Sunday, December 19, 2004

Audio Editing Tool -- Audacity (version 1.2.4b)

Audacity

Audacity Screen Shot (click on the image to enlarge)


I like to create themes for my computer. I needed a program to be able to cut segments of audio files to shorten them to use in my computer themes. I discovered Audacity can do this and has many more functions that I haven’t even tried. You can record and edit WAV, AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format), OGG (Ogg Vorbis), AU (developed by Sun Microsystems), SND (Macintosh format), and MP3 files. It can mix many channels to one or two channels. I read that a music producer uses it to record and edit audio samples. Someone else uses it to make MP3 and WAV files recorded from the line in and microphone inputs. Yet someone else used it to record their LP records to MP3 files. In fact, about the only thing I found it can’t do is edit midi files. The sound quality of audio in the midi format is not usually as good as WAV or MP3 files but it is used fairly often in video games and on some web pages because of its smaller file size.

After I started using Audacity, it didn’t take long for me to realize that it had a great deal of capability. I removed the noise from a WAV file I downloaded that had analog hiss noise recorded with it. I downloaded another WAV file that was recorded in stereo but the volume on one channel was much lower than the other and was able to fix it. After that, I found that it was just fun to play with it. I found VST plugins to be especially fun to experiment with. VST is an abbreviation for Virtual Studio Technology. The VST technology is an interface standard for connecting audio synthesizer and effects to audio editors and hard-disk recording systems. There are numerous web sites on the internet where you can download free VST plugins. There are links to a few of them on the Audacity web site. I experimented with VST plugins that I downloaded from a web site called MDA-VST. They have a single download that has 31 VST plugins and a separate download that tells how to use each of them.

I’ve found that computer programs that have a lot of capability tend to be complicated but in fact I found Audacity easy to use. I posted annotations in the above screen shot of the only difficulties I encountered. I found everything else to be pretty straightforward and intuitive. Don’t be daunted if you have less experience with computers than I do, the program comes with the most comprehensive documentation that I have ever seen in a freeware package. It has a quick reference help file that is accessed from the “Online Help…” option on the Help pull down menu in the program. A separate download is available for a complete manual (see the link below). When you unzip the downloaded file for the manual, don’t be confused by the many HTML files. Just double click on the file named “index.html” with your file manager and your web browser should open to a web page with clickable links to the rest of the documentation. If you still need help, there are three on-line tutorials of which two are very elementary and come with sample audio files that you download and edit in a computer based training type of instruction. You might have read my review of the Firefox web browser, but I found some of the links in the tutorials didn’t work unless I used Internet Explorer.

To be able to save files in the MP3 format, you will need a separate program called “Lame”. To use VST Plugins, you will need a separate download called “VST Enabler” from the Audacity web site. You will need six downloads if you include the MDA VST plugins and their help file. I decided to provide directions on how to set everything up:

  1. Create a folder called “C:\Audacity Downloads”.
  2. Click on each of the six links below that say “Download…” and save each of the files to the folder you created.
  3. Unzip the contents of “audacity-win-1.2.3.zip” to “C:\Program Files”. This will create a subfolder called “Audacity” which will contain files and additional subfolders. Create a shortcut on your desktop to “C:\Program Files\Audacity\audacity.exe” and name the shortcut “Audacity”.
  4. Go back to “C:\Audacity Downloads” and unzip the contents of “audacity-manual-1.2.zip” to the folder “C:\Program Files\Audacity”. Create a shortcut on your desktop to “C:\Program Files\Audacity\audacity-manual-1.2\index.html” and name the shortcut “Audacity Help”.
  5. Go back to “C:\Audacity Downloads” and create a subfolder called “Lame”. Unzip the contents of “lame-3.96.1.zip” to “C:\Audacity Downloads\Lame”. Copy the file “lame_enc.dll” to “C:\Program Files\Audacity”. This is the only file that you need from the Lame download.
  6. Go back to “C:\Audacity Downloads” and create a subfolder called “VST Enabler”. Unzip the contents of “VST-Enabler-0.1.3.zip” to “C:\Audacity Downloads\VST Enabler”. Copy the file “VST Enabler.dll” to “C:\Program Files\Audacity\Plug-Ins”.
  7. Go back to “C:\Audacity Downloads” and unzip the contents of “mda_vst_fx_win.zip” to “C:\Program Files\Audacity\Plug-Ins”.
  8. Create a folder “C:\Program Files\Audacity\MDA Help”. Go back to “C:\Audacity Downloads” and unzip the contents of “mdahelp.zip” to “C:\Program Files\Audacity\MDA Help”. Create a shortcut on your desktop to “C:\Program Files\Audacity\MDA Help\index.htm” and name the shortcut “MDA VST Plugin Help”.
  9. Double click on the shortcut “Audacity” to open the program and open any audio file. Then click on “File” and then “Export as MP3…”. You should get a prompt asking you to locate the file “lame_enc.dll”. Using the browse function, locate the file in “C:\Program Files\Audacity”.
  10. Delete the folder “C:\Audacity Downloads” and all its subfolders and contents.

The Audacity web site says it does not run on Windows 95 or NT4. Windows 98 or higher is required (which means you must have 98, ME, 2000 or XP). There are MAC and Linux versions if you go to the Audacity web site.

Audacity Home Page

Download Audacity Windows Program Zip File

Download Audacity Manual

Download Lame

Download VST Enabler

Download MDA VST Plugins

Download MDA VST Plugin Help

9 Comments:

At December 30, 2004, Blogger Fredman said...

Thanks for the tip! I look forward to trying the app! Incidentally, MIDI files aren't audio files, which is why the software won't let you edit them. I use Winamp to convert my MIDIs to WAV, but the resulting quality is pretty blah. Cheers!

 
At January 08, 2005, Blogger Stop touchin my blog! said...

Very cool app. :)

 
At December 05, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been using Audacity long before I found your web site. I agree, it is a great program. But just as important is your willingness to share your discoveries with the world.

Thanks, dave lane

 
At December 06, 2005, Blogger George said...

Thanks Dave!

You might try something else I have reviewed. I use the file manager xplorer2 just about every day.

George

 
At April 08, 2006, Anonymous L1mer1ck said...

Thanks George. I am working on a PowerPoint presentation for a multimedia class I am taking currently. Audacity worked great in helping me finish the project.

 
At February 13, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My MAN! Wow thanx a million!!!

 
At October 22, 2007, Blogger Jessica said...

This tool is great! Thanks for walking me through it ;)

 
At July 12, 2009, Anonymous freerider said...

Hey! If you like free software then take a look at Linux. You will find everything you need right up to a complete operating system (Ubuntu Studio) fully optimised for making music and complete with all types of music (and other) software (including Audacity which is one of the torchbearers for this movement - others include Firefox).
Keep on spreading the word about Audacity!
BTW the Linux version of Audacity is several versions ahead of the Windows one.

 
At April 03, 2010, Blogger Usmar said...

dude this is badass...clear, useful, well-written description and the animated sequence is perfect...professional
I was dreading trying to figure out which freeware to try but Audacity looks perfect.
THANK YOU GEORGE!!

 

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