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Free Audio Tools that Work with Flash

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One of Flash's many strengths is its capability to consistently and reliably play back sound across a wide variety of computer platforms and environments. Flash has a comprehensive set of utilities and tools to work with audio, but there are several free, dedicated audio tools that can do an even better job. James Gonzalez reviews several free audio tools that he has used professionally and with his students to streamline audio work with Flash.
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One of Flash’s many strengths is its capability to consistently and reliably play back sound across a wide variety of computer platforms and environments. This capability may in fact be the best reason to use Flash for projects in which sound is an important component.

Flash has a comprehensive set of utilities and tools to work with audio, but there are several free, dedicated audio tools that can do a better job. For example, you can set compression settings in Flash, but I find that using a dedicated audio application is faster and yields better results.

This article reviews several free audio tools that I have used professionally and with my students to streamline audio work with Flash.

iTunes

Before importing audio files into Flash, you need to get them into a format supported by Flash. The iTunes jukebox software from Apple is the perfect tool for the job (see Figure 1). Although Apple calls iTunes a music jukebox, it is far more than just a handy way to organize and play back your audio collection.

Figure 01

Figure 1 The Music Store component of the iTunes jukebox application

The first tool that I usually employ from the iTunes arsenal is the CD-ripper, which converts the analog audio on a music CD into a digital format that can be imported into Flash.

iTunes is available free for both the Windows and Mac OS from the iTunes page of the Apple web site.

Download the installer and follow the onscreen instructions to install the software and load the program:

  1. After iTunes is running on your computer, simply insert your audio CD into the CD tray of your computer.
  2. A list of the songs on the CD will appear in the iTunes main window; the name of the album appears under the Source column on the right.
  3. Select the tracks you want to digitize (also referred to as "ripping") by leaving their check boxes selected. Click to remove the check adjacent to those tracks you do not want to rip. In iTune parlance, this digitization process is referred to as importing (see Figure 2).
    Figure 02

    Figure 2 Music CD source view of iTunes

  4. After pressing the Import CD button in the upper-right corner of the interface, iTunes will import the tracks to the format specified in the iTunes Preferences dialog box. Before pressing the button, set your preferences to tell iTunes the desired details of the import.

    To set preferences, choose Edit > Preferences > Advanced (on the Mac, choose File > Preferences > Advanced).

  5. First, in the General tab, take note of where iTunes will be storing the imported file (see Figure 3). The default location is the iTunes folder that was created when you installed the program, but usually this is in an inaccessible location that is also hard to remember. I create a folder in an easy-to-find location on my computer and change this setting by pressing Change.
    Figure 03

    Figure 3 General tab of the iTunes Preferences dialog box

  6. Click the Importing tab and set your file type. For Flash work, importing with the MP3 encoder is best (see Figure 4). If you are planning to do a lot of work on the file in an audio editor, the AIFF encoder is also a good option.
    Figure 04

    Figure 4 Importing tab of the iTunes Preferences dialog box

  7. Set the quality setting. I use the lowest setting (smallest file) that provides acceptable quality using the technique I describe more fully later in this article.
  8. You’re now ready to go. Click OK to close the preferences dialog box.
  9. Click Import CD to begin the import.
  10. You can also use the Preferences setting just described to convert one audio file format to another. Set your encoder type and select Advanced > Convert Selection To from the iTunes main menu (see Figure 5).
    Figure 05

    Figure 5 Converting a file using the default encoder

Using this tool you can convert files to and from the AIFF, WAV, MP3, and AAC file formats.

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