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I've been using Audacity for a while and it seems like the perfect recording studio: free, open source, great features, easy to use, its easy to fall in love with. However, I want to have a more complete knowledge of recording and editing software, and am curious what else it out there and how it stands out.

What are some disadvantages of audacity that other audio programs do better? If you could change one thing about it, what would it be?

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This is pretty open-ended. There's no real correct answer and the answers are going to be pretty subjective. Maybe community wiki might make more sense? –  Warrior Bob Jan 24 '11 at 20:19
    
@Warrior Bob you're one of the few people who can actually make something CW, we normal users don't have that power anymore. :D Also, its not much more open ended that this, and many other successful questions: stackoverflow.com/questions/9033/hidden-features-of-c –  Gordon Gustafson Jan 24 '11 at 20:23
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Oh, I hadn't realized! I thought the poster of the question could do that. Actually to be honest I haven't quite figured out what to do with questions like this - I don't think they fit the Q&A format that well, but I think they're useful and valid questions and I'm certainly interested in reading the answers. I figured CW might be a better fit (maybe one distadvantage per answer, so we get a nice list of them) but I didn't want just do it without letting people weigh in on what they thought. –  Warrior Bob Jan 24 '11 at 20:28
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The more I read discussions of CW the more I think that CW might make sense for some answers but isn't necessarily helpful for the question itself. Sorry for the tangent! I saw that the question would probably have multiple acceptable answers and had immedately assumed that CW was the best way to handle that. –  Warrior Bob Jan 24 '11 at 20:43
    
Frankly, I think that questions like these should be closed and re-written so they're asking a specific question; this isn't a discussion site, and community wiki isn't meant to be used when a question is substandard. However, Audacity is popular, so this could be one of the rare exceptions... provided the answers are easy to skim through and aren't long, rambling essays on the topic. WarriorBob's answer is a good example of a useful way to format these so they're skimmable. –  neilfein Jan 27 '11 at 5:10
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7 Answers 7

Well, I must say I haven't used audacity in a while. Yes, it is free, it supports tons of different formats and already brings built in effects. the fact that brings "restoration" plugins (come on, not as flexible as cedar - ReTouch for instance - or even Izotope RX or waves, sonox...) it's a big plus: those plugins are usually expensive due to the algorithms used.

The fact that it's a very light software is not bad either - hence easy to fall in love and use. And it's alright for very simple projects, even serious ones that are quick and require just a handfull of operations. I could think of many podcasts, even editing jobs and quick rearranging.

Now, this is where it gets me: No real time processing. Editing used to be a pain - at least for people that are used to a complete non-linear, non-destructive, instanced editing, and there were no tools to manage bigger projects, such as: routing grouping

These are pretty much things that I couldn't live without on any musical or post-production project.

Also, no video playback support? :S

I miss stuff like comprehensive ruler editing tools (snap, grids, nudge, relative grids, snap to (aka spot), and other tools like a bit detective "smooth editor" for quick crossfading, TCE editing, maybe a smart tool?

Internal busses! needed for bounce, grouping, create send effects, even side-chain a compressor.

and, i know this might sound cheesy, but I do get a couple of these a year... Surround mixing? eh! :P

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Crashing

Different people have different luck with Audacity's stability on their PC, but by and large it tends to crash more often than the average program.

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No effect envelopes

Other audio editing tools let you place envelopes not just on volume, but on effect parameters. You can place an effect chain on a track and automate individual parameters on each track by drawing curves. That lets you do some things that are pretty difficult to do in Audacity - e.g. adjust how a filter sweep will sound with changing resonance. You can try to approximate some effect envelope features by putting your effect output (wet mix) on another track and controlling putting volume envelopes on it, but it gets really clunky.

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I see Audacity more as an audio editor, where you can transform the wave by applying different effects, mix different sources (this is what I see tracks useful here), and perform editing like cropping, stretching, etc.

This overlaps a lot with the purpose of a DAW, but is certainly different. A DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is more suited for multitrack recording. It gives you many of the features above, a grid that can give you tempo, timecode, frames or anything you need, automation for the many parameters of the mixer, effect plugins, etc. and many more. It's the base for many nowadays studios (home or pro).

If you're recording and mixing a new song, go for a DAW. If you're creating/editing a sample, use an audio editor (e.g. Audacity).

Given that you like open source solutions (+1!!) I'll recommend you check Ardour, Qtracktor or Rosegarden.

In the non-free world Audacity might be like e.g. WaveLab and Ardour like e.g. Cubase or Logic.

Both are needed in the real world.

Cheers!

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MIDI Sequencing

I like to synchronize audio recordings with MIDI sequencing. (For example, a recorded guitar track against a MIDI drum track). While not all projects or people will need this, it is a common requrement and a regular workflow for many people. As Audacity is primarily a waveform editor, there is no easy way to do this.

This isn't to knock Audacity at all - this is a feature that has always been out of its scope.

Many DAW programs offer this. I personally have tried Reaper, Ableton Live, Sonar, and GarageBand, each of which offer at least passable MIDI sequencing.

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+1 agreed MIDI sequencing... although I personally don't use it that way but to control external units! –  jlebre Jan 24 '11 at 22:41
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Partial ASIO support

Audacity does not fully support ASIO and only recognize the first channel.

This is my current issue, I use a Line 6 POD X3 that sends the information to the computer through USB using ASIO. It splits the sound into several channels (wet / dry sound, etc.) that Audacity can't detect.

Also Audacity had issues with VST plugins (it worked but with no user interface), but with the latest beta version it has been fixed.

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One thing in particular that really bugs me with audacity is that it does not display video while playing a video file.

This makes it impossible to use Audacity for dubbing, or for adjusting an audio sequence to a video clip.

Sure, it's not an audio function per se, but considering how much audio editing occurs within the context of video production, it's a real shame.

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