Importing Audio

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This page is about importing audio files into Audacity (like WAV or MP3) that other applications on the computer can play.
Warning icon Audacity projects cannot be opened using the File > Import > Audio... command, you will get an error message.

If you have already saved your audio as an Audacity Project, use File > Open... or File > Recent Files to open the <my_project_name>.aup3.


  1. Audio File Formats Supported by Audacity
  2. Three Ways to Import Audio
  3. Metadata
  4. Using the file type dropdown menu in the Open and Import Audio Dialogs
  5. Importing audio from CDs
  6. Sample Rate and Sample Format of imported files

Audio File Formats Supported by Audacity

The audio formats importable by Audacity with the File > Import > Audio... command, as shipped are:

Uncompressed audio formats

For uncompressed audio: most WAV and AIFF files including all PCM variants can be imported into Audacity

Compressed audio formats

Compressed audio: Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, MP2 and MP3 can be imported into Audacity.

FFmpeg for other importable audio formats

You can install the optional FFmpeg library to import a much larger range of audio formats including AC3, AMR(NB), M4A, MP4 and WMA (if the files are not DRM-protected to work only in particular software).

FFmpeg will also import audio from most video files or DVDs that are not DRM-protected.

Older uncompressed file types such as WAV with U-Law or IMA ADPCM encoding are generally supported provided they contain correctly formatted header information.
  • If files do not have header information (such as RAW or VOX ADPCM) or have non-standard header information, you can normally import them using File > Import > Raw Data....
  • WAV files from portable recorders may contain proprietary compressed audio. These should not be imported as Raw Data, but by installing the FFmpeg library.
  • LOF files (lists of files) are also supported if the list is correctly formatted and contains supported files.

Three Ways to Import Audio

No matter which method you use to bring an audio file into Audacity, the file is always imported into a saved or unsaved Audacity project. The imported file always appears in a new track in that project.

1. File > Import > Audio...

If you select the File > Import > Audio... command, then choose one or more audio files, Audacity will import the selected file(s) into the existing project. This is useful to bring the content of one or more audio files into a project that already contains audio (for example, to mix several audio files together).

2. File > Recent Files (Open Recent on Mac)

This command imports a single file from a list of the 12 most recently imported files or recently saved projects. The file opens in a new window exactly as File > Open....

3. Drag and drop

Warning icon Note that you cannot use drag and drop an AUP3 project into an open Audacity Project window. To open Audacity projects - use File > Open... to open projects.
  • On Windows and Mac:
    • Drag and drop one or more audio files into an open Audacity project window: this is equivalent to File > Import > Audio....
    • Drag and drop one or more audio files onto the Audacity icon: this is equivalent to File > Open....
  • On Linux:
    • Drag and drop files into an open Audacity Project window: this is equivalent to File > Import > Audio....
    • Drag and drop one or more audio files onto the Audacity icon: only the first file will open. More than one file dragged and dropped onto the icon will do the same as the File > Open... command for the first file, but the other files will generate an error message saying that Audacity is already running.


Audio files can carry descriptive information in a metadata container, this allows information such as the title, artist, album, track number, and other information about the file to be stored in the audio file itself.

Each time an audio file is imported into the same project window, the metadata tags for that file replace the previously stored metadata for the project. So if the last imported file has no metadata, the project will no longer have any stored metadata. Using one of the above methods that imports each file into its own project window will ensure each file's metadata is stored.

Using the file type dropdown menu in the Import Audio Dialog

This menu (called "Format" on Mac) contains a list of different file types.

File type drop-down menu W10 3-0-2.png

Choosing a particular file type in the menu performs two functions.

  • The file type choice filters the list of files in the window by restricting it to files of that type.
  • The file type choice determines which importer attempts the file first when using the Open or Import Audio dialogs. For example, a WAV file could be imported by Audacity's native WAV importer or by the optional FFmpeg library if this was installed.
  • Import can also be used to import a list of audio files by selecting List of Files in basic text format. See LOF Files for more details.

Importing audio from CDs

Audacity does not contain any function for importing (ripping) audio from CDs. This can, however, be achieved by using other applications to extract the data into a file format Audacity does support.

See the tutorial How to import CDs.

Sample Rate and Sample Format of imported files

Audacity always imports files at their original sample rate, as displayed in the Track Information Area of the Track Control Panel.

When importing a file into an empty project window (as always happens when using File > Open... as described below), the Project Rate control in Selection Toolbar changes if necessary to reflect the rate of the file. The Project Rate determines the sample rate a file will be exported at, so no further adjustment is needed to export that file at its original rate. However, once there is already an audio track of any origin in the project (either an imported file, a recording or generated audio), importing an audio file will never change the project rate.

Generally, Audacity imports files at the sample format (bit depth) specified at Default Sample Format in Quality Preferences. This setting defaults to 32-bit float. Therefore by default an imported file will show in the Track Control Panel as 32-bit float, even if its original bit depth is lower. This is best for high-quality editing. Even if you choose a lower Default Sample Format than 32-bit float, Audacity will never downconvert a file that has a higher bit depth, as shown in the following table for WAV and AIFF imports using the standard uncompressed files importer.

Resolution of imported WAV and AIFF files using standard importer
Default Sample Format File bit depth Resolution imported at
16 16 16
16 24 32
16 32 32
24 16 24
24 24 32
24 32 32
32 (default) 16 32
32 (default) 24 32
32 (default) 32 32

OGG is unusual in that it will always import at 16-bit resolution using the standard OGG Vorbis importer, irrespective of Default Sample Format. This is due to the design of the OGG codec. However OGG can be imported at 32-bit resolution using FFmpeg, as described at Using the file type dropdown menu.


>  Exporting Audio

>  FFmpeg import/export libraries for more formats

>  Metadata Tags Editor