Thursday, August 6, 2015

Audacity - Clunky, But Extremely Helpful!

I’ve been using Pro Tools for over a decade and a half. I make a good part of my living with Pro Tools on any number of Macs. And yes, I admit it. I have not been very kind to Audacity. I tried it and found it clunky. Yesterday, however, changed my opinion of Audacity.
Download Audacity Here -
I received an email from a Google account executive in California. It wasn’t a pitch. He had found me by googling some words about restoring or saving audio. I guess that means that my present SEO strategy is working.

He had recorded audio during several meetings on his cell phone; a great way to keep track of what was said. Unfortunately, as his email explained, on these three meetings something happened and the .wav files could not be opened or even played. He said he would pay me to open them. I told him that I would try, but with no promise of success. 

Import Raw Data
I opened a folder in DropBox and sent him the link. He does not have a DropBox Account. I tried the “collaborate” link first but he said this made DropBox ask him to join. I then sent him the simple “share” feature. That worked. He forwarded the files. I tried opening them with all of my apps; Pro Tools, QT, VLC, Soundtrack Pro and Audition. Even Sound Devices Wave Agent was powerless. Then I remembered that Audacity had an “Import Raw Data” feature. 

I didn’t have Audacity on my computer. I downloaded the latest version (2.1.1) from the web site, Using the Import Raw Audio feature, I was easily able to bring up the first file in stereo to the time line. One track was solid noise. The other looked like it might have been someone talking. 

Choosing A Different Sample Rate
I used the Audacity menu option to split the stereo track into two mono tracks. Then I clicked on the “M” mute button on the track that looked like noise. 

When I hit play, I head voice, but at the wrong speed. I used the sample rate menu to change the playback to a different sample rate. A short trial and error period later, I found the correct sample rate and the voice track was ready to export. 

I swept my cursor over the track and used Export Selected Audio. A window popped up with half a dozen or so fields to plug values into. I ignored them, but chose the same folder as the original files for a destination. I then added “fixed” to the file name and hit return. Within seconds the file popped up in the folder. When I clicked on the fixed file, the iTunes opened the file and the audio was there. Great!

The second file was even easier. It came up as a stereo file with both tracks playable, but at the wrong speed. I adjusted the sample rate and quickly found success. I appended the name of the file, exported the selected audio and checked the file in iTunes. Another success.

When I used the Import Raw Data on the third file, it came up as a mono file but, again, the wrong speed. A quick sample rate adjustment and it sounded fine. Append name, Export, Check iTunes, Done!

I then moved the three fixed files back to the Dropbox folder and called my new client. He was very grateful. I sent him a request for payment from my PayPal account and even though he did not have a PayPal account he was able to respond and two hours later I received an email notice from PayPal that I had been paid.

I also forwarded a link to my review of the Sony M10 pocket recorder; a very easy to use, compact recorder that will work even better than his smart phone.

So. Thank you Audacity for having a feature that allowed me to go audio fishing in your pond and make an additional billable hour and thank you Google for finding me in a vast universe of people who do things with audio. 

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