array of effects and an impressive number of instruments. With LMMS you can compose entire songs without plugging in a single instrument. Just drag and drop an instrument plug-in to the song editor and you’re good to go.

Figure E

LMMS does have a fairly steep learning curve, so be prepared to spend some time getting up to speed with the interface and tools. The name Linux Multimedia Studio a bit misleading, as it is actually available for both Linux and Windows.

Audio tasks?

If you’re looking for an audio editor, and you don’t want to shell out the money for proprietary software, you don’t have to worry about losing features or power. The five editors listed here will get your job done and done right.

How do you make use of audio? Do you use it for training, marketing, PR? Or is audio yet to make its way into your business plan?

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