Way way back in the early days of Mac the platform established itself as one to be used for music production. Not just for the audiophile at home, but for serious pro music production. Macs have continued to stand out in music although PC’s have pretty much caught up. So I thought, being into all things music on Macs myself, I’d do a short series on apps I’ve found and prefer for doing things music related. This will NOT be an all-inclusive series, only what I’ve found that works, and in most cases is open source or free.
To kick this off, let’s look at audio file splitting
Why would you need an audio file splitter? Imagine you have just downloaded an audio file of your favorite artist doing a live performance somewhere and you’d like to split it into separate files for each song so you can load it into your music player of choice. There’s your reason. Another example is splitting an audio book into separate chapters. There are undoubtedly several reasons for doing this. For the average user this is probably not something you’ll do very often which is a great reason not to spend a fortune on such an app. What ever your reason, with Mac being a time proven music platform for many decades now, we should have several fine apps to choose from for performing this task.
But, not really. I am not including or looking at apps that aren’t free because this is a task you’re probably not going to use very often. Or at least I don’t. Other criteria I’m limiting this to is the app should have a GUI, even an outdated one, and will preferably load and save at least more than one audio file format. Also, NO online converters, we’re splitting large files. Lastly, if possible, I’d like to split the file without re-encoding to save so not only would it be a faster operation but there won’t be additional loss in the audio than is already possibly there. Within that there are few choices and I have tested most of them.
mp3splt is open source, supports several audio file formats, and runs on several operating systems. As of this writing it hasn’t been updated since 2014 which makes it a bit aged, yet if a software works and doesn’t need anything why update it? This seems to be highly thought of but it’s one I have not tested because for the Mac your only option is to install via Fink or Macports, neither of which I use these days. No reason other than it’s more space used on my already cramped hard drive, and I didn’t want to install them just to test this old app. If you use either and wish to test mp3splt please send me your thoughts and I’ll publish them here.
Macsome offers several apps, 2 of which fit my criteria. Macsome Audio Splitter is free and designed for just my task. It handles MP3 and AAC formats and does not re-encode. There are 3 options for splitting, you specify the length of the files, split one file into equal parts, or enter the start and end time for each file separately. There is no silence detection option. The first two options won’t work for music, but the third sure will. Unfortunately the third option time stamps are not minutes and seconds but seconds only, so you have to open up the calculator to figure this out which is a bit annoying. When I finished calculating and entering all those seconds and clicked “OK” what I ended up with was about half the files I expected and none were split in the right place. Maybe I figured the seconds wrong? But it’s quite time consuming and tedious and not at all user friendly. If it was my mistake I’ll never know because I’m not going through that again. Okay so trying their other app Macsome Audio Editor which does far more than splitting files but I’ll give it a shot. Unfortunately it immediately complained that the file I wanted to open was too large. Next.
Another popular option is WavePad which is a pro software but offers a free hoe user option. Perfect. It handles many file formats and runs on several operating systems as well. The GUI is a little dated but no matter. If offers a lot more than just file splitting but I just tested that. You can detect silence or enter times if you know them, or create book marks and split by those. In spite of the many options offered it’s not terribly difficult to figure out. I chose to set up bookmarks. Once I was set, clicked split by bookmarks, and got an error that one or more of the split files could not be saved. So I tried splitting by silence. Same error. Maybe it’s an encoder issue so I switched from MP3 files to FLAC, same problem. Tried saving as WAV files, same problem. I tried saving the entire file as an MP3 and it did that successfully. So it’s obviously not an encoder problem but something else. I did spend time searching through their support forums and also online. Others were seeing the same issue but there was no clear and easy solution. Too bad, I kind of like this app. Maybe I’ll try working with it at a later date.
At this point, following my criteria, I’ve reached my last option, which is the one I’ve used for years now, Audacity. You ask why did I bother searching out another app when I already have been using Audacity. Well, because Audacity is a little tedious. It does a really good job. You can search for silence, create a bookmark, name it what you like, and export in a chosen format by bookmark. The downside is it doesn’t support every file format you may want to use although there are plenty to choose from. More importantly however is Audacity re-encodes the audio files. Say you’ve got an MP3 you want to split. Audacity warns you on their site when you load that MP3 it goes through the encoder, which you’ll get some audio loss. Then when you export it goes back through the encoder and you’ll get more audio loss. It’s highly likely my old ears won’t notice a difference, but why would I want to find out? So the secret is if at all possible start with an audio file that is in a lossless format such as WAV, AIFF or FLAC for example. Then the only loss you’ll see is in the final encoding of the smaller files.
So today half way through the year 2020, I’m sorry to say there aren’t many audio slitting app options available for the Mac that work well. Actually, I didn’t have any luck with what I tried outside of Audacity.
If you have a solution please let me know and I’ll post it or you can leave a comment on this post.