The Book of Audacity

While I was still basking in the warm, colorful glow of my Polyvinyl package, I received a copy of The Book of Audacity, written by Carla Schroeder and published by No Starch Press. This 359-page guide promises to help “build that home recording studio that you’ve been talking about for years.”

Inside, there are 15 chapters, including “Audacity from Start to Finish,” “Building a Good Digital Sound Studio on the Cheap,” “Transferring Vinyl LPs to CD,” “Authoring Super High-Fidelity Audio DVDs,” and “Configuring Windows for Best Audio Quality,” in addition to appendices on audio hardware, a glossary, and digital audio myths. Throughout, the layout is clean, bright, and welcoming, with lots of graphs and images, and equally welcoming text. In the opening chapter, Schroder encourages:

Let’s fire up Audacity and make a recording. We’ll begin with a quick-start tutorial and make a simple recording to demonstrate basic usage. Then we’ll cover the fundamental Audacity functions from start to finish….We’ll deal with fancy audio hardware later; for now, all you need is any Linux or Windows computer with an ordinary sound card and either a microphone with a 1/8” mini-plug or a USB microphone or headset.

My review of the Music Hall USB-1 turntable, which utilizes Audacity’s vinyl-ripping software, will appear in our May issue. Though I found Audacity friendly and intuitive, I didn’t get into any of its more advanced features, but simply converted a few vinyl tracks to WAV files for quick comparisons. My hope is that Carla Schroeder’s The Book of Audacity will simplify Audacity's more daunting features and lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation of home recording.

deckeda's picture

... as a free download. This is the “Transferring Vinyl LPs to CD” chapter.

The writing is very much aimed at folks who know nothing about audio of any kind, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, as Audacity remains the free go-to software for anyone casually digitizing.

On the other hand, I'd strongly caution Stereophile readers to take her recommendations, conclusions and assertions with a grain of salt. Her audience here isn't audiophiles, but the "good enough" crowd. To her, we're the stereotypical "golden ears" if something sounds better to us.

For example, in Ch. 3 she can't resist the temptation to dive into an unnecessary vinyl vs. CD discussion. And although she gamely concludes whatever you prefer is better, it's her earlier-stated opinion that holds sway: to her ears, LPs only add noise.

The reason all of this matters isn't because someone will necessarily erroneously mirror her equipment choices, it's that she's telling you such things as what choices to make regarding bit depth and sampling rates that wind up being a shorthand for concluding (for example) hires vinyl rips are never worth it.