Is Audacity A DAW?

Now more than ever, there are various Digital Audio Workstations out there. All you have to do is pick the one that suits you best and go on with your work.

Audacity is probably a name that you’ve come across if you’ve done your homework on digital audio workstations. If you haven’t, you possibly pick up a few things about the DAW in this post.

I recently got an interesting question from a newbie self-taught music producer. That question was whether or not Audacity is a Daw.

I’m therefore going to expound on this, in this post.

With that said, is audacity a DAW?

Audacity is an open source, free DAW that is suitable for entry-level audio editing. It’s a simple audio editor with basic recording, editing and producing functions that allow you to carry out basic audio production functionality. For professional level audio production, audacity is not the best of DAWs. Its functionality lacks the extensive operational capabilities required for complex audio production work like music production, film audio production, sound design etc.

There are a lot of other full feature DAWs out there that are better suited to handle complex audio work.

But if you’re carrying out simple editing functions that don’t require too much processing functions Audacity can work for you.

Basic functions of Audacity

Create new projects

Audacity allows you to create a project or session just like most DAWs. And because its free you don’t have to worry about your projects not being saved.

You can save your work and simply load up a project whenever you need to access it.

Recording

Audacity also allows you to record audio into the DAW via a microphone.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re using a USB microphone that you have to just hook up directly into your computer.

Or are using an audio interface as an external sound card to plug in your microphone or instruments.

You can record audio directly into Audacity with relative ease just like you would in most DAWs.

Playback

Audacity also has the allows you to playback your audio just like any other DAW. So you wont have to worry about both digital-to-analog conversion and digital-to-analog conversion.

Audio importing

Working with audio deals with a number of things. One of these things is the importation of audio into a DAW in any case that you need to work on it.

Just like most DAWs, audacity allows you to import audio into it so you can process it however you need to.

Effects plugins

Any effective DAW utilzes effects plugins.

These effects units allow you to alter audio to a specific desired state. Audacity allows you to use both inbuilt effects plugins that come with the DAW and other third party plugins that you may need to install and use inside of Audacity.

Limitations

Below are some of the limitations that come with Audacity and why I don’t recommend it as an all around DAW for heavy sound engineering work.

Can’t add effects to incoming audio

One downside with Audacity is that you can’t use effects in real time.

You can’t add effects to an incoming audio signal.

If say you want to record a guitar but you want it to run through a compressor to in order to have some control over the dynamics, you can’t simply have a compressor on the input channel in Audacity.

This can cause some problems in recording or performing live if the situation calls for effects on the input signal.

Other DAWs allow for this and it is quite essential.

For example, if you’re podcasting you’ll need to have audio being run through some effects so you can end up with partly processed recorded audio clips.

This can save you lots of time.

Restricted midi use

Audacity doesn’t  allow you to connect midi controllers and it doesn’t record or write midi.

This means that you can’t use midi from another source in Audacity which limits your capabilities.

This is why the best choice is a more well optimized DAW that allows for Midi if you’re looking to use midi controllers or simply need to load up midi files into your DAW.

Doesn’t support VSTi

Audacity does support VST but it doesn’t support the more advanced version called VSTi.

Most plugins being developed today are VSTi plugins which means you can’t use them in Audacity.

Such rigidness makes it difficult for a person to work with the DAW.

This is why Audacity is a more entry-level kind of DAW.

When to use Audacity

Simple tasks

I’d dedicate easy tasks to Audacity like may be simple voice over recordings that don’t demand for a lot audio engineering work.

In situations where there’s some complexity involved in a task, I’d go for a DAW like Pro Tools.

When not to use Audacity

Complex tasks

Audacity is not the best DAW for complex audio or video production work like sound design, music production, complex sound engineering and the like.

You’re better off starting out on Audacity and then developing and moving into better DAWs.

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