The Linux Soundfile Editor Roundup

Whether you're making nifty sounds for desktop events or recording a whole album, you'll need one of these featureful sound apps.

A soundfile editor is the audio worker's essential utility for performing various editing operations to massage and finesse recorded sound. Some of these operations are analogous to those of a text editor, such as cut/copy/paste actions, while others are unique to editing audio data.

This article takes you on a whirlwind tour of soundfile editors for Linux. You don't need to know anything special about digital audio or DSP theory, and if you'd like to try any of these programs, all you need on your machine is a working sound system. But, before taking the tour, let's consider what a typical soundfile editor does and how it's typically used.

Common Features

Editing audio is best accomplished with a graphical interface. By representing audio data visually, it is simple to locate those parts of the sound that require attention, such as gaps and amplitude spikes. This ability to find quickly where an operation is needed speeds up the editing process. Regions can be marked or selected accurately, and zoom routines let users enlarge or diminish their view of a file at any given point, making it possible to perform large-scale and sample-accurate edits easily and quickly.

A well-designed soundfile editor should include at least these basic operations and capabilities:

  • Cut/copy/paste.

  • Splice/insert/replace.

  • Move samples.

  • Mix tracks.

  • Synchronize files/tracks.

  • Compress/expand time scale.

  • Pitch shifting.

  • Equalization/filtering.

  • Sample rate conversion.

  • Display in different time formats.

  • Display multiple views of file.

  • Display multiple files simultaneously.

  • Independent X/Y axis control.

  • Find maximum sample value.

  • Display amplitude envelope in various representations (db, peak, RMS).

  • Edit pitch and amplitude envelopes.

  • Varispeed playback.

  • Print out display of samples.

  • Spectrum analysis.

As we shall see, the editors profiled in this article meet most of these baseline criteria, often adding unique functions and routines.

Table 1 presents a further set of features, most but not all Linux-specific, and outlines how the editors presented here accommodate them.

Table 1. Soundfile Editor Features

EditorALSAJACKLADSPAGUISize limitLicense
SndyyyMotif, GTK [1]diskGPL
MiXViewsn [2]nnInterViewsmemory[3]
DAPn [2]nnXFormsmemoryGPL
LAoEn [2]nnJavadiskGPL
KWaven [2]nnQtmemoryGPL

[1] Can be compiled without graphics. [2] Works with ALSA's OSS/Free emulation. [3] Free for noncommercial use, freely distributable. [4] Free for unrestricted use, freely distributable.

Common Uses

Now, let's consider some possible uses for a soundfile editor. The following list is by no means a complete summary, it merely indicates how I typically employ an editor in my own work:

  • Trimming excess silence from recordings.

  • Cutting large files into smaller pieces.

  • Normalizing.

  • Adding effects such as reverb, chorus and flanging.

  • Slowing playback speed without changing pitch.

  • Removing cracks and pops from recordings.

  • Converting sample rate.

  • Converting file format.

  • Equalizing or filtering the sound to make it brighter or give it more bass.

  • Using the editor as a music and sound composition tool.


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wave editor for Acer Aspire One on Linux OS

Driggs's picture

I have an Acer Aspire One running on Linux. How can install a wave editor in it?

Thank you.

Re: The Linux Soundfile Editor Roundup

kevinc's picture

Would you be willing to make your Snd customization file(s),
or part of that at least? It's very intriguing, and would
make my introduction to Snd much more pleasant. Thanks...

Re: The Linux Soundfile Editor Roundup

kevinc's picture

Would you be willing to make your Snd customization file(s)
available, or part of that at least? It's
very intriguing, and would make my introduction to Snd much
more pleasant. Thanks...

(next time maybe I'll proofread a bit better, sigh)

Re: The Linux Soundfile Editor Roundup

Anonymous's picture

Realy nice article, but I hoped you will Ardour, which I use for multitrack recording.

Re: The Linux Soundfile Editor Roundup

Anonymous's picture

Cool article, which even presented some editors not so widly known. I had never heard of LAoE, for example. Ah, well, Java.

One correction: KWave does load files that are bigger than RAM, but does so very slowly and you need to play with the memory settings inside its menus.

OTOH my Sweep does not load files larger than memory, but I'm using 0.8.1 still. Great to hear, that Sweep now lifts its limits.

Frank Barknecht

Re: Nice Article

Anonymous's picture

Very nice article, this kind of topic should be appearing more on linux journal. Linux audio scene is a little behind the win but it is very good !!
Congrats for the article and nice presentation of each program.
I really liked the screenshots !!


MIDI Sequence

Anonymous's picture


Are there any linux midi sequencer packages for linux that support Motu Midi USB interfaces... like fastlane... midi express.. etc..