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.
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
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.
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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