Provided by: sox_14.0.1-2build2_i386
SoX - Sound eXchange, the Swiss Army knife of audio manipulation
The core problem is that you need some experience in using effects in
order to say ‘that any old sound file sounds with effects absolutely
hip’. There isn’t any rule-based system which tell you the correct
setting of all the parameters for every effect. But after some time
you will become an expert in using effects.
Here are some examples which can be used with any music sample. (For a
sample where only a single instrument is playing, extreme parameter
setting may make well-known ‘typically’ or ‘classical’ sounds.
Likewise, for drums, vocals or guitars.)
Single effects will be explained and some given parameter settings that
can be used to understand the theory by listening to the sound file
with the added effect.
Using multiple effects in parallel or in series can result either in a
very nice sound or (mostly) in a dramatic overloading in variations of
sounds such that your ear may follow the sound but you will feel
unsatisfied. Hence, for the first time using effects try to compose
them as minimally as possible. We don’t regard the composition of
effects in the examples because too many combinations are possible and
you really need a very fast machine and a lot of memory to play them in
However, real-time playing of sounds will greatly speed up learning
and/or tuning the parameter settings for your sounds in order to get
that ‘perfect’ effect.
Basically, we will use the ‘play’ front-end of SoX since it is easier
to listen sounds coming out of the speaker or earphone instead of
looking at cryptic data in sound files.
For easy listening of file.xxx (‘xxx’ is any sound format):
play file.xxx effect-name effect-parameters
Or more SoX-like (for ‘dsp’ output on a UNIX/Linux computer):
sox file.xxx -t oss -2 -s /dev/dsp effect-name effect-parameters
or (for ‘au’ output):
sox file.xxx -t sunau -2 -s /dev/audio effect-name effect-
And for date freaks:
sox file.xxx file.yyy effect-name effect-parameters
Additional options can be used. However, in this case, for real-time
playing you’ll need a very fast machine.
I played all examples in real-time on a Pentium 100 with 32 MB and
Linux 2.0.30 using a self-recorded sample ( 3:15 min long in ‘wav’
format with 44.1 kHz sample rate and stereo 16 bit ). The sample
should not contain any of the effects. However, if you take any
recording of a sound track from radio or tape or CD, and it sounds like
a live concert or ten people are playing the same rhythm with their
drums or funky-grooves, then take any other sample. (Typically, less
then four different instruments and no synthesizer in the sample is
suitable. Likewise, the combination vocal, drums, bass and guitar.)
An echo effect can be naturally found in the mountains, standing
somewhere on a mountain and shouting a single word will result in one
or more repetitions of the word (if not, turn a bit around and try
again, or climb to the next mountain).
However, the time difference between shouting and repeating is the
delay (time), its loudness is the decay. Multiple echos can have
different delays and decays.
It is very popular to use echos to play an instrument with itself
together, like some guitar players (Queen’s Brian May) or vocalists do.
For music samples of more than one instrument, echo can be used to add
a second sample shortly after the original one.
This will sound as if you are doubling the number of instruments
playing in the same sample:
play file.xxx echo 0.8 0.88 60 0.4
If the delay is very short, then it sound like a (metallic) robot
play file.xxx echo 0.8 0.88 6 0.4
Longer delay will sound like an open air concert in the mountains:
play file.xxx echo 0.8 0.9 1000 0.3
One mountain more, and:
play file.xxx echo 0.8 0.9 1000 0.3 1800 0.25
Like the echo effect, echos stand for ‘ECHO in Sequel’, that is the
first echos takes the input, the second the input and the first echos,
the third the input and the first and the second echos, ... and so on.
Care should be taken using many echos (see introduction); a single
echos has the same effect as a single echo.
The sample will be bounced twice in symmetric echos:
play file.xxx echos 0.8 0.7 700 0.25 700 0.3
The sample will be bounced twice in asymmetric echos:
play file.xxx echos 0.8 0.7 700 0.25 900 0.3
The sample will sound as if played in a garage:
play file.xxx echos 0.8 0.7 40 0.25 63 0.3
The chorus effect has its name because it will often be used to make a
single vocal sound like a chorus. But it can be applied to other
instrument samples too.
It works like the echo effect with a short delay, but the delay isn’t
constant. The delay is varied using a sinusoidal or triangular
modulation. The modulation depth defines the range the modulated delay
is played before or after the delay. Hence the delayed sound will sound
slower or faster, that is the delayed sound tuned around the original
one, like in a chorus where some vocals are a bit out of tune.
The typical delay is around 40ms to 60ms, the speed of the modulation
is best near 0.25Hz and the modulation depth around 2ms.
A single delay will make the sample more overloaded:
play file.xxx chorus 0.7 0.9 55 0.4 0.25 2 -t
Two delays of the original samples sound like this:
play file.xxx chorus 0.6 0.9 50 0.4 0.25 2 -t 60 0.32 0.4 1.3 -s
A big chorus of the sample is (three additional samples):
play file.xxx chorus 0.5 0.9 50 0.4 0.25 2 -t 60 0.32 0.4 2.3 -t
40 0.3 0.3 1.3 -s
The flanger effect is like the chorus effect, but the delay varies
between 0ms and maximal 5ms. It sound like wind blowing, sometimes
faster or slower including changes of the speed.
The flanger effect is widely used in funk and soul music, where the
guitar sound varies frequently slow or a bit faster.
Now, let’s groove the sample:
play file.xxx flanger
listen carefully between the difference of sinusoidal and triangular
play file.xxx flanger triangle
A reverberation effect is sometimes needed in concert halls that are
too small or contain so many people that the hall’s natural
reverberance is diminished.
Using the effect is easy:
play file.xxx reverb
gives the default reverberance (50%); or specify the desired
reverberance as a percentage:
play file.xxx reverb 80
For fine tuning, see sox(1).
If you run out of machine power or memory, then stop as many
applications as possible.
The phaser effect is like the flanger effect, but it uses a reverb
instead of an echo and does phase shifting. You’ll hear the difference
in the examples comparing both effects. The delay modulation can be
sinusoidal or triangular, preferable is the later for multiple
instruments. For single instrument sounds, the sinusoidal phaser effect
will give a sharper phasing effect. The decay shouldn’t be to close to
1 which will cause dramatic feedback. A good range is about 0.5 to 0.1
for the decay.
We will take a parameter setting as before (gain-out is lower since
feedback can raise the output dramatically):
play file.xxx phaser 0.8 0.74 3 0.4 0.5 -t
The drunken loudspeaker system (now less alcohol):
play file.xxx phaser 0.9 0.85 4 0.23 1.3 -s
A popular sound of the sample is as follows:
play file.xxx phaser 0.89 0.85 1 0.24 2 -t
The sample sounds if ten springs are in your ears:
play file.xxx phaser 0.6 0.66 3 0.6 2 -t
The compander effect allows the dynamic range of a signal to be
compressed or expanded. It works by calculating the input signal level
averaged over time according to the given attack and decay parameters,
and setting the output signal level according to the given transfer-
For most situations, the attack time (response to the music getting
louder) should be shorter than the decay time because our ears are more
sensitive to suddenly loud music than to suddenly soft music.
For example, suppose you are listening to Strauss’s ‘Also Sprach
Zarathustra’ in a noisy environment such as a moving vehicle. If you
turn up the volume enough to hear the soft passages over the road
noise, the loud sections will be too loud. So you could try this:
sox asz.flac asz-car.flac compand 0.3,1 6:-70,-60,-20 -5 -90 0.2
The transfer function (‘6:-70,...’) says that very soft sounds (below
-70dB) will remain unchanged. This will stop the compander from
boosting the volume on ‘silent’ passages such as between movements.
However, sounds in the range -60dB to 0dB (maximum volume) will be
boosted so that the 60dB dynamic range of the original music will be
compressed 3-to-1 into a 20dB range, which is wide enough to enjoy the
music but narrow enough to get around the road noise. The ‘6:’ selects
6dB soft-knee companding. The -5 (dB) output gain is needed to avoid
clipping (the number is inexact, and was derived by experimentation).
The -90 (dB) for the initial volume will work fine for a clip that
starts with near silence, and the delay of 0.2 (seconds) has the effect
of causing the compander to react a bit more quickly to sudden volume
In order to visualise the transfer function, SoX can be invoked with
the --plot option, e.g.
sox -n -n --plot gnuplot compand 0,0 6:-70,-60,-20 -5 > my.plt
The following (one long) command shows how multi-band companding is
typically used in FM radio:
play file.xxx vol -3dB filter 8000- 32 100 mcompand \
"0.005,0.1 -47,-40,-34,-34,-17,-33" 100 \
"0.003,0.05 -47,-40,-34,-34,-17,-33" 400 \
"0.000625,0.0125 -47,-40,-34,-34,-15,-33" 1600 \
"0.0001,0.025 -47,-40,-34,-34,-31,-31,-0,-30" 6400 \
"0,0.025 -38,-31,-28,-28,-0,-25" \
vol 15dB highpass 22 highpass 22 filter -17500 256 \
vol 9dB lowpass -1 17801
The audio file is played with a simulated FM radio sound (or broadcast
signal condition if the lowpass filter at the end is skipped). Note
that the pipeline is set up with US-style 75us preemphasis.
Changing the Rate of Playback
You can use stretch to change the rate of playback of an audio sample
while preserving the pitch. For example to play at half the speed:
play file.wav stretch 2
To play a file at twice the speed:
play file.wav stretch 0.5
Other related options are ‘speed’ to change the speed of play (and
changing the pitch accordingly), and pitch, to alter the pitch of a
sample. For example to speed a sample so it plays in half the time
(for those Mickey Mouse voices):
play file.wav speed 2
To raise the pitch of a sample 1 while note (100 cents):
play file.wav pitch 100
Reducing noise in a recording
First find a period of silence in your recording, such as the beginning
or end of a piece. If the first 1.5 seconds of the recording are
sox file.wav -n trim 0 1.5 noiseprof /tmp/profile
Next, use the noisered effect to actually reduce the noise:
play file.wav noisered /tmp/profile
Making a recording
Thanks to Douglas Held for the following suggestion:
rec parameters filename other-effects silence 1 5 2%
This use of the silence effect allows you to start a recording session
but only start writing to disk once non-silence is detect. For example,
use this to start your favorite command line for recording and walk
over to your record player and start the song. No periods of silence
will be recorded.
Scripting with SoX
One of the benefits of a command-line tool is that it is easy to use it
in scripts to perform more complex tasks. In marine radio, a Mayday
emergency call is transmitted preceded by a 30-second alert sound. The
alert sound comprises two audio tones at 1300Hz and 2100Hz alternating
at a rate of 4Hz. The following shows how SoX can be used in a script
to construct an audio file containing the alert sound. The scripting
language shown is ‘Bourne shell’ (sh) but it should be simple to
translate this to another scripting language if you do not have access
# Make sure we append to a file that’s initially empty:
rm -f 2tones.raw
for freq in 1300 2200; do
sox -c1 -r8000 -n -t raw - synth 0.25 sine $freq vol 0.7 >> 2tones.raw
# We need 60 copies of 2tones.raw (0.5 sec) to get 30 secs of audio:
# Make sure we append to a file that’s initially empty:
rm -f alert.raw
while [ $iterations -ge 1 ]; do
cat 2tones.raw >> alert.raw
iterations=`expr $iterations - 1`
# Add a file header and save some disc space:
sox -s2 -c1 -r8000 alert.raw alert.ogg
If you try out the above script, you may want to hit Ctrl-C fairly soon
after the alert tone starts playing - it’s not a pleasant sound! The
synth effect is used to generate each of the tones; -c1 -r8000 selects
mono, 8kHz sampling-rate audio (i.e. relatively low fidelity, suitable
for the marine radio transmission channel); each tone is generated at a
length of 0.25 seconds to give the required 4Hz alternation. Note the
use of ‘raw’ as the intermediary file format; a self-describing
(header) format would just get in the way here. The self-describing
header is added only at the final stage; in this case, .ogg is chosen,
since lossy compression is appropriate for this application.
There are further practical examples of scripting with SoX available to
download from the SoX web-site .
 SoX - Sound eXchange | Scripts,
This man page was written largely by Juergen Mueller
(firstname.lastname@example.org). Other SoX authors and contributors are listed
in the AUTHORS file that is distributed with the source code.