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Audacity

Introduction

Audacity is another Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) that can record and manipulate sound files for you.

Ok, I’m going to say it. The very best thing about Audacity is…. it’s free! Yes, free. That’s hard to beat. For the purposes of The Chill Sessions, it will do what you want. So, if that is all you need, then I guess you have no need to read any further.

The Program

Audacity is available for both Windows and Mac, and by searching in Google, you’ll find a hundred places to download it from. Installation is easy and quick and I didn’t hit any problems.

So let’s see what’s under the hood. Well, pretty much stock standard stuff in this line of software. You can have a number of tracks, which means maybe a voice track and a couple of music tracks to put together a Chill Sessions compilation. The display is clear with a time line running left to right across the screen and tracks running down the screen. The waveform display makes it easy to see beginnings and endings of audio.

It’s easy to bring audio in by clicking on ‘import’ on the file menu and navigating to the mp3 file. Transport controls are big and easy to use. You can adjust the volume on each track to create your ‘sound balance’, and use the pan controls to shift the audio to the left or right speaker. There are selections of tools in the top left corner, which allow you to select a start point to play or record, trim audio and move audio. All this you’ll find on any DAW.


What really sets the DAW’s apart for my money is ease of operation and connectivity with the outside world. Adacity is software only, so to record your voice, you’ll need a USB microphone. I know some of you are using these and they’re OK, but a good microphone makes a world of difference. That’s where a USB box like Pro Tools Mbox, gives you the flexibility to use professional microphones.

The other thing a box like this gives you is more inputs (should you need them) for other equipment. You may have two microphones for an interview, or want to plug in a CD player. With Audacity, you are stuck with the small inputs on the back of the computer. These are not serious connections. With a box you also get monitoring. Proper monitoring makes your life easier.

Operationally, Audacity is OK, although I find it a little clunky. It’s not really easy to move things around or put in a volume curve. But if you have the time, you’ll achieve a good result. The sound processing on Audacity is not great. Applying equalisation or compression is a bit tiresome and hard to preview what you’re doing, until you actually do it! Not good. If you’re compiling music, you won’t need these, but if you record your voice, a bit of compression is very good.

Conclusion

Overall, it ain’t no Pro Tools. If you get the chance, go to your local music shop and ask them to take you through Pro Tools and you’ll see what I mean. But for a piece of software that is free, Audacity is hard to beat. For first timers of The Chill Sessions, I give it a hearty thumbs up. For those of you who are experimenting a little more, make sure you get to your music store!
 

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