Get Higher Audio Quality when Using Audacity

Audacity is a powerful open source multipurpose audio editing program. Though it may seem complicated, some rather simple steps can ensure that your audio sounds great with high fidelity.


Before Importing Sound to Audacity

  1. Start with high quality recordings. The better the recording, the better your final product can be. Some things you can do to improve your recording include:
    • Choosing appropriate recording devices. Different types of microphones work better for different sounds. Find out what microphone(s) work best for your instrument(s)/environment. Make sure to use high quality cables and connectors.
    • Recording in a space with good acoustics. Some space shapes and sizes work better for different recordings. You might want to stay away from spaces that echo or are so confined that sound is distorted (then again, that may be the sound you are looking for).
    • Eliminating as much background noise as possible. Machines creating noise in the background can add a hiss to your recording that may be impossible to get rid of.
    • Recording multiple takes. It may be a sound decision to record your audio multiple times in order to get the highest quality possible.
  2. Save all recordings to the highest quality possible. If you record with another program or device before using Audacity, make sure you export/extract that audio with the highest fidelity possible. Conversion from one format to another can also cause loss in quality.
  3. Update your sound card and drivers. If you can afford and have the ability to upgrade your sound card, do so. At the very least, download the latest drivers for your current sound card.
  4. Make sure you have sufficiently high quality speakers or headphones. If your speakers or headphones do not represent your audio with fidelity, they may deceive you. Others may hear flaws easier if they have higher quality speakers or headphones.

Audacity Preferences

  1. Download the latest stable version of Audacity along with the newest beta release. The newest version may have the ability to work in a higher quality than the latest stable release, but it may also have unforeseen bugs.
  2. Open the Audacity Preferences box. Do so by clicking Edit at the top of the window, or by pressing Ctrl + P. From here, you can make a number of changes that will increase the quality.
  3. Check Audio I/O preferences (Devices in new version). Make sure that Audacity has your correct audio device information, and that Channels: is set to 2 (Stereo), or higher if applicable.
  4. Increase Quality settings.
    • Raise the Default Sample Rate: to at least 44100 Hz (CD quality). converting between different sample rates can cause distortion from calculation errors, so keep conversions limited to doubling or halving. use 44100Hz or 88200Hz for general audio, but if the sound intends to be used with video, use 48000Hz or 92000Hz
    • Set the Default Sample Format: to 32-bit float. This gives you extra 'headroom' for your sounds.
    • Optionally make both Sample Rate Converter settings High-quality Sync Interpolation.
  5. Customize the Interface settings. Decreasing the Minimum of dB mode display range setting can give you a better idea of the audio you are editing and can help you avoid clipping.

While Editing

  1. Watch for clipping. If your audio goes outside the decibel range Audacity allows for, then it will clip, resulting in unpleasant quality. Always remember that clipping can happen with your overall audio, not just individual samples.
  2. Balance bass and treble levels. If bass sounds are too heavy, they can overpower the rest of the audio or may sound bad on many subwoofers. If treble sounds are too heavy, they can drown out any bass.
  3. Experiment with different levels of effects. Use the preview function when adding effects to your samples. Different levels of the same effect can be the difference between high quality audio and low quality noise.

When Exporting

  1. Save. Make sure to save your project before exporting. You would not want to lose all of your hard work because something happened to your computer.
  2. Export to the highest quality possible. Exporting your project as a 32-bit float WAV file will give you a large, high quality file that is likely to play easily in almost any common software media player. You can always use this file to make lower quality mp3s, or any other format. Remember, you may not be able to rely on having the original project file when you need a lower quality file (for example, for publishing online).
  3. For obsessive quality purists only. The native file format Audacity uses to record your audio to your hard disk is .AU (Sun/NeXT), it stores your audio in separate approximately 1 Megabyte chunks for less time-consuming partial track editing. However, the .AU format Audacity uses for these 1 Megabyte files appears to be altered in some way as to be only playable by Audacity. If you have not saved a project file, those files still exist on your hard disk, but they are stored in your Audacity temporary files folder. What this may mean for obsessive quality purists is that since the original recording is stored in AU format, the purest, most unaltered way of Exporting your original recording to a single file may be the .AU (Sun/NeXT) format. 32-bit float of course is the highest bit depth available at this time. And just for your information, with a good, well tuned sound system, a very well trained and sensitive ear can easily hear the difference between a complex, low distortion, high quality recording saved in 24 bit and 32 bit float, at 48,000Hz. The disadvantage of using the .AU (Sun/NeXT) format is that if you use Windows, Windows Media Player does not support playback of that format. There are however a number of free media players available which do play the .AU format.


  • Save often.
  • Backup your project files often. For safety, you may wish to back up your files on a separate drive from your main hard drive.
  • Practice every step of the way. Practice makes perfect.
  • Do not be put down if your first attempts at recording/editing are not as high of a quality as you desire. You will get there with persistence.


  • Images in this article have been edited for space. They will appear differently in Audacity.
  • Overly loud sounds may cause harm or injury to your ears.

Things You'll Need

  • Audacity
  • computer
  • sound to edit
  • Optional: LAME encoder

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Sources and Citations

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