Editing audio files: Non-destructive vs. Destructive editing

When you will be applying non-destructive editing:

1.) Do this in multi-track during mixing stage.

2.) Do this in critical scenario where you can hardly backup audio files. Thus the only way to assure that the files are untouched is to edit them non-destructively by loading them in the multi-track view.

Overview on Destructive Editing of audio files

Destructive editing is manually editing audio waveform by applying desired effects and saving it. This is a very RISKY procedure as it can overwrite the original recording if you are not careful.

Destructive editing

For example in the above screenshot, the effects applied are “amplify”. And this effect is applied directly to the audio waveform (at the background). Take note that once this is saved successfully, there is no undo procedure.

The only way you can re-apply the effects (in case you realize the setting was wrong) is to open the original recording and re-apply effects to it.

Benefits of destructive editing:

1.) If you are sure with your effect settings and you are running out of computing power, then editing the waveform and applying effects directly to the waveform makes sense. Provided you have carefully backup your original recording.

2.) You can edit the waveform in details with destructive editing because you have the opportunity to look very closely on the waveform. This is particularly important even during mixing.

Disadvantages of destructive editing:

1.) Like I said before, if you are careless and have accidentally saved the edited file without doing backups on your original audio; then the only way you can bring back the original recording is to perform another recording on that set. This can be time consuming.

2.) This is a very time consuming process. It is why if you are required by your client to do manual editing of the wave to correct their tracking mistakes or inconsistencies (and they do not want to re-record for some reason) then charge them per hour for your time well spent.

When to do Destructive editing:

1.) Mastering process is a destructive editing of the waveform, of course the mastering engineers or the mixing engineers do preserve an original backup of the mix down very carefully.

2.) Apply reverb on some parts of the song only (not the entire song).

3.) Removing noise on the start and the end.

4) Any effects that require to be applied manually instead of automation and many more.

Summary: It is recommended that you practice both of these techniques in your project.

Content last updated on August 5, 2012