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Free Audio Editor 2012 review: Audio editor and format converter

Editing audio tracks is an integral part of everything from preparing a party mix to putting together a song demo. Buying a pro-level editing suite for some uses is over the top, but you don’t need to spend anything to be able to handle all the basics.

Free Audio Editor and its companion program, Free Audio Converter, may not be a CuBase or Wavelab killer, but should work together to provide the core tools for recording, editing and saving tracks to a variety of media.

The main screen is dominated, as we’d expect, by two waveform displays for left and right channels. By default, the program shows the whole track across the width of the screen, but both axes can be expanded when you need to close edit. This is done with magnifier + and – buttons, giving staged zoom; a slider for continuous adjustment would be more convenient.

Many common editing tasks have dedicated buttons in the multiple toolbars in a pseudo-ribbon at the top of the screen. For example, to normalise a track – adjust its volume so it peaks at a set level – click on the Normalise icon and enter a level or select a preset.

 There are speed buttons like this to top-and-tail tracks – cutting out those annoying clunks and bumps at the mic – and to handle fades and simple stereo transitions.

The Effects tab offers modulation, time & pitch, filter & equalisation and extend effects, with varying degrees of success.

Speed change worked well on the tracks we tried, while pitch change was less successful, sometimes introducing unwanted buzzing into the sound. Echo and reverb both worked well.

You can keep these effects on view in a command bar down the left-hand side of the screen, whichever ribbon toolbar you have selected. This panel can also show your selected favourite tools. Customisable keyboard shortcuts are supported as an alternative for those editing regularly.

Although a progress bar appears while effects are applied to any but the most trivial of files, the program is quick enough when working on a track of up to three or four minutes not to require any coffee making.

Getting tracks into Free Audio Editor can be as simple as loading a file or making a recording with the supplied applet.

On the two Windows 7 machines we tried, the program failed to automatically pick up the default audio feed from Windows and so we had to adjust settings in Control Panel before it ‘heard’ the system sound.

The program can import WAV, MP3, WMA, OGG, CDA, VOX, RAW, G72x, AIFF and MPC files, and save as WAV, MP3, OGG or WMA. There are also options to strip the audio from an MPEG video or a download from YouTube.

If you have a lot of files to process, you can use Free Audio Converter to batch process and transfer to and from a wide range of formats.

Finally, as well as saving edited files to a PC or player, you can burn audio CDs and DVDs directly from within the editor, for archival or to play on disc players.

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