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Author: Michael Chrysler | Website: http://mikechrysler.com/notes/
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Review of Audacity multi track sound recorder

Whilst not being a full bodied audio/midi editor in the realm of Cakewalk Sonar or Sony's recently aquired Acid. Audacity is still a powerful multi track audio recorder/editor and most likely the best audio editor in the freeware class. It runs equally well on all machines and is available at sourceforge.net. This is a great tool for overdubs especially when one requires voice over soundtrack and don't want to make a large investment for a small project.
Fist a few pecularities about the program. It records in 32 bit wav natively. Whilst you can reset the value of it's recording/output to a wide variety of formats including the more common 16bit wav for flash work (flash still can only handle 16bit 48,000 bps wav). It does not handle .mid or .kar files. (even though there is an import .mid feature it's useless)However audacity is set up to capture audio out of your sound card so you can easily convert a mid or kar file to wav by hitting play on your favorite mid/kar program and then hittinng Record in audactiy. To align the finished track simply slice the silent portion of your newly recorded track. Then click and drag the track to the starting position. Finally an easy answer for mid to flash.
The looping feature takes a bit of time to get used to. Unlike acid where one only has to click and drag on the end of a clip to produce a looped track or Cakewalk where one copies the clip then inserts a number value for the number of loops. One method I developed along the way takes a little work. Go to File>Preferences> Keyboard Insert a key for the value "Cursor to End" in my case I simply use E, Then you can copy your track. hit the "E" key then hit Ctrl V and it will paste your loop exactly where the track ends making for seemless track editing.

Mixing and envelope editing.

Whilst Audacity doesn't support external real time mixing controls such as Tascams US-224 and for the seasoned outboard console engineer such as myself whom is not used to pan and level set horizontally along the track layout view it still does more then an adequate job of setting up basic recording levels. The envelope tool is a godsend for pseudo automated mixing. Such as when you want a voice overdub to a background track.. Or want specific fade in's/outs Select your track. Select the envelope tool. Youll notice anchor points along the timeline.Drag an anchor point twards the center of the track, The anchor point splits Drag the next anchor three anchor points down. You'll find you have created a mix down point area so the output volume remains the same the vocals are clearly above the audio and the audio comes back up at the end of your vocal presentation. A nice seemless mix for commercial applications.

DSP's

Digital signal processing is candyland to your average rock guitarist. However in the computer domain they are always added after the track is recorded, not during. The most popular dsp's in the industry are either DirectX from cakewalk or vst's from stienberg. These are plugins much as there are plugins for paintshop which work with most image editors. Whilst audacity does not support Direct X plugins it does support vst's as well has it's own type of plugin which allows you to collect home made plugins for audacity. The presets which come with audactiy are useful in many situations however for those who love applying dsp's to enhance the sonic pallette of a track or song the plugins are a great start. and free unlike the vst libraries. Whilst the dialog window for audacity effects won't be as glamorus as a vst or direct x type plugin the slider controls are very effective at attaining infinite variation on a given effect. Personally I've never had desire for a vst effect in audacity. Between the presets and the plugin's I can say I've feasted well not wanting more.

Formats and Authoring

Audactiy's native authoring format is .aup Which preserves all your tracks your mixing and effects in the event you can't finish a project it also allows multiple track export if you wish to master in another program such as Cakewalk, Acid etc. This is the only audio editor which allows for a universal export via multiple format authoring save. Something the big names should learn from. Audactiy allows for .wav .mp3 .au .ogg import although it natively records to wav as it should be. As for your master mixdown track you have the options of wav, mp3 or Ogg Vobis.

Review:

4.5 out of 5 total

Weak points:

Poor midi implimentation Default settings for output non standard
Copy/Paste clips requires too much work

Strong points.

Great starting tool for those interested in recording engineering.
Totally Free
Easy mix and balance controls for individual tracks.
Smooth envelope filter feature.
Great plugins library.
Popular mixdown formats.
Works on all standard Operating systems Win, Mac OS 9 OSX Linux
Straight foreward. GUI no searching for controls
» Level Basic

Added: 2005-09-01
Rating: 7 Votes: 12
(10 being the highest)
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