Whether you work with sound files on a weekly basis or only a couple of times a year, a great free audio editor will save you valuable time and effort.
The complexity of some audio editors might scare you away if you're a new user, but it's more likely to be the price tag that sends you running. Never fear, though – there are free tools that pack professional-level audio editing tools in a user-friendly interface that you can master in minutes.
Whether you're looking for a tool to help create a soundtrack for your home movies or something to help you convert your old record and cassette collection into MP3 format while removing background static, there's a free audio editor out there for you.
We update this guide frequently, so you know you're always getting the best advice based on the latest version of each program.
Flexible and powerful – the very best free audio editor available
Available for any desktop platform you care to mention, Audacity is our first choice free music editor. It has a huge following, and it's one that is entirely justified. It's a powerful tool that would put some paid-for product to shame, and although the interface might initially seem slightly intimidating, it's actually surprisingly approachable even for beginners.
Audacity is equipped with an extensive suite of built-in tools, enabling you to edit pre-recorded files, capture sound through an attached microphone, or even stream music and podcasts. There's support for a wide range of audio formats for both importing and exporting, and the range of built-in effect is impressive.
There's also a great selection of third-party plug-ins to make it even more versatile (one of our favourites is autotune add-on Gsnap, for that Drake§ effect), and a comprehensive manual is available to help you to get to grips with the more complicated aspects of the program.
Its sheer power and incredible set of features make Audacity the best free audio editor you can download today.
Another powerful audio editor, but easier to master than Audacity
Like Audacity, Ocenaudio is available for multiple platforms (Windows, Linux and Mac). While not bursting with features, it's a great tool for everyday audio editing. Real-time effect previewing should help to speed up your work as there's no need to apply a change just to try it out, and a highly precise selection tool makes it easy to apply the same effect to multiple sections of a file.
You can use Ocenaudio to work with locally stored files, or even open those hosted online. The audio editor's somewhat sparse interface quickly becomes a joy to use, and if you spend a little time familiarizing yourself with the keyboard shortcuts, you should fly through common tasks in no time.
Ocenaudio offers good range of effects, with more available as plugins, and there's even the option of exporting your creations as a ringtone for your iPhone.
A pared-back tool that makes editing as simple as possible
There are several programs named Free Audio Editor, which is understandable (developers want their software to rank well on Google, after all), but not particularly helpful for users. Here we're referring to the software created by the media experts at DVDVideoSoft rather than the tool by FAEMedia.
Unlike Audacity, this software won't help you create and master note-perfect recordings or eliminate background noise – but that's not what it's designed for. Free Audio Editor makes trimming and converting sound files as straightforward as possible – even for people who have never used a similar program before.
Free Audio Editor's interface is a simple icon-driven affair, with no potentially confusing menus and drop-down lists. The main attraction is a simple cutting tool, but Free Audio Editor also includes an excellent metadata editor for music files (complete with cover art), and a great selection of export formats so you can store tracks in a format suitable for your playback device of choice.
Trim and normalize recordings with this free audio editor
Despite its name, mp3DirectCut does more than just slicing up MP3s (although it does that very well). You can record directly into the program or work with existing audio files, and although there are no fancy options, all of the basics are covered. As well as simple track splitting, this compact audio editor also contains tools for normalizing audio, increasing volume, and fading.
Automatic pause detection is available to help make it easier to decided where to split a track, and if you've made cue files to automate file processing, mp3DirectCut supports them.
mp3DirectCut also features a batching processing option that can be used to quickly apply the same settings and effects to entire folders full of files. This is handy for normalizing a series of tracks, or increasing the volume of a set that were recorded at the same time.
A more advanced editor, offering mastering with effect layering
Acoustica Basic Edition is a particularly great audio editor if you're looking for a tool for producing music. Not only can you make your own recordings and open files from your PC, you can also import tracks straight from CDs, edit them, and export them in the format of your choice.
Unfortunately there's no free edition of Acoustica 7; the most recent version of Acoustica Basic is version 6, which you'll find on Acon Digital's site under 'Old versions and discontinued products'. It's a shame the company has decided not to continue the free product, and if you're looking for a free audio editor with room to grow, you might want to look elsewhere.
Opting for the free version means missing out on options such as a multi-track editor and support for 7.1 surround sound, but you still get a lot to play with. It has a very professional look and feel, and the Effect Chain – an area where you can build up and play with a layered series of filters – is a particular highlight.
There's support for DirectX and VST plug-ins, so you can easily expand the program's repertoire. If you want to get a taste for music editing with the freedom to move beyond the basics when you feel ready, Acoustica Basic Edition is an excellent starting point.
It's just a shame that the software is only available for Windows for now.
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