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Being a musician can be expensive. With musical instruments, equipment and software you normally get what you pay for, and we want to sound good! So we pay, and pay big. But it's good to know you can get some things for free.
This article was previously published on the AudioJungle blog, which has moved on to a new format in 2010. We'll be bringing you an article from the AudioJungle archives each week.
Joel previously wrote an article called "8 Free, Cross-platform Apps for Musicians", listing some really useful music utilities and programs that you can get at no cost. Many of you are Windows users, and pointed out that there is some useful Windows software that was not included in the article because it doesn't cross-platform. Well, this article is for you!
Of course, Windows has its own problems when it comes to recording music. It can slow down over time, is susceptible to malware that slows it down further, and doesn't have the best latency out of the box. Next week we'll look at some ways of tuning your Windows box for the best results.
In the meantime, here are 7 digital audio recording apps for Windows:
1. KRISTAL Audio Engine
License: KRISTAL Audio Engine is free for personal, educational and non-commercial use. A commercial license is available. Website: www.kreatives.org/kristal.
From the website, "KRISTAL Audio Engine is a powerful multi-track recorder, audio sequencer and mixer - ideal for anyone wanting to get started with recording, mixing and mastering digital audio. It is designed as a modular system. The main application provides a mixing console, while the audio sequencer, live audio input and so on are loaded as separate Plug-Ins"
The program records up to 16 tracks at a maximum of a 192 kHz sample rate. It supports WAV, AIFF, FLAC, and OGG Vorbis audio formats. It includes plug-ins for sequencing, effects (including KristalMultiDelay, KristalChorus, KristalReverb, Kristalizer), and for using VST effects in realtime.
The program is no replacement for a high end DAW, but should get you started in the world of recording digital audio.
2. Wavosaur Free Audio Editor
License details on the website are sketchy, but the program is free to use. Website: www.wavosaur.com.
From the website: "Wavosaur is a free sound editor, audio editor, wav editor software for editing, processing and recording sounds, wav and mp3 files. Wavosaur has all the features to edit audio (cut, copy, paste, etc.) produce music loops, analyze, record, batch convert. Wavosaur supports VST plugins, ASIO driver, multichannel wav files, real time effect processing. The program has no installer and doesn't write in the registry. Use it as a free mp3 editor, for mastering, sound design."
I haven't tried the program, so it's difficult for me to compare it with KRISTAL. I'd be interested in your comments. The specs on the features page indicate it may be a better program. Like KRISTAL, it has a sample rate up to 192 kHz and support for VST effects, but there is no mention of a track limit like KRISTAL has.
License: GPL (open source). Website: audacity.sourceforge.net.
This well-known program was mentioned in Joel's article, and also deserves a mention here. It's an awesome light-weight dedicated audio editor capable of editing multiple tracks. It supports Ogg Vorbis, MP3, WAV or AIFF sound files.
From some of the comments left on Joel's article, it sounds like some of you use Audacity for just about everything. It's the Swiss army knife of audio apps. I used it to MP3 my cassette collection years ago.
License: Seems to be free of cost for any use. Website: www.trakax.com/software/pc.
Their website boasts, "TrakAx empowers you to create professional music and video mixes in an easy-to-use and fun environment. Whether you are creating a music track for your MySpace page or a video for YouTube, TrakAxPC is the most powerful FREE application on the web." Features include beat matching, a drag-and-drop interface for mixing and adjusting tracks, and video editing features. Audio formats supported include WAV, MP3, OGG, and WMA.
Trakax.com's website is very slick. If the software is comparable, it may just deserve a place in your software toolkit. It may be a great DAW to get started on. The site also sells royalty-free loops, beats and tracks for a price.
5. Aktiv MP3 Recorder
License: The software is listed as the "free version", which is confusing, since I can't find a version you pay for on the site. Website here.
This software doesn't seem as professional as the other programs, and is described like this on the website: "Aktiv MP3 Recorder is an all-in-one audio software built to convey CDs, tapes, DVDs, live performances, TV, Internet radio, video games and any other sound source into audio files stored on your computer. The program supports a large variety of popular formats such as MP3, WMA, OGG, VOX, AU, AIFF."
The program seems to be designed with home audio in mind: particularly converting records, tapes and TV shows to digital audio. It includes "smart silence detection", which should help break music from records and tapes into multiple MP3 files automatically. The program may also be useful to musicians, especially those looking for a simpler program. If you try the program, let us know how useful you find it.
6. AVS Audio Editor
License: The software is listed as a "free download". There is a registration cost to be able to use "all of their software", but I don't think that needs to be paid to use this program alone. Website: www.avs4you.com/AVS-Audio-Editor.aspx.
Update: WARNING! In the comments to the original article, Josh clarifies that the "free" version watermarks the output, and that the paid version only works on one computer and is not transferable. In my opinion these are deal breakers. Use at your own risk!
This program seems quite similar to Audacity. It is described on the website as a "feature-rich audio production software. AVS Audio Editor supports all key audio formats. It makes the program the complete tool for audio production. AVS Audio Editor will be interesting for professionals and amateurs, it is very easy to use, it enables you to perform a lot of operations without any difficulties."
The program includes effects and support for VST effects, no limit to the number of tracks, and support for MP3, WAV, PCM, WMA, OGG, OGM and others. As a basic editor, it looks quite promising.
7. Quartz AudioMaster
Software description: "Quartz AudioMaster Freeware is a powerful though easy-to-use multitrack recorder and MIDI sequencer, and the best way to try the Quartz Audio Family software concept for FREE. It is intended for people who want to record, compose, mix, play and share music using a computer and a sound card. It features 4 stereo audio tracks, 16 MIDI tracks, effect plug-ins, per-track EQ, Aux buses, Video sync, Score, GM/GS/XG and "Piano roll" editors and all the functionalities required to easily share musical projects across the internet up to its multitrack compressed file format."
The program looks fairly full-featured, and includes MIDI sequencing. Some users report some lag (I assume with MIDI), but overall seem happy with the product.
Windows may complain about a missing wmdvi.dll file. The missing file can be downloaded from here.
7. Quartz Studio Free
Another program from Digital Sound Planet's Quartz range, but this time for those looking for a much simpler interface.
Software description: "Quartz Studio Free is an easy to use multi-track digital audio recorder, perfect for quick creation of music tracks or audio assembly and.... Free ! Moreover, it features the basic functionalities required to use the Digital Sound Planet Virtual Studios - also Freely available registering on the Digital Sound Planet site. The program also includes, among other features, 4+2 audio tracks, real-time processing effects (Reverb et Chorus) on each track, along with volume and pan, audio track data editing functions, a spacialization interface, Skin change, etc."
Honorable mention: If you don't mind spending a little more than zero, REAPER is an excellent multi-track audio and MIDI recording app with a non-commercial license for only $50. It's not free, but it's great value.
This article only scratches the surface of free music-related apps available for Windows. I'll post a follow-up article in the future. Some cross-platform apps that work in Windows mentioned in Joel's article that I haven't repeated here include Traverso DAW and Frinika.
Feel free to mention your favorite free apps in the comments.