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Four free Audacity alternatives

Four free Audacity alternatives
By Dan Mason • Issue #1 • View online
🎧 Could Ocenaudio, GarageBand, Reaper or Waveform Free be your new go-to audio editor?
👩‍💻 How to write a press release that sparkles. Yes, I know you can. But trust me, this guide is good.
🌍 Topia? It’s like Zoom, Jim, but not as we know it. Welcome to a whole new world of online video meetings. Warp factor nine.
I’m Dan - welcome to Useful Stuff for Storytellers, the newsletter for busy creatives who value practical advice and fast, free tools. If you enjoy the newsletter, please forward it to a friend and if this was sent to you, join us and subscribe here. You can unsubscribe at any time. Let’s go …

Oh Audacity, what did you do?
Audacity: The move to new ownership has not been smooth
Audacity: The move to new ownership has not been smooth
A couple of days before my latest Audacity workshop, the world’s most popular audio editor - or, more accurately, its new owner Muse Group - was plunged into a data privacy crisis. We postponed the workshop. But what, asked participants, could we use instead?
In case you missed it, Audacity was labelled ‘spyware’ after its privacy policy was changed by Muse. Audacity champions, a passionate tribe if ever there was one, ripped into the vague nature of the policy and ‘phoning home’ of data, especially the prospect that it could be shared in the US and Russia, with potential buyers, and in the event of “law enforcement, litigation and authorities’ requests.“
In any case, came the cry, Audacity never collected any data before. Why now?
Muse have just changed the policy (as they promised they would), said they won’t share your data, and apologised. So, problem solved.
Maybe. Audacity has been nurtured by volunteers for over 20 years and downloaded over 100 million times. Its heartbeat is community and it runs on trust. Although I think the term ‘spyware’ went way too far, Muse has dented the confidence of many loyal Audacity supporters.
So while there seems no reason (apart from principle) to ditch Audacity right now, it’s a good time to explore the free alternatives.
Simple and functional: The Ocenaudio (single-track) timeline
Simple and functional: The Ocenaudio (single-track) timeline
Ocenaudio is a solid, lightweight editor, available completely free for MAC and PC, and updated regularly.
The timeline is minimalist and smart once you change the default colour scheme. It’s easy to get the hang of importing and trimming, and effects such as noise reduction, compression and normalisation work well without being overly technical.
On the downside, you’re stuck with a single track for editing. Ducking podcast intro music under a voiceover, for example, involves a clunky process of adding a fade to the music, then pasting it over the voice.
Yes, you could edit your podcast with Ocenaudio, but beware: Ocenaudio is a destructive editor - it changes the source audio - so always make sure you save a copy of your original files before importing. Here’s a short guide to Ocenaudio.
Good for: Basic editing.
If you have a Mac, you already have a free audio editor: GarageBand. Despite its musical leanings, it is a versatile all-round audio tool that will edit a podcast with ease. Here’s a podcasting with GarageBand tutorial.
Good for: Intermediate-level editing for those with a Mac.
Power comes with a learning curve: The Reaper interface
Power comes with a learning curve: The Reaper interface
Despite what some say, Reaper is not actually free. After a 60-day trial period, you are asked to pay $60. If you don’t, Reaper will continue to function fully, with a pop-up reminder at the start of each session. It’s up to you. That’s why it is included among these ‘free’ Audacity alternatives.
If you’re comfortable with software like Adobe Audition, you will appreciate Reaper’s wide feature set. But if you think Audacity is sometimes a little too technical, you’ll find Reaper overwhelming.
Reaper is a fully-fledged DAW (digital audio workstation) for recording and editing on Mac or PC. Like all DAWs designed for music production, it comes with a weighty learning curve. Editing a podcast (as in this Reaper video) is only scratching the surface of what it can do.
Good for: Advanced editing (but consider Waveform Free)
Waveform Free
Podcast ready: Waveform Free comes with a podcast template
Podcast ready: Waveform Free comes with a podcast template
Not so well known, but Waveform Free, from Tracktion, has been a favourite among musicians for years. Like Reaper and other music-focused DAWs, Waveform Free (for Mac and PC) might seem overkill for podcasts. It certainly has a learning curve, but earns a place here for two good reasons:
  1. It’s free. No strings. Don’t be fooled, though, this is a top-notch piece of software with a beautiful UI. There are several tiers of Waveform Pro, but no pressure to upgrade.
  2. Waveform Free has a dedicated podcast template, selected when creating a new project, that presents you with the tracks and tools you need. At launch, you see four tracks (more can be added) for host, guest, music bed and sound effects. Vocal tracks automatically have compression and EQ added, but can be adjusted. Other pro-level effects are available and basic editing techniques like trimming, fades and ducking are not hard to grasp.
To be fair, the download and registration process is a little involved and the timeline looks quite intimidating at first. But it’s easy to de-clutter the layout and there are tutorial videos to get you going.
Waveform Free feels like a technical step up from Audacity, but if you are prepared to put in a little effort, the rewards are worth it.
Good for: Advanced editing.
Bonus: Free online editors
You wouldn’t use these free browser-based tools to edit an entire podcast, but if all you need is quick, simple edit, try Audio Cutter or Audio Joiner (for multiple clips), part of the extensive 123 Apps family of audio and video tools.
For multiple edits with effects like normalisation, Sodaphonic is up to the task. AudioMass is another single-track editor with more bells and whistles. (Just remember to use Shift for shortcuts instead of Cmd or Ctrl).
Final word
Being open-source, anyone can fork the Audacity code and develop a new version. Dark Audacity (PC only) has been around for years, but is a one-man show and hasn’t been updated since 2019. In recent weeks there has been much talk (and controversy) over a new community-led Audacity clone. We’ll see.
If you’ve come across other worthy contenders for the Audacity crown, please let me know.
✊ Extra stuff for you
This is probably the most comprehensive press release guide I’ve come across. It includes not only tips and techniques, but lots of real-world examples and templates you can download.
This could be the perfect guide to writing the perfect press release
This could be the perfect guide to writing the perfect press release
Utopia might be a little out of reach … but Topia could be the next best thing. This platform goes way beyond Zoom and Teams to transport you and other participants into customised virtual worlds. Rather than being stuck in an online meeting room, you are free to explore a virtual landscape meeting and chatting with other guests as you go. Video thumbnails of other participants pop up as you get close. An interesting twist on breakout rooms, maybe?
Topia say you can ‘build your perfect world in minutes.’ Quite a promise. Hit the ‘Check it Out’ button on the home page to try it out, or watch this Topia intro video. See you in Topia!
Topia: Meetings with a difference in a world you create
Topia: Meetings with a difference in a world you create
Thank YOU for reading 👏
🌍 I’ve been fortunate to work with so many amazing media professionals, students and causes around the world as a trainer and educator. I frequently receive (and welcome) ‘how do I …’ questions, so I started this newsletter to share the answers for the benefit of creatives like you and me.
Thanks for reading this edition and if you have a question or useful stuff you’d like to share, get in touch:
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Dan Mason

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