Effect Menu

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Audacity includes many built-in effects and also lets you use a wide range of plug-in effects. You can download many free plug-ins for Audacity from http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/plugins and the links thereon.

To apply an effect, select part or all of the tracks you want to modify, and select the effect from the menu. Titles which end in an ellipsis (...) will bring up a dialog asking you for more parameters.

Although by default, the only effects shortcut is CTRL + R to repeat the last used effect, it is possible to set up your own shortcut for any effect in the menu. For instructions on how to do this please see Keyboard Preferences.
Warning icon When playing, recording or paused, the Effect menu will appear grayed out, because changes to the audio data cannot be made until you press the yellow Stop The Stop button button .

Classes of Effect

There are six classes of effect - the built-in Effects, and five classes of plug-in effects which allow you to download and install additional effects. All classes of effect are applied in the same way. The effects classes are:

Where a Built-in or shipped Nyquist effect has settings, its description page (accessed by the links below) shows an image of the interface and its default settings.

List of Built-in Effects

Audacity's built-in effects (those that appear in the program irrespective of the contents of your Audacity and other Plug-ins folders) are above the divider in the Effect menu.

Most of the built-in effects have a Preview button. This allows you by default to listen to how the first six seconds of the selected audio would sound if you pressed OK to apply the effect. The preview length can be changed on the Playback tab of Preferences.

All selected tracks are previewed irrespective of whether the tracks are muted or soloed. If Preview does not sound quite as you want, adjust the controls of the effect and Preview again.


Increases or decreases the volume of the audio you have selected. When you open the dialog, Audacity automatically calculates the maximum amount you could amplify the selected audio without causing clipping (distortion caused by trying to make the audio too loud).

Auto Duck...

Reduces (ducks) the volume of one or more tracks whenever the volume of a specified "control" track reaches a particular level. Typically used to make a music track softer whenever speech in a commentary track is heard.

Bass and Treble...

Increases or decreases the lower frequencies and higher frequencies of your audio independently. It behaves just like the bass and treble controls on a domestic stereo system.

Change Pitch...

Change the pitch of a track without changing its tempo.

Change Speed...

Change the speed of a track, also changing its pitch.

Change Tempo...

Change the tempo of a selection without changing its pitch.

Click Removal...

Click Removal is designed to remove clicks on audio tracks and is especially suited to declicking recordings made from vinyl records. It will usually work best on very short clicks. For broader individual pops in selections up to 128 samples wide (about three milliseconds at 44100 Hz project rate), you could try the Repair effect.


Compresses the dynamic range by two alternative methods. The default "RMS" method makes the louder parts softer, but leaves the quieter audio alone. The alternative "peaks" method makes the entire audio louder, but amplifies the louder parts less than the quieter parts. Make-up gain can be applied to either method, making the result as loud as possible without clipping, but not changing the dynamic range further.


Repeats the selected audio again and again, normally softer each time. The delay time between each repeat is fixed, with no pause in between each repeat. For a more configurable echo effect with a variable delay time and pitch-changed echoes, see Delay...


Adjusts the volume levels of particular frequencies.

Fade In

Applies a fade-in to the selected audio, so that the amplitude changes gradually from silence at the start of the selection to the original amplitude at the end of the selection. The shape of the fade is linear. The rapidity of the fade-in depends entirely on the length of the selection it is applied to.

Fade Out

Applies a fade-out to the selected audio, so that the amplitude changes gradually from the original amplitude at the start of the selection down to silence at the end of the selection. The shape of the fade is linear. The rapidity of the fade-out depends entirely on the length of the selection it is applied to.


Flips the audio samples upside-down. This normally does not affect the sound of the audio at all. It is occasionally useful for vocal removal.


Leveler is a simple, combined compressor and limiter effect for reducing the dynamic range of audio. It reduces the difference between loud and soft, making the audio easier to hear in noisy environments or on small loudspeakers. It is best suited to speech recordings but at heavier settings or used multiple times it can also be used as a simple distortion effect for voices or instruments.

Noise Removal...

Removes constant background noise such as fans, tape noise, or hums. It will not work very well for removing talking or music in the background. More details here.


Use the Normalize effect to set the maximum amplitude of a track, equalize the amplitudes of the left and right channels of a stereo track and optionally remove any DC Offset from the track.

Nyquist Prompt...

Launches a dialog where you can enter Nyquist commands. Nyquist is a programming language for producing and processing audio. For more information see Nyquist Plug-ins Reference.


Use Paulstretch only for an extreme time-stretch or "stasis" effect. This may be useful for synthesizer pad sounds, identifying performance glitches or just creating interesting aural textures. Use Change Tempo or Sliding Time Scale rather than Paulstretch for tasks like slowing down a song to a "practice" tempo.


The name "Phaser" comes from "Phase Shifter", because it works by combining phase-shifted signals with the original signal. The movement of the phase-shifted signals is controlled using a Low Frequency Oscillator (LFO).


Fix one particular short click, pop or other glitch no more than 128 samples long.


Repeats the selection the specified number of times.


Adds ambience or a "hall effect".


Reverses the selected audio, so that it will sound as if it is playing from the end to the start.

Sliding Time Scale / Pitch Shift...

Allows you to make a continuous change to the tempo and/or pitch of a selection by choosing initial and/or final change values.

Time Tracks can be used to bend tempo more flexibly (also affecting pitch) using Envelope Tool.

Truncate Silence...

Automatically try to find and eliminate audible silences. Don't use with faded audio.


Rapid tone quality variations, like that guitar sound so popular in the 1970's.

Wahwah uses a moving bandpass filter to create its sound. A low frequency oscillator (LFO) is used to control the movement of the filter throughout the frequency spectrum.

The phase of the left and right channels is automatically adjusted when given a stereo track, so that the effect seems to travel across the speakers.

The following four classes of effect always appear underneath the divider in the Effect menu. Released builds of Audacity include sample Nyquist and/or LADSPA effects.

Nyquist Effects

Nyquist plug-ins provide most of the optional effects underneath the divider in the Effect menu. They are also used to provide some of Audacity's built-in audio generators and analysis tools. A wide range of additional Nyquist effect, generation and analysis plug-ins can be obtained from Download Nyquist Plug-ins on our Wiki.

To add a Nyquist plug-in, put it in the Audacity "Plug-ins" folder.
  • On Windows and OS X the "Plug-ins" folder is in the directory where Audacity resides - usually C:\Program Files on Windows or the "Applications" folder on OS X.
  • On Linux, the "plug-ins" folder is in usr/share/audacity if you installed an Audacity package supplied by your distribution, or usr/local/share/audacity if you compiled Audacity from source code. Optionally a plug-in folder can be created in the home directory ~/.audacity-files/plug-ins.
The next time you launch Audacity, plug-ins you added will appear in the Effect, Generate or Analyze menus as appropriate.

Nyquist Workbench

For advanced users who can compile Audacity, Nyquist Workbench gives the ability to run arbitrary Nyquist code in Audacity from a graphical IDE (Integrated Development Environment). See Nyquist Workbench in the Wiki for details.

Nyquist plug-ins included in Audacity

The following sample Nyquist plug-ins are included in released builds of Audacity:

Adjustable Fade...

Launches a dialog box where you can choose the shape of the fade in or fade out to be applied. You can also create fades to and from other than silence or full volume. An example of this might be a fade in from 20% of the original volume to 80% of the original volume.

Clip Fix...

Attempts to reconstruct clipped regions by interpolating the lost signal.

Cross Fade In

Applies a curve that will result in equal volume throughout the fade once the faded in and faded out regions are mixed.

Cross Fade Out

Applies a curve that will result in equal volume throughout the fade once the faded in and faded out regions are mixed.


A configurable delay effect with variable delay time and pitch shifting of the delays.

High Pass Filter...

Passes frequencies above its cutoff frequency and attenuates frequencies below its cutoff frequency; this can be used to reduce low frequency noise.

Low Pass Filter...

Passes frequencies below its cutoff frequency and attenuates frequencies above its cutoff frequency; this can be used to reduce high pitched noise.

Notch Filter...

Greatly attenuate ("notch out") a narrow frequency band. This is a good way to remove mains hum or a whistle confined to a specific frequency with minimal damage to the remainder of the audio.

Studio Fade Out

Produces a smooth and musical sounding fade out, by applying a sinusoidal fade with a progressive low pass filter from full spectrum at the start of the selection to 100 Hz at the end.


Modulates the volume of the selection at the depth and rate selected in the dialog. The same as the tremolo effect familiar to guitar and keyboard players.

Vocal Remover (for center-panned vocals)...

Attempts to remove center-panned audio from a stereo track; vocals are often (but not always) recorded in this way. Vocals (or other audio) can only be removed with this plug-in when panned to center, in other words sounding equally loud in both left and right channels. Help text is available from within the effect's dialog box.


Vocoder synthesizes a modulator (usually a voice) in the left channel of a stereo track with a carrier wave in the right channel to produce a modified version of the left channel. Vocoding a normal voice with white noise as provided in the effect will produce a robot-like voice for special effects. Other carriers can be used for subtly different voices. Vocoder can only be applied to unsplit stereo tracks.

LADSPA Effects

LADSPA (Linux Audio Developer's Simple Plugin API) plug-ins were originally developed for the Linux platform, but ports of some plug-ins are available for Windows and OS X as well. Most LADSPA plug-ins are effects, but they are also used to provide some of Audacity's built-in audio generators and can be used for audio analysis. Additional LADSPA plug-ins can be downloaded for Windows, Mac and Linux.

  • To add a LADSPA plug-in, put it in the Audacity "Plug-ins" folder.
    • On Windows and OS X the "Plug-ins" folder is in the directory where Audacity resides - usually C:\Program Files on Windows or the "Applications" folder on OS X.
    • On Linux, the "plug-ins" folder is in usr/share/audacity if you installed an Audacity package supplied by your distribution, or usr/local/share/audacity if you compiled Audacity from source code. Optionally a plug-in folder can be created in the home directory ~/.audacity-files/plug-ins.
  • The next time you launch Audacity, plug-ins you added will appear in the Effect, Generate or Analyze menus as appropriate.

Three sample LADSPA effects are included with Windows and Mac builds of Audacity:

Hard Limiter...

An extreme compressor effect. It can sometimes be used to remove stubborn clicks.


A stereo compressor with a variable envelope follower for RMS / peak behaviour.

Audacity will also load LADSPA plug-ins from the following system locations:
  • All operating systems: The path specified by the LADSPA_PATH environment variable
  • additionally on OS X:
    • ~/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/LADSPA
    • /Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/LADSPA
  • additionally on Linux/Unix:
    • ~/.ladspa
    • /usr/local/lib/ladspa
    • /usr/lib/ladspa
    • $LIBDIR/ladspa

Warning icon Effects in the following LV2, VST and Audio Units (Mac only) classes are always third-party plug-ins added by the user (and also by the operating system in case of Audio Units)

LV2 Effects

LV2 is a more advanced evolution of the LADSPA plug-in architecture. Note that LV2 effects in Audacity cannot yet display a full graphical interface. Each time you launch Audacity it scans for and loads all detected LV2 effects. To add a new LV2 effect, place its complete ".lv2" folder (not the files alone) at the top level of any of the following searched for locations, then restart Audacity.

  • Windows
    • Users\<user name>\AppData\Roaming\LV2 (or Documents and Settings\<user name>\Application Data\LV2 on Windows 2000/XP)
    • Program Files\Common Files\LV2 (or Program Files (x86)\Common Files\LV2 on 64-bit systems)
  • Mac:
    • ~/.lv2
    • ~/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/LV2
    • /Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/LV2
    • /usr/local/lib/lv2
    • /usr/lib/lv2
  • Linux:
    • ~/.lv2
    • /usr/local/lib/lv2 or /usr/local/lib64/lv2
    • /usr/lib/lv2 or /usr/lib64/lv2
Search paths where Audacity looks for LV2 plug-ins may also be specified by setting the LV2_PATH environment variable. The paths listed below are legitimate.
  • Windows:
  • Mac OS X:
    • $HOME/.lv2:$HOME/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/LV2:/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/LV2:/usr/local/lib/lv2:/usr/lib/lv2
  • Linux:
    • $HOME/.lv2:/usr/local/lib/lv2:/usr/lib/lv2 (assuming $PREFIX is /usr/local as it should be by default)

VST Effects (Windows / Mac Only)

Install VST Effects dialog

When you use Audacity for the first time it will scan for VST effects in the Audacity "Plug-Ins" or "Plugins" folder and in other specific locations. The following "Install VST Effects" dialog will appear where you can choose which VST effects to load into the Audacity Effect Menu.

If you don't see the dialog as expected, you can use ALT + TAB to task switch to the dialog or press the "Audacity is starting up..." Windows Taskbar button. On Mac, use OPTION + TAB to task switch.

The names of the detected plug-ins will be listed alphabetically for each folder in the Path column. All list items have their checkboxes checked by default, the green checkmark indicating that the plug-in will be loaded. To load all the detected plug-ins, just click OK then Audacity itself will launch. If you deselect some items by mistake, you can quickly re-enable the entire list by choosing the Select All button. The Clear All button lets you disable the entire list. This provides a quick method of then enabling only a few plug-ins in a long list.

To disable loading of a specific plug-in, left-click the item's row or checkbox which removes the checkmark. Similarly, click to re-enable a disabled item. Using the keyboard, press Up arrow, Down arrow, Page Up or Page Down to navigate the list then press Space to check or uncheck the current item's checkbox. Finally, click OK to load the enabled plug-ins and launch Audacity.

The black arrow in the list (as in the image above) indicates which plug-in is currently being loaded.

Providing you click OK and the enabled plug-ins load successfully, then next time you launch Audacity there will be no VST effects dialog. The plug-ins that you previously enabled in the dialog will appear in the Effect menu, ready to be used when you select them.

If you click Cancel in the dialog or if loading a faulty plug-in causes Audacity to crash, the "Install VST effects" dialog will appear again next time you launch Audacity. If Audacity crashed you can therefore use the dialog to experiment by disabling plug-ins that may have crashed. Alternatively, before restarting Audacity you can look in the plugins.cfg file in the Audacity folder for application data. This file will list which plug-ins Audacity had managed to load before it crashed.

Warning icon The "Install VST Effects" dialog will list extra files on Windows that are not VST effects.
  • The list will include VST instruments, 64-bit VST effects and VST 3 plug-ins. Audacity does not support any of these and therefore these will not load.
  • On Windows, the two shipped LADPSA plug-ins (hard_limiter_1413.dll and sc4_1882.dll) will also be listed, as will any optional LADSPA DLL plug-ins you may have installed. These LADSPA plug-ins will load whether you enable them in the dialog or not.
  • Once loaded, the installed VST effects will appear underneath the divider in the Effect Menu. Some of the VST's will be listed as VST:<name of the DLL or VST file>. Other VST's will be listed under the name of the plug-in vendor.

    Adding a new VST effect in Audacity

    To add a new VST effect, put its DLL or VST file plus any configuration files or folders it requires in the Audacity "Plug-ins" or "Plugins" folder which is in the directory where Audacity resides. You can also create a folder called "VST" in the Audacity installation directory and add VST plug-ins there.

    Alternatively, VST plug-ins can be placed in one of the following system locations:

    • Windows:
      • C:\Program Files\Steinberg\VSTPlugins (or C:\Program Files (x86)\Steinberg\VSTPlugins on 64-bit systems).
      • Windows Registry key HKCU\Software\VST\VSTPluginsPath
      • Windows Registry key HKLM\Software\VST\VSTPluginsPath
      • The path specified by the "VST_PATH" environment variable
    • Mac OS X:
      • ~/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/VST
      • /Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/VST
      • The path specified by the "VST_PATH" environment variable


    1. Go to the Effects tab of Preferences
    2. Check Rescan VST effects next time Audacity is started and click OK
    3. When you re-launch Audacity, the "Install VST Effects" dialog will appear where you can review the complete list of plug-ins to be loaded (including those you just added), uncheck any unwanted effects, then click OK to launch Audacity including your new effects.
    All the directories where you can place VST plug-ins are searched recursively, which means that plug-ins that are inside their own folder in that directory should still be found by Audacity.

    Loading and Saving VST Presets

    Presets for VST effects are saved to a file. A presets file lets you move settings for a particular effect between computers on any operating platform that supports that effect. See "Save" below for details.

    Not all VST effects support loading and saving of presets, but all VST dialogs in Audacity will show the Load and Save buttons. If a saved preset file is empty, the effect probably does not support presets and Audacity will not be able to load the saved presets. Occasionally an effect may load and save presets but not allow editing or display of a preset's name in the effect.

    When you choose a VST effect from the Effect Menu the dialog will contain a "Presets:" menu and a Load and Save button for those presets as illustrated below.

    VST PresetsLoadSave.png
    • Presets: Choose a built-in preset if available, or type a name for a new preset you wish to save.
    • Load: Click this button to load a saved preset into the effect. The preset must have been saved by this effect, otherwise an error message will result. When you start a new Audacity session, the presets must be reloaded from the location you saved them to. If you saved a built-in preset with new settings you must reload that preset too, because Audacity does not permanently store changed values of built-in presets.
    • Save: Click this button to save a preset. Audacity will offer to name the file with the name currently shown in the Presets: drop-down in the effect. Preset files can be saved in FXP or XML format.
      • FXP format: Default, and the most portable. It allows you to save presets for use by the same effect running in Audacity or most other VST host applications, on any computer or operating platform that supports that effect. Similarly FXP presets saved by a given effect in any VST host on any computer can be loaded into that effect in Audacity.
      • XML format: Less flexible, mainly useful for the small number of effects that don't support FXP presets. Most other VST host applications don't support XML, so you may only be able to share XML presets between other computers running Audacity.
      By default presets are saved to the same location as the audacity.cfg file, but you can choose to save them anywhere. Since there is no distinction between preset files saved by different effects you may want to create a folder for each effect you save presets for, or include the effect name in the file name.
    The FXB format which contains a complete set or "bank" of multiple presets is not yet supported by the Audacity Load and Save buttons. However a few effects may offer their own controls to load and save preset banks.
    Warning icon Mac users take note:
    • the FXP or XML file extension is not automatically added by Audacity - be sure to include it in the filename (for example, "myPreset.fxp")
    • make sure the file extension you add is the same as that shown in the "File Format" drop-down menu, otherwise the preset cannot be loaded.

    VST Effect Settings

    When you choose a VST effect from the Effect Menu the dialog will have a Settings... button. Click that button to bring up the dialog illustrated below.

    VST effect settings.png
    The settings in this dialog apply to all VST effects, not just the one currently displayed.
    • Buffer Size: Controls the number of samples sent to the effect in each round of processing. The default buffer size of 8192 should be safe for all VST effects. You can set a higher value which will allow faster processing but some effects may not work at higher values. Changing the buffer size is effective immediately.
    • Buffer Delay Compensation: This setting (enabled by default) compensates for waveform delay caused by VST effects which preload audio data to a buffer. Compensation may not work in all cases, and for it to work, any compensation or latency reporting settings in the effect itself must be enabled. If compensation fails or if this Audacity setting is unchecked, effects that buffer audio will insert silence at the start of the processed selection and remove a corresponding amount of audio from the end of the selection. Therefore leave this option checked unless a particular VST does not work even after reducing the buffer size, in which case you can experiment by unchecking this option. Enabling or disabling compensation is effective immediately.
    • Graphical Mode: This setting (enabled by default) allows most VST effects to display a graphical (instead of a plain text) interface. If you change this setting you must close the settings dialog, then close and reopen the effect to see the change. This option is the same as the Display VST Effects in Graphical Mode option in Effects Preferences.
    • Rescan Effects: When you add VST effects to your system you must enable this option then restart Audacity so it can see the new effects. This option is the same as Rescan VST effects next time Audacity is started in Effects Preferences. See Adding a new VST effect in Audacity, above.

    Audio Unit Effects

    Audio Units (AU) are a system-level plug-in architecture provided on Mac OS X computers. Each time you launch Audacity it will load all Audio Unit effects that it detects. To add a new Audio Unit effect, place it in either of the following system plug-in directories:

    • ~/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/Components (user plug-ins)
    • /Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/Components (system-wide plug-ins)

    then restart Audacity. Newly added plug-ins will appear underneath the divider in the Effect menu. Audacity will not detect AU plug-ins in its own "plug-ins" folder where Audacity itself resides.

    Warning icon

    Apple Audio Units are unlikely to launch in Audacity on OS X Yosemite. Non-Apple Audio Units might do so.

    Useful External Links