Giving Audacity its due: An audio editor with serious functionality

Jack Wallen finds an open source program deserving of special praise. See what he has to say about Audacity, a robust audio editor and recorder.

Every so often I feel compelled to drop the corporate conspiracy theories and the how-tos and simply offer up kudos to an application and team of developers that work hard to create a piece of open source software that has great functionality and allows the user to enjoy freedom in so many ways. I found one of these programs when l I started creating a podcast (Zombie Radio) to promote my "I Zombie" trilogy of novels. When one of my beta readers came up with the idea, I knew it had to be done...and I knew the open source community would have all the tools I needed to make it a reality.

What I wanted to do was be able to create podcasts that resembled a radio station deejay, so music would be interwoven or added to dialog...a simple task, actually, especially with the right tool. That tool, of course, wound up being Audacity. If you're out of the loop, Audacity is a free, open source, cross-platform sound editor that not only has an amazing feature list, but winds up being incredibly easy to use. Even for someone who has had limited exposure to sound editing, Audacity can have you creating somewhat complex audio files that are then exported as mp3 files.

Audacity features

If you're curious, the feature list for Audacity looks like this.


  • Record from microphone, line input, or other sources.
  • Dub over existing tracks to create multi-track recordings.
  • Record up to 16 channels at once (requires multi-channel hardware).
  • Level meters can monitor volume levels before, during, and after recording.
  • Import and export WAV, AIFF, AU, and Ogg Vorbis files.
  • Import MPEG audio (including MP2 and MP3 files) with libmad.
  • Export MP3s with the optional LAME encoder library.
  • Create WAV or AIFF files suitable for burning to CD.
  • Import and export all file formats supported by libsndfile.
  • Open raw (headerless) audio files using the “Import Raw” command.
  • Audacity does not currently support WMA, AAC, or most other proprietary or restricted file formats.
  • Easy editing with Cut, Copy, Paste, and Delete.
  • Use unlimited Undo (and Redo) to go back any number of steps.
  • Very fast editing of large files.
  • Edit and mix an unlimited number of tracks.
  • Use the Drawing tool to alter individual sample points.
  • Fade the volume up or down smoothly with the Envelope tool.
  • Change the pitch without altering the tempo, or vice-versa.
  • Remove static, hiss, hum, or other constant background noises.
  • Alter frequencies with Equalization, FFT Filter, and Bass Boost effects.
  • Adjust volumes with Compressor, Amplify, and Normalize effects.
  • Other built-in effects include:
    • Echo
    • Phaser
    • Wahwah
    • Reverse

The feature list goes on from there, but you get the idea.

Audacity is one of those tools that, when you introduce it to others (that are generally not aware of open source software) they tend to be amazed that such a tool exists without a significant cost attached. If I could actually separate myself from my knowledge of open source, I could completely understand where that perspective comes from. Audacity is an incredible application.

So often tools like this tend to go unnoticed on sites primarily dedicated to IT-related issues. But I firmly believe that attitude is beginning to change. Why? Primarily because of how social media has begun to re-shape the landscape for marketing and the business-to-client relationship. Thanks to so many tools, the individual has been empowered to take things into his own hands. This empowerment is saving businesses thousands (if not millions) of dollars in the long run. Consumers have become incredibly dependent upon social media...and to that end, the ability to create in-house podcasts, audio snippets, etc. can mean the difference between reaching the social media crowd and not. What Audacity does is allow you (with a little extra equipment -- such as a good USB mic) to easily create professional quality podcasts that can serve a multitude of purposes.

I don't know how many TechRepublic readers actually make use of tools like Audacity, but if you have a need for any type of audio creation/editing, and you're not using Audacity -- you're seriously missing out.

Of all the open source tools I have used, Audacity might well be one of the most impressive to date. Not only is it incredibly powerful and simple to install, it's user-friendliness makes it possible for just about anyone to begin producing audio quickly and easily.

Bravo to the developers of Audacity. I realize I've spent a lot of time overlooking you, but today you get a nod of respect from TechRepublic and its readership.

By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....