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Beginner Tutorials for Audacity – Part 1: Installation and Plugins

Audacity is one of the top free DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) available on the market and is one of the few to remain completely open-source.  While some DAWs like FL Studio have a free version, you generally need to pay the full fee in order to get all of the software features. This isn’t the case with Audacity.

Installing Audacity

Audacity is available for a free download here, and maintains updated versions for Windows, MacOS, as well as Linux.  

After running your installer take note of the location of your installation folder as you’ll need this to manually install some plugins and filters.  Generally the default address is C:\Program Files\(x86)\Audacity\Plug-Ins.

When download new plugins you’ll need to drop them into that folder in order to access them via the software’s main dashboard.

Finding and Installing Effects and Filters

As Audacity is open source, there’s a huge amount of open source plugins, effects, and filters you can take advantage of that might normally be a paid add-on for standard DAWS.

Once installed to your file location, you can reach the list of installed plugins and activate or deactivate them by navigating to the Plugin Manager within Audacity.

You can reach this three ways:

Generate > Add / Remove Plugins

Effect > Add / Remove Plugins

Analyze > Add / Remove Plugins

Once selected you’ll be presented with this screen:

From here you can view the installed plugins and activate new ones you may have just added.

Nyquist Based Plugins

Nyquist is a programming language focusing on sound synthesis and analysis and provides the backbone for a number of Audacity’s plugin libraries.

Audacity’s team maintain a full curated list of plugins available in this language and you need to download these, and drop those into the C:\Program Files\(x86)\Audacity\Plug-Ins folder in order to activate them.

What are LADSPA Based Plugins

LADSPA is a common plugin language used across multiple DAWs that stands for “Linux Audio Developers Simple Plug-in API”.  You’ll need to install this directly into the plugin folder within your existing Audacity install in order to access the library of LADSPA plugins.  

Once installed you follow the same instructions as Nyquist based plugins in order to install these effects and features.

LADSPA (despite having “Linux” in the name) can be used across all operating systems – the Linux in the name just refers to the language the plugin was originally built in.  This plugin opens up a number of effects and filters that are to be used alongside the main LADSPA plugin. maintains a curated list of effects, filters, as well as a number of scripts for plugin developers to use.

The LADSPA homepage also maintains a running list of various LADSPA based plugins.

Moving Forward With Audacity

As one of the larger free open-source DAWs, we’re going to continue to publish tutorials and tips for producers using this type of software.

While it’s commonly known there is a bit of a learning curve to open-source software (compared to more common tools like FL Studio and ProTools) Audacity still remains as a powerful piece of software that has the almost unlimited ability to be customized to fit the needs of your studio.


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