There are a healthy number of free or budget video editors available for Mac OS X, but what if you only need to edit audio? The selection might not be quite as hearty, but if you need to slice up a WAV or merge a couple of MP3 files then you’re in luck.
Considering Apple’s media-savvy approach with free apps like iMovie, it’s surprising that there’s not a simple audio editor bundled with OS X. We’ve found a few that won’t break the bank.
If you’re looking for a completely free audio editor that eats uncompressed audio for breakfast, Audacity is the only open-source box of tricks you need. The editor supports .WAV, .AIFF, .FLAC, .MP2/3 and .OGG filetypes, with an interface that loosely resembles the fondly-remembered CoolEdit.
Record from external inputs, monitor volume levels, make use of JACK Audio and apply a whole host of effects. There’s even support for non-destructive editing, unlimited undo/redo and a spectrogram view for analysing audio. If you want to record your computer’s audio (from any playing audio source) you will need to follow the setup and use SoundFlower. Check out the full set of Audacity features.
WavePad (free for non-commercial use)
Hot on the heels of Audacity is WavePad, another highly competent audio editor that’s free provided you’re only using it at home and non-commercially. If you want to use WavePad in commercial projects or for music you intend to eventually sell, you’ll need to cough up the $70 for a standard license.
That non-commercial five finger discount provides home users with a great piece of software at no costs, with support for .WAV, .MP3, .M4A, .WMA, .FLAC and .AAC among many others. The interface allows you to work on multiple files at the same time, and you can even batch process thousands of files at once. WavePad supports audio bookmarking, the usual range of effects and some text-to-speech and vocal manipulation tools to boot.
Thanks to an anonymous MakeUseOf reader for pointing this one out in the comments.
A completely free and feature-packed cross-platform audio editor from Brazil, OcenAudio is another option for the budget sound engineer. The app supports a huge number of filetypes including .MP3, .WAV, .FLAC and .WMA. It also supports videos formats like .WMV and the .MKV container, and raw sound files in the form of .PCM among others.
OcenAudio also has one rather unique feature you won’t find in other sound editors – a multi-selection tool, which (using CMD+click) allows you to select multiple portions of the waveform at once. There’s also support for VST instruments, a range of effects, a fully featured spectogram and the ability to edit very large files without kissing goodbye to all of your Mac’s memory.
TwistedWave Lite ($19.99)
Three down and we’re already out of free options, but at least TwistedWave Lite is fairly inexpensive at only $20. This lightweight version of TwistedWave for Mac ($80) is only available through the Mac App Store and withholds advanced functions such as automatic silence detection, time stretching, pitch shifting and support for more obscure formats like .FLAC, .OGG, .WMA and video files.
That said there’s still a big visual waveform to play with, effects like amplify and normalize to apply and the ability to record from Apple’s own Audio Unit plugins.
Adobe Audition ($20/month)
I know what you’re thinking – no Adobe products are cheap! That may be true, but Audition is arguably the best in class here, and under the new Creative Cloud pricing model you can have access to Audition for just $20 for a month’s usage, or $29 as part of a package. That makes it ideal for temporary projects where you need the best tool for the job, without making a longterm investment.
Adobe Audition is the spiritual successor to CoolEdit Pro, the aforementioned king of audio editors that existed in the day before Adobe dominated the entire media software market. There’s very little it can’t do and very few filetypes it doesn’t support. Adobe has even produced a full range of tutorials to get you up and running straight away – in terms of functionality, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Fission (free trial, $32)
Fission is an audio editor that focuses on fast, lossless editing in a neat and stylish package. Developers Rogue Amoeba are also responsible for MakeUseOf musical favourite AirFoil, and that means quality isn’t an issue. The app comes with a decent free trial which provides unhindered access to all functions, except for one thing: audio files saved result in degraded audio.
The app has a long list of features including batch editing, multiple windows for editing more than one file at once, simple waveform editing, support for FLAC and WAV (among others) and the lossless editing of already-compressed MP3 and AAC files. You can find the full feature list on Rogue Amoeba’s website.
Looking For More?
Five editors is hardly a crowd, but in terms of cheap and free solutions for OS X it’s about as good as it gets. Windows users have freebies like Wavosaur and RecordForAll, and Linux users can opt for LMMS – but for simple Mac audio editing, these are the cream of the crop.
I had little joy getting Macsome Audio Editor or Traverso DAW working at all, so you can give them a miss. Personally I’d recommend sticking with Audacity or, if you’re only editing for non-commercial purposes, WavePad. If the task is particularly demanding and you’d like some advanced tools, maybe a month of Adobe Audition will suit you. If you need a permium tool with polish and support, go for Rogue Amoeba’s Fission.
If you love free software don’t forget to check out pocket-friendly vector apps.