Audacity is a powerful, free audio editor that’s been indispensable to podcasters since the inception of the medium. For someone new to audio production, however, it can be confusing and intimidating. This series of tutorials is aimed at the podcaster or amateur broadcaster who doesn’t want their great content obscured by bad audio quality.
Please note that these tutorials don’t avoid jargon. It’s everywhere in Audacity itself, so avoiding it seems counterproductive. Instead, I try to define as many terms as possible from the perspective of someone with little- to no background in audio production.
Tutorials in this series
» Compression using the Chris’s Dynamic Compressor plugin
» Noise Reduction (formerly Noise Removal)
» My Plug-Ins Aren’t Showing Up!
Over the years, Audacity has changed the storage location of its plug-ins in order to facilitate easier install and uninstall. This is a good thing, but in the internet age- when easily accessed instructions often outlive their usefulness- it can create confusion, conflict, and massive headaches for new and advanced Audacity users alike.
In this tutorial, I’ll provide instructions on how to fix one of the most common reasons that third-party plug-ins do not appear in Audacity’s Effects manual.
Note that this tutorial specifically deals with Audacity 2.1.1. This tutorial will be kept as up to date as possible, under the assumption that the Audacity team isn’t likely to move plug-in directory locations again any time soon.
Also note that this tutorial is written from the point of view of a Mac OS X user, which I am, but that some of the concepts will also apply to Windows and Linux installations.
For most users, the issue is that there are multiple plug-ins folders for Audacity to look through during startup. As mentioned, the default location for this folder has changed over the years, so Audacity looks through a set of known locations. When it finds a plug-ins folder in an expected location, however, it simply stops looking and loads whatever it’s found.
This can cause an issue if, for instance, you installed Audacity 1.3 when it was the most current version and then, later, decided to install Chris’s Dynamic Compressor using the (accurate) instructions provided on The Audacity to Podcast. In this hypothetical scenario, Audacity 1.3 would have placed its plug-ins folder in one location, while the instructions accompanying Chris’s Dynamic Compressor directed you to place the plug-in in a completely different location.
These two locations now conflict, forcing Audacity to choose one location over the other. So the reason that you’re not seeing your plug-in in the Effects menu is simple: Audacity isn’t seeing the plug-in either.
The solution, then, is to get rid of any redundant plug-ins folders, and to ensure that any plug-in you wish to use resides in the “correct” plug-ins folder. The most recent version of Audacity as of this post is 2.1.1, so we’re going to treat 2.1.1’s default plug-ins folder as the correct location.
Audacity 2.1.1 for Mac OS X stores plug-ins in:
Here are a few locations that were used in either previous versions of Audacity or in outdated tutorials:
• [your hard drive]/Library/Application Support/audacity/Plug-Ins
• [your user name]/Library/Application Support/audacity/Plug-Ins
Note that these folders are often hidden or not easily accessed by default. The easiest way to get to all three folders is to, from the Finder, click the Go menu, select Go to Folder…, and type in the path, as shown below:
Some or all of the older plug-ins folders may contain plug-ins that you want to keep, and are able to load into Audacity successfully. The very good news is that these plug-ins will remain usable after consolidation!
To consolidate your plug-ins, first ensure that Audacity is not running.
Determine which, of the above “incorrect” plug-in locations (indicated in red), contain plug-ins. Note that the locations above may contain empty plug-ins folders; these empty folders don’t cause any harm, so delete or ignore them as you wish.
Drag any plug-ins found in the incorrect locations into the correct location above (indicated in green). If you are prompted to replace files, use your judgment as to which version of the plug-in file you wish to keep. In most cases, it is most desireable to simply keep the most recent file. Note also that plug-in presets are kept in a completely different place, so don’t worry about losing your presets in this process!
Once all of your plug-ins files are consolidated, open Audacity. If a new file is not automatically created on startup, you must create one in order to access the Effects menu.
In the Effects menu, select the top option, Manage….
You’ll be presented with Audacity’s new plug-ins manager. Ensure that any desired plug-in is in the Enabled state, and it should now appear in the Effect menu!