featured image source: pixabay.com
There are several free options for audio recording and editing, each with their own selling points and potential setbacks, but Audacity is a clear frontrunner. Working with recording audio of any kind, it is a good idea to at least familiarize yourself with the software, as there are so many things that can be achieved just in using Audacity. Of course, Audacity itself doesn't do everything — it's safe to say that no free software is going to do everything — but with the help of the best Audacity plugins, all things are possible! Or at least as close as we're going to get without a full-on studio.
Audacity is a great tool for creating multi-tracks, getting more professional and more creative with your podcasts, and really any projects or works involving audio. No plugin is going to actually be helpful without the user first being familiar with Audacity. It is free to download and completely compatible and functional with most operating systems, including Mac, Windows, and Linux.
The Audacity website can provide some helpful information on using the software and incorporating plugins. The extra benefits of using this software (and the right plugins) will elevate your projects.
It already offers basic editing and loads of effects that can be used to give yourself a quality, unique sound and brand, while monitoring and ensuring the audio quality. But for some things that the software either does not do, does not have, or does not do super well, we suggest turning to these third-party plugins as resources to amplify both your experience and your finished product. There are so many audio tools out there now, and more developing all the time, that wading through and evaluating all of the optional plugins is a daunting task.
This article will first cover the bases of some frequently asked questions about Audacity and plugins (the Audacity manual is an important tool and we will point to that for Audacity-related questions, as this is focused on plugins). This is a necessary starting point for familiarizing and understanding what it is you will be looking for in your ideal chosen plugins. After laying that foundation, we will evaluate the differences and benefits of some of the best Audacity plugins, giving you all the information you should need in deciding what plugins are right for you and your needs.
The best Audacity plugins are going to be ones that incorporate easily into the software and fulfill a need for you and your audio works. We have compiled a list of some of the most popular to avid Audacity users. It is a good idea to be selective in choosing what plugins you ultimately keep and use on the regular, as time and space are going to become more and more valuable as you continue to grow and develop. Here is a list of some FAQs about plugins that can serve as a good starting point before looking at specific Audacity plugins.
1. What Are Plugins?
Plugins are third-party software components that work with an existing application to add features and increase customization within the program.
2. How Do I Know What Plugins Are Right for Me?
First, familiarize yourself with Audacity, figure out what you wish you could do with the program, and then peruse the list below to see what meets those needs! Alternatively, you could have some familiarization with the program and then try out some of the best Audacity plugins (listed below) to see what enhances your work, removing whatever does not retroactively.
3. How Do I Download Plugins?
Since plugins are not developed by Audacity, some will take a little more effort to locate and download. Always exercise caution when downloading plugins! On the list below, we have linked the direct sources for the best Audacity plugins being evaluated. The developer sites of these plugins are trusted and used by many; other sites should be researched independently before trusting.
4. How Do I Make the Plugin Work after It Is Downloaded?
The Audacity website provides some helpful information on this topic here: (https://www.audacityteam.org/download/plug-ins/). But to summarize, Windows and Mac both require that the plugin be located within the Audacity files/library. After this, you will want to go into Audacity's Plugin Manager.
5. What If I Am Already Overwhelmed by My Features Menus?
Audacity does have effects and tools of its own and many plugins will be adding either effects or tools to generate or analyze audio. The more you have, the more you will end up searching for what you need. However, you can organize in the Plugin Manager. Under either the Effects Menu, Generate Menu, or Analyze Menu, you will have the option to add/remove effects, generators, and analyzers to expand or hone your menus as fits your usage needs.
How We Reviewed
We recognize that no one person has all of the answers, so this list required many different resources in order to cultivate and perfect. Some of these plugins are so popular that Audacity themselves reference them in their supporting documentation, and for good reason, so those are the most obvious mentions. Then, others have come from regular users and experts in audio recording technology who have put research time as well as usage time into their recommendations and evaluations.
We do not downplay the usefulness of other lists out there already crafted, and we consulted those heavily for the formulation of this best Audacity plugins list, as they were crafted by people and organizations who can be considered experts in the area of audio production and development. After sifting carefully through all of this information, we can confidently present to you these 10 accessible plugins, along with explanations of what they do and how they can help you, that can alter and amplify your Audacity experience.
What We Reviewed
This is Linux Audio Developer's Simple Plug-in API. It is a Linux-based plugin, but Audacity has supports for many versions available and, yes, it is free. This is an Application Programming Interface that works with your software for the purpose of audio filtering and audio signal processing. It is simple to add and to use with Audacity and the effects can offer more creative control over your finished product.
This Virtual Studio Technology is considered by many to be one of the best free pianos out there. It was developed by Sound Magic, using samples of a Yamaha C7 Grand Piano, recorded with Hybrid Modeling Engine tech also developed by Sound Magic. Being free, it is limited in terms of features, but the sound is impeccable and can be used in a myriad of ways without additional features, making it a great addition to your collection, whatever your audio purposes may be.
This one is a more updated version of LASDPA. It is still Linux, but can run on any other system Audacity may be using. It is also free and a plugin that has so much to offer to the Audacity experience, some consider it to be necessary for anyone serious about their audio projects. As this plugin actually starts working with the very generation and processing of audio, it will be necessary to restart Audacity once installing the plugin in the proper location. There are many options open with the L2V plugin, including an audio-controller for controlling audio-rate and units (Herts, octaves, decibels). It also has a MIDI facility, which is a Musical Instrument Digital Interface and options for the delay, reverb, a compressor, and an equalizer.
Free plugins don't get much more useful than that!
This plugin is so incredibly useful for those of you who want to make music with your laptop. It could be you have songs you want to produce, or dabbling in little tracks for specific purposes, either way, this is definitely one of the best Audacity plugins out there, and like the others is completely free. It is a synthesizer that is super easy and intuitive to use, offering interesting and helpful features. For starters, it comes with presets that allow you to dive right in and experience the variety it has to offer. From there, you can play around with its three oscillators and a variety of effects and options to create different sounds that suit your purpose. The finished product from the TAL-Noisemaker could range from soft and velvety to electric and harsh. If nothing else, you'll want this plugin just to have some fun.
This plugin is the absolute best if you desire hands-on customizability. It was developed by an Audacity co-founder, is embedded in Audacity itself, and is great for analyzing sound. But what it really brings to the table is the variety it offers. There is no limit to how many Nyquist plugins can run through Audacity and you can even create your own with the utilization of the Nyquist programming language (which includes XLISP programming language). Nyquist offers control over the graphics interface and within Audacity (under the Effects Menu), you can use the Nyquist Prompt to test and Nyquist code to ensure proper usability before finalizing.
Spitfire Audio Labs
The interface of these plugins are extremely easy to use and there seems to be no limit to the variety of instruments available through Spitfire Audio Labs. The website offers helpful how-to's for downloading, using, and it offers test sounds and descriptions for when you are choosing which LABS are right for your needs. You just need the app and then you will have nearly unlimited instruments and sounds, each with their own controls and features, at your disposal. And of course, it is all free! Any kind of track you could wish to create becomes possible with this expansive plugin developer.
This plugin is no longer being distributed, but the original version is still freely available and extremely variegated and useful to audio development and recording. Known for its simple interface, the results that can be achieved through this plugin may surprise you. Each feature can do so much towards producing a unique sound. You can use this plugin to distort, compress, add filters, and/or add presets that can truly add color to your sound.
Glitchmachines Hysterisis is one of their (free) VST plugins that is of particular interest to those wishing to create electronic music. They offer a variety of plugins, but this one in particular takes the input sound and adds delay, but there are also many other interesting ways to use this and adjust the results of the effects. Glitchmachines offer superusers information, giving tips and tricks for really customizing the output.
ReaPlugs is Reapers VST suite with several potential uses. Reaper itself is considered by many to be one of the best GarageBand alternatives and may not know that ReaPlugs can be used with other audio programs, such as Audacity. It is also a free plugin and, with all of its uses, definitely one of the best Audacity plugins out there. Not only can it improve overall sound quality with proper usage, but with the know-how, you can even create your own sounds using code. This plugin has an easy-to-use interface that offers tools such as powerful compression, EQ, distortion, analyzers, sidechain filters, and more. With the proper familiarization, a lot can be accomplished with this multifaceted suite of free plugins.
The Verdict - Best Audacity Plugins
We cannot emphasize enough just how many wonderfully useful, Audacity-compatible plugins are out there for use and enjoyment and creative exploration, with more constantly in the works. This list is by no means an end-all, be-all or comprehensive in any sense. What it is, however, is a great starting place in searching for the best Audacity plugins that will enhance your experience and finished work-product.
The best part of plugins is all the opportunities that lie just past the point of learning their interface. We believe in the accessibility of creation and strived to cultivate the best list to reflect that by only including those plugins that will function on the most pervasive systems (Windows, Mac, Linux) while also only including one that is free to download and use with Audacity, which is also free.
This is very important because it means that there is so much accessible to you, whether or not you are able to spend money on "fancy" programs. Being free, there is no limit to how many plugins you should get, aside from yourself knowing what will be useful to you.
If you are new and do not wish to download a bunch of stuff you've yet to understand, we would recommend with starting with the L2V plugin and exploring how you can take your projects to the next level. For VST plugins, explore some LABS and see what you can create with those. As you become more and more familiar with the interface and the goals of Audacity and its supported plugins, you will start to more quickly adapt to new plugins and get more out of what you have downloaded.
If you are already familiar with Audacity and looking for more creative control and customizability to what you are creating, our top recommendations would by Nyquist, with the ultimate ability for a tailored experience and results, and ReaPlugs, with a full suite to explore with quality sound-altering options at your fingertips.
Of course, no one knows your needs better than yourself. The goal of this list was to provide the best Audacity plugins that are widely accessible and can enhance any user's experience. At least, reading through these brief descriptions should give you ideas of the things that can be accomplished with the use of any of these plugins and give you a good starting place in the development of your craft.