Individual Sample Position?

Hey there.

I’d like to know how to figure out the exact position of an individual sample with Audacity. As in -1.0 through 1.0. I can zoom in really far to see the individual samples and use my eye to estimate, but is there a better way of doing this? Any help is really appreciated…

Peace and love,

Let’s see how well the peace and love works out when I tell you that you’re doing it all wrong.

Sound isn’t measured in percent. That was the Audacity developer’s wacky idea of how to make the program more user friendly. So convert the timeline to dB. Black down arrow on the left > Waveform (dB).

Now grab the bottom of the waveforms and pull down to make the display as big as possible.

Now when you magnify something down to the sample level, you will be able to derive significant values, but you won’t be able to do a really good job, because Audacity will not tell you surgically correct dB values like some of the more expensive programs will. It also won’t tell you down values, only up. You can get around this last one by reversing the phase with the effects tools. That flips the waveform top to bottom, but is a seriously painful way to go.

For example, a sample on the left channel at 0.3562 seconds into the performance might be about -12 dB. Audio engineers may want a few more numbers like the bit depth or sample rate, but basically they know exactly what you’re talking about with just that one sentence. Those are real numbers in the audio world.

You can use percentages if you wish, but they can get really awkward in a hurry. Sound waves go down half-way every 6dB. Performances sound about half as loud to your ears at -18 dB. Ears are seriously weird. That’s 12% and you’re only half way. Can you even see 12% on that non-dB waveform? See what the problem is? Your ear doesn’t work in percent.

Significant sound values are typically measured–accurately–down to -60. Note (in the picture) that’s the bottom end of the sound meters. That’s (put down the four carry the one, plus three…) that works out to 0.01%.

If you’re a science techie trying to make Audacity do serious research, you wouldn’t be the first one, but you need to know the restrictions that the program has. They can be pretty serious if the program falls apart just as you need an accurate number for your work


I agree with Koz. I don’t think it’s possible to get Audacity to tell you the value of an arbitrary sample. Unfortunately, you’ll have to use a different piece of software (though I can’t say what software might do this), or export the sample to wav and use a Hex editor to look at the data directly.


And then you can stop every so often to push hot pins into your flesh because that will be less painful than what you’re doing with the Hex editor.

I’m thousands of miles away from my machines right this second, but I believe my license for Cool Edit and/or Adobe Audition will tell me sample levels if I asked them nicely.