At first, I really didn’t know what Sound Forge could do for me that Audacity couldn’t.

For a free piece of software, Audacity is incredibly powerful and very competitive for the price. When it comes to working with my demos, I do most of my effects processing in Cakewalk anyway, and I use Audacity only to do some clean-up — add some silence at the end, use a fade out when I’m too lazy to use an envelope in Cakewalk.

But a few things have started to bug me about Audacity.

At first, generating a silence meant sticking 30 seconds of dead space, even if I only needed one. Then I installed an upgrade, and now I can specify the length of my silences. In doing so, I lost the ability to specify on which track the silence was to be applied. I used to be able to do it on one track at a time. Now it applies silence on all the tracks.

Sometimes, I just need to edit a WAV file and be done with it. The default behavior of Audacity is to import a file into its workspace. To save a file, you need to export. It’s a minute distinction, but it can add up when you’re working on a lot of files, or when you’re making minute changes with each save.

CD Architect, which I’ve used extensively, comes bundled with Sound Forge. I want to buy a full license for CD Architect in the near future, but what is the advantage of spending a few extra dollars in also getting a renowned audio editing tool when I’ve got one that’s free?

I downloaded Sound Forge and tried it out. At the outset, I liked how I could edit just the WAV file without having to go through any intermediate processes of importing and exporting. Much of the effects processing works the same as Audacity, and some of the things I love about Audacity are also readily available in Sound Forge.

But the thing that sold me on Sound Forge was support for third-party plug-ins. Audacity includes a few of the VST plug-ins installed on my machine, but it doesn’t list all of them. In Sound Forge, I could call up the plug-ins I use in Cakewalk, such as the Voxengo Elephant mastering limiter and the Sonitus suite of effects.

As an experiment, I loaded an MP3 of a track from the original London cast recording of Chess. That’s an album in serious need of remastering.

I chained the Voxengo Elephant and the Sonitus equalizer and applied them to the file. The ease of doing so impressed me.

Now when I want to edit an audio file, I don’t choose Audacity — I go for Sound Forge.

Yeah, I know what I’m getting (myself) for Christmas.