As distinct types of audio production work, audio editing and audio mixing are two important terms for beginners who are starting out in audio production. There is dedicated audio editing software available both as commercial and open source releases. Sony Sound Forge is a good commercial software example, whereas Audacity is a representative open source release.Audio mixing software (Avid Pro Tools is the most widely used example) tends to be less dedicated and often includes editing features alongside its mixing capabilities.
So, here is a beginner’s guide to the must-learn audio production terms, including audio editing and audio mixing.
What is Audio Editing?
Most commonly, audio editing is concerned with trimming the lengths of audio files, as well adjusting amplitude levels. Sometimes it includes the addition of audio effects processing. Audio editing might apply to audio content that does not need to be mixed or it might apply to mixed content that needs to be fit to some specification. For example, consider a 30” excerpt of a song that is placed on a webpage for informational purposes. Most likely a finished release copy of that song is sent to an audio editor who extracts the 30” of content, applies a fadeout and encodes the data to the playback format, such as .mp3.
Audio editing seldom involves a change in the number of channels and probably is less artistic and creative. Instead, edits should be clean and precise, and above all, should never call attention to themselves.
What is Audio Mixing?
On the other hand, audio mixing is a more comprehensive stage of audio production in which multiple tracks of audio content are combined to one or more channels of audio content. In professional audio production, the term track applies to an individual stream of information, such as an instrument or spoken voice.
In more complex audio mixes an individual stream, such as all of the sound effects for a film, might itself be divided into several tracks, in which case all of the tracks for a specific stream taken together form a stem. In contrast, the term channel applies to some sort of a physical output, such as the left and right channels of stereo output. The role of audio mixing is to take all of the individual tracks or stems and combine them into a small number of output channels (one for mono, two for stereo, six for 5.1 surround, and so on).
This process of combining tracks will likely include other audio mixing actions such adjusting amplitude levels, assigning a perceived spatial location (such as left, center or right), equalizing the frequency components, as well any number of other audio effects that might enhance the clarity and unity of the end result. Audio mixing obviously has its scientific aspect, but is clearly an art and there are many studio engineers who devote their professional lives to the creation of the perfect audio mix.
Audio Editors vs. Mix Engineers
In the professional world, audio editors and mix engineers are two distinct classes of professionals who typically work in separate environments and frequently are characterized as contrasting personality types.