Reducing the Size of Temporary Project Files

The program creates temporary uncompressed project files on the hard drive when an audio file is imported into a an opened project. Since the uncompressed project files take much time to create and much space on the hard drive, is it possible to reduce their quality (e.g. to make them correspond in quality to 320kb .mp3 files)?

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Audacity requires audio data to be uncompressed PCM data.

The data in a project can be compressed when saving a project (see: Save Compressed Copy of Project), but the data has to decoded back to PCM to allow further work on the project.

Note that lossy compression (such as MP3) irreversibly reduces the sound quality. At high bit rates the losses are small, but irreversible and cumulative.

Yes, I can see that Audacity is different from some audio-editing programs which use another method of working with data in a project. In exactly what ways is the “real-time editing” in other programs (like FL Studio) different from the method used in Audacity?

When you apply an edit or an effect in Audacity, the audio data is modified accordingly immediately. For example, if you amplify a track, you can see the waveform increase in height as the audio samples are scaled by the amplification factor.

In a “Real-Time DAW”, applying an effect makes no immediate changes to the audio data, it just adds the effect to a processing chain. When you play the track, the effect is applied to the playback stream, but the underlying audio data is not modified. Only when you mix down or export is the actual audio data modified.

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Thank you for the explanation. Real-time editing saves a lot of time and hard-drive space. Is there a plugin for Audacity which makes this type of editing possible?

Is there a plugin for Audacity which makes this type of editing possible?

You want a plugin that changes the basic way that Audacity works. Not that I know of.

This posting is ringing alarm bells. Trying to edit on an underpowered machine with scarce resources and running out of drive space is asking for trouble.

Just straight editing isn’t the only problem. You will start to develop problems like an inability to record sound without gaps, stuttering, and other damage. Playback may fail or be forced to wait while resources are shuffled, but by far the worst problem is saving a Project. Audacity has to manage a great number of tiny sound files to save a Project. If anything happens to prevent it from doing that, the Project files may fail, crash Audacity, and take the show with it—forever.


I regularly import big files which total many hours in duration. This takes much time and space on the disk. Even on a fast computer, the process will be long. What real-time editing software would you recommend for editing big files instantly?