Workflow to take Audacity Projects to AAC in iTunes

Below is a summary of the workflow that I use to get my Audacity Projects (LP and tape transcriptions and material recorded off-air from FM radio) into iTunes as AAC files. There are many other ways to achieve the same ends, but this method has been working reliably and well for me for quite a while now.

  1. Record and edit the project in Audacity
  2. Label The tracks
  3. Export as a set of WAV files
  4. Add the WAV files into iTunes
  5. Use iTunes to edit the metadata for the album name and artist
  6. Use iTunes to make AAC copies (at your chosen bitrate) in the library from the WAV files
  7. Delete the WAV files from the library.
  8. Edit the metadata tags of the tracks/album
  9. Fetch the album artwork
  10. Optionally make a CD – and create cover & playlist
  11. And almost last, but not least - backup my updated iTunes library
  12. Delete the Audacity project file (.aup and folder) to release hard disk space

    some more detail:

For step 1. I record and edit with Audacity set at 44.1kHz and 32-bit floating stereo (this gives me good headroom for any required editing).

For step 2. To facilitate correct ordering later I Label the tracks 01 <track_name_1>, 02 <track_name_2>, etc.). All the files for a particular album or show are placed in a specific named folder for that album/show.

For step 3. I down-sample on export to 44.1Khz 16-bit PCM stereo (part of the Red Book standard for CDs).

For Step 4. Add the WAV files to the iTunes library (using File > Add File to Library or File > Add Folder to Library. Note that they get added to the library as WAV files, with a bitrate of 1411 kbps, and are not converted in this step. I usually add the folder created in Step 2. Even though in my iTunes application I have the Import Settings ( Edit > Preferences > General > Import Settings ) set to Import Using AAC and with my preferred bitrate set via Custom – no conversion takes place as this only applies to importing from CD - If I add the WAV files direct to iTunes then they get added to the library as WAV files, with a bitrate of 1411 kbps.

For Step 5. One of the columns I always have showing in my iTunes library is Bitrate. Clicking on the Bitrate column header will re-order the display by bitrate (you need to have All Genres/Artists/Albums showing).
The WAV files should show up as a set at the top of the list (or bottom) - mine show at a bitrate of 1411 kbps. Alternatively you could activate the Kind column - whereby the imported files will show as WAV and similarly clicking on the Kind column header will produce a suitable ordering for you… Select all the WAV files and use iTunes’ metadata editor to enter the album name and the artist name so that I can easily find it in step 8. I suppose you could set this metadata prior to Audacity Export using Audacity’s metadata editor - it was easier in 1.2 than it has become in 1.3, which is why I now use iTunes rather than Audacity to manage the metadata).

For Step 6. From step 4 the WAV files should still be the only selected tunes at this stage, providing that you have done no further clicking – convert them to AAC by using Advanced > Create AAC version. Note carefully this makes a “copy” not a straight conversion (hence step 6 below).

For Step 7. The WAV files should still remain as the selected tunes - just take extreme care at this stage (the AACs are created but selection is not forced by iTunes) So then I just Delete the selected files using the Delete key - and send the files to my wastebasket (Note carefully that my iTunes is set to copy files in, NOT to reference external files - so the WAVs that are deleted are copies of the original source WAVs that iTunes made in my library in step 4. This is set in Edit > Preferences > Advanced with the “Copy tunes into iTunes folder when adding to library” tickbox.)

For Step 8. In order to edit the metadata for Song Name etc - the album is easy to locate as I have already edited the Album tag in Step 5 above.

For Step 9. Grab the album artwork - either directly via iTunes if the album is recognized the CDDB - or by grabbing it from Amazon/Wikipedia/wherever - and add the artwork to the album.

For Step 10. If I burn a CD from the WAV files then I use iTunes to print CD covers with track-list and album cover.

For Step 11.. This is a critical step – as I have no desire to lose the valuable fruits of my labours. I maintain two separate 1TB disks. On each disk I place a complete set of the WAV files I have created in their album/show named folders – with the album folders sorted by genre and placed in “Genre folders”. Each disk also contains two generations of backup of my iTunes libraries - (I actually don’t do this library backup after every update - but I do try to do it at least every couple of weeks so I have a roll-back point)..

For Step 12. After the backups are made I can then safely release space on my onboard hard drive by deleting the Audacity project files and the originally exported WAV files which remain there.

Yes it’s a bit of work - but worth the effort IMHO :slight_smile:


Alternative Method

Actually there is an alternative method I sometimes use when transcribing a vinyl album. I usually make a CD of these from the set of WAV files, retaining the original ordering of course. I then load this CD into my PC - if I am lucky the Gracenote CDDB database will “recognize” the CD and supply all the necessary metadata for me (otherwise I edit the metadata tags and submit them to Gracenote). Then I can simply rip the CD into my iTunes library in the same way as I would do with a commercially produced CD.


And I extend my thanks to user BubbaMix Master who helped me refine this mini-tutorial with some helpful feedback.

Any further feedback on this worklow will be appreciated.


Bear in mind that I am only exporting WAV files from Audacity - I am not using Audacity’s recent ability to encode AACs itself on export. I prefer to use Apples own encoder in iTunes.


Do you normalize/amplify every LP? The “Your first Recording” tutorial suggests Normalize in step 5: Edit Recording which leads me to beleive that I should do so on every LP.

I don’t use Normalize - as in Audacity that acts on each stereo channel independently and can thus destroy/damage the stereo image. (could be useful though if you have a setup where the L&R signals are not equal). And on that basis I personally do not agree with the advice to Normalize given in the “Your first recording” tutorial,

I do use Amplify for most recordings - and I take it to -2.0 dB (rather than the 0 offered by default) - just to give it a bit of headroom. It is quite loud enough at that level - and some player devices have problems with digital recordings that peak at 0dB.

There has been much discussion on the forum in past year about Normalization version Amplification - a Search of the forum may help you find some of the threads.

Other folks on the forum favour Compression - often preferred for CDs made for in-car listening so that the volume remains more constant. Chris’ Compressor seems to be a much favoured tool for this. Personally I never use compression - I prefer to retain the dynamic range put on the record by the engineers.


To elaborate on Step 1 in my workflow in this thread:
1.1 test sound levels and adjust to avoid clipping and provide a little headroom
1.2 export as a WAV file
1.3 pass the WAV through ClickRepair software to remove clicks and pops (CR will accept either 32-bit or 16-bit WAVs)
1.4 import the ClickRepaired WAV back into Audacity
1.5 identify the intertrack gaps and clean them up (fade-out/fade-in/silence/and possibly shorten) - and clean up start and end
1.6 Amplify if necessary to -2.0dB
1.7 For critical recordings - review the whole recording amd manually Repair any odd glitch not detected by ClickRepair (and there are never many that CR does not find)

and then on to:
2 label the tracks etc. …



Your details of ‘Step 1’ are very similar to my current process. I do add a couple steps though:

1.3a Run the ClickRepair’d WAV through deNoiseLF (part of Brian Davies deNoise) to remove all the low frequency, <30Hz, components from turntable rumble and such.
1.3b I usually run through deNoise to remove the ‘surface’ noise. This really only affects the very quietest sections. deNoise seems to do a much better job than audacity’s Noise Removal. I run each side of the LP through deNoise separately as the noise characteristics are never quite the same from side to side. Then on to WC’s step 1.4 - import the processed WAV back into audacity for everything else.

For my ‘step 1.6’ I normally amplify to -2.0. I try to target my original recordings to peak at -6 to leave plenty of headroom for processing. Occasionally I tweak one channel or the other to account for mis-balanced L-R on the original recording. This is due to
not getting the input level adjustments on my E-MU 0202 quite right.


This thread is helpful. I have a question re. the above. I’ve seen several recommendations to record with some extra headroom between where the signals peak and O dB, “to leave headroom for processing.” Can someone tell me what processing steps besides amplify or normalize actually require some headroom to be present?

It’s not that easy. You can get stealth increases.

Say you have a performance rich in overtones and aggressive percussion. You apply the equalizer and roll off the high frequencies at some arbitrary value and when you apply it, you’re astounded to discover that the sound appears to be perfect, but some of the peaks went up.

Without getting into the hurt-your-head math, some of the overtones you filtered out are responsible for reducing the level of the waves. No more overtones, no more reduction.

Several tools work like that.


Thanks, I tend to leave breathing room for the signal in any case so I’ll keep the above in mind.

Related question vis a vis workflow: I notice WC above uses iTunes to add metadata. I did some ID3 tag work on a song, adding artist, title, album, and a note. None of that came through when I exported by choosing either File>export as AIFF or File>Export multiple. In both cases i exported as AIFF then converted via XLD into Apple Lossless. By the time I dragged the latter file into iTunes all that survived was the song label.

Any way to have ID3 tags export with the AIFF out of Audacity?

If you are using Audacity 1.3.11 then most of the meta-data that you enter in Audacity will be written into the exported file. You can check that by opening a new Audacity project, importing the file then opening the metadata editor. Unfortunately that does not mean that other applications will see the tags, or that they will survive being transcoded into another format by a third party program. Different programs use different “standards” for id3 tags and compatibility from one application to another is limited.

I was recently exporting some FLAC files and when I opened them in one media player it looked like most of the id3 data had been lost, but then I opened the same file in another program and it was all there. Until there is a real standard for id3 tags and everyone agrees to stick to it there is no ideal solution.

Which is precisely one of the reasons that WC prefers to handle his metadata management in iTunes :slight_smile:

Hmmm. I just came across this working with an older LP side. When I applied inverse RIAA, alot of the wave form went into clipping… do I understand correctly that anything done to that file afterwards is compromised because the top of the signal was lost?

It’s not the same situation, but the answer to your question is yes.

When you apply inverse RIAA, you are amplifying the high frequencies by up to 20dB, (and cutting the low frequencies by a similar amount). To avoid clipping, you need to make sure that the signal level, before you apply the equalistaion, is low enough to allow for the amplification.

If you use Effect > Amplify and set the “New Peak Amplitude” to -20dB, you will be sure to avoid clipping when you apply the equalisation.

And yes, if you’ve got clipping, you have damage that can’t be repaired.