For all you producers, sound designers, film makers and recording artists, here is a little post on free online sound libraries and communities that could be a good help when you’re looking for specific ambiances or and sound effects. As the audiophile communities of the web are growing, these sites have evolved in enormous databases of free content that anyone ca use whether it be for commercial or personal use. Sound quality is getting way better too compared to a couple of years ago. If you want to enhance your productions with easy-to-find audio clips, might as well start here.
FindSounds.com has the best search engine out of all of these sites. Although its looks, interface and navigation are old-school, it clearly has the most complete search filters (letting you search sounds by bit rate, sample rate, audio format, mono/stereo channel status and file size) and the biggest database (over 1 million sounds from 100 000 users). The site also developed a standalone application called the FindSounds Pallete. With the Palette you can add sounds to your own personalized library and search for audio files by name, description, category, genre, source, copyright, format, size, number of channels, resolution, sample rate, duration, key, and tempo. It has a built in player, recorder, time and pitch shifter, sound browser and audio editor. This is a great tool for anyone who’s into managing their samples, but it comes at a price though – click here for more detail.
SoundSnap.com is the most professional looking site I’ve seen so far with a comprehensive interface and vast libraries of 80 000 sounds. All sounds created by users are tag and categorized in thematic chunks. They can be downloaded in different audio formats (mp3, wave and aif) and in different bit and sampling rates making it easy to find what you want/need for your projects. The social side makes it unique as users show off their recorded sounds on their profiles and can build up a list of friends. They also get their own tag cloud, and optional contact information.
Soungle.com looks and feels a lot like Google but is made for finding sound effects and musical instrument samples. Although it looks like a search engine, it’s simply a database where people donate their sounds. Enter any word in the Google like search bar and you’ll most likely find what you’re looking for.
The FreeSound Project is a collaborative database of Creative Commons licensed sounds where all samples are released under the Sampling Plus License which basically allows you to exploit them as you wish. The project, of a more experimental nature than the other sites, incorporates social features encouraging interaction between users with forums, helpful articles and competitions. Some pretty neat features were implemented to make use of the sounds more interesting. One feature is the Mootcher which allows third parties to develop tools to access the database outside of the website. Another one is the geotagging of some of the samples meaning you can visualize on a Google map where they were recorded and have a listen. Kind of useless but gadgety-cool. The FreeSound Project started in 2005 and was probably the first free comprehensive database out there at the time.
Last but not least, The Internet Archive (IA) is a organization dedicated to maintaining an on-line library and archive of Web and multimedia resources. This very interesting project takes prides in representing a web-based time capsule of internet content including snapshots of the World Wide Web and archives copies of pages, taken at various points in time, of software, movies, books, and audio recordings. This website does not entirely focus on audio but it’s definitely a place to have a look.