If you need a soundtrack to go with your film project, or you're a musician looking to produce the next big hit, a good audio editor is necessary to eliminate noise, convert files, edit tracks and output the finished product. We've rounded up five of the best audio-editing applications in this list, which includes both pure audio editors and Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs).
Photo by Arvind Grover.
If you're not sure of the difference, audio editors let you manage and splice existing files, while DAWs are more commonly used to create new music from scratch.
Free and open- source Audacity makes audio-editing simple and easy. If you you want to remove the noise from your music collection or normalise the volume, Audacity is a simple tool to master and gets the job done quickly. It supports a number of different file types, including MP3, OGG, WAV and AIFF, and it can even record live audio for editing and exporting later. It's no DAW, but Audacity's flexible features and zero price tag make it perfect for home projects, such as digitising old cassettes or vinyl. You can read more about Audacity's features here.
Adobe Audition (Windows/Mac)
Formerly known as Cool Edit Pro, Adobe Audition is a powerful suite that makes audio editing, splicing, remixing and restoration easy. It's pricey on its own ($585 in Australia), but it can be purchased as part of Creative Suite. Adobe retained much of Cool Edit Pro's user-friendly interface — it's easy to pick up, but in-depth features can take time to master completely. You can use the tool's built-in effects to add flair to your recordings, set up frequent changes in an action, and batch process dozens of audio files. You can read more about Audition's features here.
Avid Pro Tools (Windows/Mac)
Avid Pro Tools is more of a DAW, although it can edit existing audio too. Professional musicians use Pro Tools for studio recordings and album mixes, DJs use it to correct mistakes in their mixes after the fact, and music producers can assemble entire albums in a fraction of the time required with other tools. That power will cost you — $769 for the base version — but for the money you get an industry-standard, studio-grade tool that supports anything you send its way. Pro Tools also has a wealth of plugins to extend its functionality, works seamlessly with studio equipment, and has its own music composition tools and instruments built-in. You can read more about Pro Tools' features here.
Reaper is another DAW praised for its flexible and deep feature set, customisation options, and the fact that it's a lightweight application — especially when compared with other DAWs with similar feature sets. It sports a number of plugins that can extend its functionality, and even non-professional users can pick it up and work with it fairly quickly. Reaper works just as well if you want to record music from professional gear or an amateur setup, or if you want to make music entirely with your computer. Reaper features hundreds of built-in effects and features to make your music really shine, and it has a huge and vibrant community of users. Oh, and the price tag is nice — it will only set you back $US60 for individual, non-profit or small business use. Even the full commercial licence is just $US225. That's a lot of power for relatively little cash. You can read more about Reaper's features here.
Ableton Live draws a bright line between making music and editing audio files. It's a very powerful DAW and popular for its professional-grade features, specifically geared towards live recordings. It sports a huge number of features for the advanced user, and caters to both live musicians and DJs alike. If you want to edit existing files, you may have a hard time getting around Ableton's features, but it does support virtually any type of audio you try to import. You can read more about all of Ableton Live's features here.
Honourable mention this week goes out to Goldwave, which has been a killer application for a very, very long time and still gets the job done well. Also worth noting is Soundforge for its professional-grade features (and reasonable price tag).
Have something to say about one of the contenders? Make your case in the comments below.