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In the past, editing audio meant having specialized equipment, which could cost tens of thousands of US Dollars (USD) and require years of training to be able to use well. While most professional studios do still use high-end equipment that is dedicated to editing, it is now entirely possible to edit audio on a fairly basic home computer. Software suites range from free packages to packages that cost thousands of dollars, with a wide range of features available.
While the quality of software available to edit audio on a home computer is relatively good, it is still very important to make sure you are acquiring good sound to begin with, otherwise no amount of editing can save it. Most home computers have relatively bad built-in microphones, which are often plagued with all sorts of white noise or noise from the computer itself. For this reason, before beginning to edit audio at home, it’s a good idea to invest in a mid-level microphone and adapter. Of course, if you want to edit audio files that already exist, like mashing up existing music files, or taking samples of audio clips from movies, you won’t need any sort of recording capability.
There are literally hundreds of excellent software suites to edit audio on your home computer, each with their own pros and cons. There really is no best program for all purposes, but Audacity® is a good program to begin with, since it has a number of different features, is available for both Windows® and Mac®, and is free. Audacity® can be downloaded online, and the installer included will help you get it set up. Once installed, there are a number of tutorials built in, and recording and manipulating audio tracks is quite straight forward. Once you have recorded a number of audio tracks and made them sound the way you want them, you can export them either to a CD, or can encode them into the MP3 format to easily email them to friends or put them up online.
If you’re looking for a more robust solution to edit audio on your home computer, a number of paid software packages exist. Sound Forge™, formerly Sonic Foundry, is one of the most popular solutions for Windows®-based computers. It includes robust filters to edit audio to help you get the sound exactly the way you want it, many effects that can be added, and an easy-to-use mastering system. Adobe® Soundbooth® is another popular package, available for both Windows® and Mac®, which features a fully-functioning interface and many plug-ins.
Programs also exist to edit audio for very specific purposes. For example, the Audiobook Cutter software suite is specially geared to people who want to edit audio to make their own audiobooks. A number of free packages also exist to help people create and edit their own podcasts. Since these programs don’t require nearly the same amount of functionality as programs that need to have multiple tracks and master music, they tend to have better functions for those features they do focus on, making them the preferred solution for many specialists.