Is Audacity enough for my needs?

Hey there,
I am bit confused and I hope you can end my dilemma once and for all. On internet and even Justin recommends to use DAW for recording guitar etc. There are bazzilion of them, but basically all DAWs have too many functions that distract me or are way too complicated. All that I wanna do is record my acoustic guitar. Sometimes directly to Audacity, sometimes I transfer recording and then edit it. I use Zoom H1N recorder and it sounds great (it records stereo and is portable). Sometimes tho I do like to add some vocals in form of my wife singing over my pre recorded track.

Despite loving simplicity of Audacity I always get feeling I am missing something by not using full fledged DAW because so many people say Audacity is very limited. For what? Band recording? MIDI editing? Virtual instruments? Nothing that I am interested in doing now if ever. Still, so much advice of going for real DAW makes my head hurt. Am I really missing something by using Audacity? Yeah, yeah, I know… Great songs have been made by just using tape recorder, but you know what I mean.

On even worse note, unless I am adding very extreme effects (in Audacity or in any DAW) I struggle to hear any difference. Yep, I am not using 1000$ headphones, but I am not using crap either. I really really struggle to hear or even decide whether edited or unedited recording is better. When I do blind test with my wife as judge, she can’t really notice any difference. Sometimes raw, unedited guitar and singing just sounds the best. Do you have same issues of hearing differences? (N.B. I am not new to audio editing!)

P.S. What effects you use and should be used on acoustic guitar w/ voice recordings? I only use EQ, compressor (not on guitar tho) and some reverb. Is that ok, or am I missing something?

Thanks for any answers and help!


Oh, I can hear the difference when it comes to tone. There is good and bad tone from a DAW, raw live recording or anything else. It’s not about what I think, it’s about what you think. Audacity is free, your cell phone is free, Garageband is free if you have a mac. I would start with any of those.

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As a general rule, there is no difference between the sound of a track edited in Audacity, ProTools, Garage Band, Reaper, Cubase, Audacity, Bitwig or any other DAW.

Digital audio is digital audio.

Of course, it also depends on the editing operations you do and things like plugins used (and some DAWs effectively have plugins built in, like Mixbus which has built in plugins to emulate an analogue console).

But, in general, if you use the same effects and do the same editing operations, they will sound the same regardless of DAW.

The major difference between Audacity and a full DAW is really about tools and workflow. Audacity started as a simple audio sample editor and the workflow is designed around that.

If you are only ever going to record and do simple editing on a single track in any project, Audacity is probably fine.

As soon as you move beyond this, then you are probably better learning a better tool.

For instance, if you want to do multitracking or to be able to build a drum track to accompany you, then Audacity will start to be a limitation.

Having used Ardour and Mixbus for a number of years, I find the workflow in Audacity quite clunky.




Andrija, my 2cs worth …

The first few recordings I made were made with Audacity. I recorded the guitar on one track and then over-dubbed my ‘singing’ on a second track. It worked fine.

It sounds like it should be fine for your use case. If it delivers to your needs I’d not spend time thinking about other DAWs. If and when you want to do something and you can’t do it in Audacity then you can consider what will be required to meet the new need.

For example, if you want to play guitar over an original bass part that you will compose in MIDI and play using a Digital Instrument then Audacity will no longer suffice. You may not imagine yourself ever doing that, which was my case when I made my first recordings, but 5 years later that is something I do.

As for hearing application of effects. I think adding reverb and maybe delay to your guitar and vocal tracks would be a reasonable thing to do. If you dial up the settings to extreme levels I expect you will hear the effect and then you can dial it back to the point where it is not so obvious but still improves the sound to your ears.


I used Audacity for voice over work I was doing. It worked fine for that. When I started playing guitar and wanted to record my practice, Audacity worked fine for that. But, when I tried to add drum tracks or bass lines behind my playing using plugins, I discovered Audacity doesn’t support instrument plugins.

That led me to trying Ardour (free, open source). It’s powerful but I didn’t find it intuitive to use. The past week I’ve been teaching myself how to use Reaper ($60 one time fee, free 60 day evaluation) and I find it powerful and intuitive. So for now I’m going forward with Reaper as my DAW.

Reaper and Ardour both have good communities out there. Hope that helps!


And for Reaper there are the Kenny Goia videos on the Reaper site, which are incredibly useful: REAPER | Videos

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Thanks for the tip on Ardour!

Hi Andrija! Nice to meet you. I have the same struggle when I just started to record myself. And I opt for Audacity for its simplicity. It does the job.

But to actually make a polished song, I realize I need DAW with a better user interface. It motivates me to complete the song. Hence I am using Cubase, with third party plugins.

Some people love raw unedited guitar/singing. If this is what you want, Audacity is all you need =)