Audacity’s reputation as the best free audio editor is well-founded, with advanced tools for professional productions. Beginners may find it overwhelming. But if you have time to get to grips with it, you’ll find a powerful and practical sound editor.
Non-destructive editing features puts it on par with comparable apps
VST3 improves plug-in capability, adding flexibility
Simple to share sounds to audio.com
May overwhelm beginners to audio editing
Privacy and copyright concerns around audio.com
Why you can trust TechRadar
It’s no surprise that audio editors are surging in popularity right now. Podcasting is everywhere. Musicians are using free music-making software to deliver studio-quality productions wherever they are, whatever their budget. And with audiences consuming more and more content, the need for professional, studio-quality sounds isn’t just a nice-to-have, but an absolute necessity.
And that’s where Audacity fits in. For two decades now, the open-source, free audio editor has been a beacon for sound recordists looking for a reliable app that goes toe-to-toe with premium tools like Adobe Audition (and countless paid-for Adobe Audition alternatives).
The Audacity 3.2 update tackles some major areas, like non destructive editing, new effects, adoption of VST3 capability to make plugins way more flexible, and a whole new publishing platform audio.com, accessible from within the audio editing software
Audacity 3.2: Pricing & plans
- Open-source and completely free audio editing
Audacity is open-source and completely free to download and use.
On a very basic practical level a ‘free’ price point has to be measured against the time it takes to be able to effectively learn the program. Today’s new users may still want something more instantly user-friendly from the outset. But for those serious about their editing, this is one of the best places to start.
Because of its non-existent price-point, Audacity has garnered a reputation for being an app for beginners. However, it’s not the simplest to get to grips with. This is a powerful, professional audio tool, after all.
Alongside the software, you also gain access to the brand-new publishing platform audio.com. Billed as a free audio-sharing platform for creatives, it’s a complete departure from what many users may be used to.
- Pricing & plans: 5/5
Audacity 3.2: Interface & tools
- Plenty of new features, but it's not a beginner's tool
Audacity version 3.2 gives the software a face-lift - the interface is now neater and more streamlined, with similar functions grouped together.
The audio set up controls, which used to be individually displayed on the left of the workspace, are now grouped together into a handy ‘audio setup’ drop-down menu on the main bar.
The meter toolbar doesn’t monitor as it used to. Meter style, meter type and orientation, are now selected by the menu in the microphone icon and reflected in the meters.
You can now experiment with a petri dish of live sound effects, located on the left pane under ‘effects’. All your VSTs will be there but if you don't have those you can simply click ‘get more’ to visit the extensive Audacity Plugins page where you can download plugin suites or individual plugins for pitch and tempo, reverb, distortion, filter, and so on.
You’ll have to restart Audacity once you’ve added them. Once you’ve done that though, effects can be added and altered in real-time, so you don’t have to worry about losing your work.
Unfortunately, supported formats are limited and, bafflingly, it won’t accept mp4 on Mac, which is standard everywhere. To expand the list of supported filetypes you’ll have to install the optional FFmpeg library.
- Interface & tools: 4/5
Audacity 3.2: Audio clean-up
- Good clean-up tools, which show potential for automation
Within the app itself noise removal and repair allows you to clean up audio by selecting a piece with only the noise you want removed to get the ‘noise profile’. You can then repeatedly click ‘noise reduction’. This will progressively remove the noise, as long as you can find a section with just that noise.
If the new version of Audacity is aiming for full digital audio workstation (DAW) functionality it wouldn’t be too difficult to automate this area. One solution, suggested by some users, is to have several programmable macro plugins that could be called upon in different situations.
- Audio clean-up: 4/5
Audacity 3.2: Publishing & sharing
- Simple to share
The importance of audio.com in Audacity 3.2 is shown by the introduction of a single quick-action button to share content made in the audio editor straight to the sound-sharing platform.
The new platform is billed as a "free audio-sharing platform designed to empower audio creatives & musicians". You can quickly share to the site straight from the app, with controls over who can see what.
The site also notes that you retain all copyright and IPs for the audio you upload. However, as audio.com is still in beta, supported filetypes only extend to WAV, MP3, and FLAC right now.
- Publishing & sharing: 4/5
Audacity 3.2: Scorecard
|Row 0 - Cell 0
|Row 0 - Cell 1
|Row 0 - Cell 2
|Pricing & plans
|Free and open-source
|Interface & tools
|Packed with tools, but may feel daunting for newcomers
|Great results, but requires prep
|Publishing & sharing
|Easy to share on audio.com
Should I try?
Try it if...
You want a pro-level audio editor free
To get the most from Audacity, you need to be ready to spend some time learning the interface and the level of detail it offers.
Don't try it if...
You want a simple audio editing app for beginners
Audacity is a powerful tool, and ideal if you need a high-level of control - and you're unafraid of the steeper learning curve.
Angel has been making and composing music since she was 4. Music has always featured in the many performance styles she’s been involved in, from backing music for cabaret, through theatre, live singer song-writing and recording, and video journalism. For over 20 years she’s taken full advantage of the explosion in technical capability, flexibility of use, and expanding tools for creating content, and loves pushing software to its limits in service of creativity.