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Audacity review

Audacity is a powerful, yet free, audio editing suite... but is it the one for you?

Audacity is a powerful, yet free, audio editing suite... but is it the one for you?
(Image: © Audacity)

Our Verdict

Audacity is popular free software; however, its focus on vocal recording and destructive editing isn't for everyone.

For

  • Free
  • Wide OS compatibility
  • Great voice recording tools

Against

  • No support options besides its user forum
  • Destructive editing isn't for everyone

Audacity is one of the most popular audio recording and editing applications on the market and is loved by users who do voice recording for podcasts, vlogging and beyond.

Audacity has continually proved its worth within the audio recording industry, despite being one of the few recording application that’s completely free. This makes it easy for curious or inexperienced users to try out voice recording software without shelling out for a program.

But is this the audio editing software to suit your needs? Read on to find out everything you need to know from this Audacity review. 

Audacity review: Features

Audacity is available for Mac OS X, Windows and Linux, which is one the best operating system compatibility options out there. The interface, when you first open the app is clean, albeit rather bare-bones, and well-organized and approachable even for the most novice user. But don’t let its simple aesthetic fool you – behind it lies a powerful arsenal of features, tools and controls. 

Audacity is geared more towards those who want to record simple vocal audio for things like podcasts and audiobooks over those who want a fuller studio experience where they can create multi-track beats with vocal audio paired with loops, or MIDI instruments. If you want more robust audio recording software, consider Mixcraft 9.

(Image credit: Audacity)

The application makes it easy to get your equipment, like microphones, connected and ready to record. Audacity’s versatile tools make the process of setting up, recording, editing and polishing your tracks simple. It has VST plugin support as well, and it easily integrates with other applications.

The noise-reduction plugin is a super powerful feature that allows you to remove unwanted room-noise with a single click. In some cases this was a bit too drastic, but since you can preview before applying, it's easy to decide if this will work on a case by case basis.

Audacity review: Recording performance

Audacity’s sample rates go as high as 192kHz, and can support recording at 24-bit depth whether you're capturing audio from mics or another source. You can monitor volume levels while you record, and detect issues like clipping before you wrap. 

Audacity lets you cut and combine clips as needed, and has special effects you can add to your tracks before exporting them. The software is compatible with several major file formats, making its lack of price tag even more attractive.

(Image credit: Audacity)

Tools for simple things, such as adjusting bass or treble levels, are easily accessible, as well as more powerful tools such as those for analyzing frequencies. As far as editing is concerned, Audacity's use of destructive editing is one of its major downsides. 

This feature means that any changes you make to your newly recorded track alter its actual waveform, which is the original file, and you can’t undo these changes later. You can make backups of your recordings before you begin editing, and can export a new file at the end rather than save over your originals, but these are time-consuming workarounds to a problem that shouldn't really exist.

In terms of power, Audacity is plenty fast. With a 1.5-hour podcast, the software was able to import in less than five seconds – making it faster than many paid-for software options.

Audacity review: Technical help

If you have a problem with Audacity, or want to ask a question about the software, finding an answer may be challenging. Whereas every other program in our comparison lists at least one method of contacting the company’s technical support team directly – be it via email, phone or live chat – Audacity doesn’t offer that. Since the software is open-source and free, created by a diverse team of volunteers, those kinds of dedicated resources simply can’t exist for this software. 

However, there is a robust and active community user forum on the developer’s website, and a Wiki that holds FAQs and the software's history, where you should be able to find answers for most questions and solutions for troubleshooting issues.

Should you get Audacity?

Audacity may not be the most powerful program out there, but it handles voice recordings well. There are lots of options, making this powerful, but with an interface that keeps it all accessible to beginners. 

Overall, Audacity is immensely good value, and offers a superb way for those that want to try audio editing, but without committing to paying, a way to do just that. If you want something for free with more of an audio-focus, we recommend trying Acoustica 6.

Luke Edwards

Luke is a veteran tech journalist with decades of experience covering everything from TVs, power tools, science and health tech to VPNs, space, gaming and cars. You may recognize him from appearances on plenty of news channels or have read his words which have been published in most tech titles over the years. In his spare time (of which he has little as a father of two) Luke likes yoga, surfing, meditation, DIY and consuming all the books, comics and movies he can find.