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A Swift Script for Detecting Silence in Audio Files: Made with Reactive Programming in RxSwift

A stereo waveform with unexpected silence.

Detecting silence in audio files is an essential capability to ensure correct audio processing. When handling large numbers of files, this can be a cumbersome and time-consuming task to perform manually. I've written a script in Swift to automate this job. It uses ffmpeg as a subprocess along with its silencedetect filter. I've written the script using Reactive Programming in Swift 4 and RxSwift. It's capable of relatively fast, recursive scanning of huge numbers of files given a single starting point while reliably reporting all of its results to the console.

This project is somewhat experimental since Mac command line tools do not yet have full support for linking external frameworks. The libraries for Swift still cannot be statically linked. Anything else containing Swift code cannot be built as a static framework. If a framework containing Swift code is linked, an external source of the Swift libraries must be provided. Thus, there is a high barrier to writing Swift scripts with RxSwift, but it is one that can be overcome.

The choice to use reactive programming for this script was made due to the streaming nature of processing files and handling of audio data as streams. I had this dream where everything is a stream 😊. I will cover more aspects of reactive programming in a future tutorial.


The following silence cases are supported:

  1. Silence occurring at the beginning of audio.
  2. Silence occurring in the middle of audio.
  3. Silence occurring at the end of audio.

Complete silence should be detected as case (1). Another option for this is the volumedetect filter.


Usage for the script is:

$ detectSilence ${ANY_VALID_BASE_PATH} 2>/dev/null

Here is a sample of the output:

Silence found in file:///Audio-Files/2017-Mar-15/01.flac
    🚩 start -0.0410202, end 0.417959, duration 0.45898 
    total duration: 939.97
Silence found in file:///Audio-Files/2017-Mar-19/01.flac
    🚩 start 2081.81, end 2088.02, duration 6.20592
    total duration: 3005.23
Silence found in file:///Audio-Files/2017-Mar-17/02.flac
    🚩 start 301.103, end 🔳, duration 🔳
    total duration: 729.11

The red flags indicate silences that have exceeded a given duration. The silencedetect filter can detect silences with no end or no duration. These usually correspond to silences at the end of a file. This type of silence is also graphically represented to show its relative length with respect to the total duration. The level at which audio is considered silence is set by a noise floor variable in units of dB in the script.



The additional dependencies for this script beyond Xcode 9 are:

Installation of RxSwift is accomplished with:

$ carthage update

Make the binary

A default install path of ~/bin is set in the target's build settings. Please change this path if you prefer a different location.

Build the target and the binary will be installed along with the RxSwift framework.

Once installed, the compiled script can be accessed as a normal command.


RxSwift for scripting is a probably an uncommon idea but, then again, Swift for scripting is still catching on, too. This project is a demonstration of the possibilities of both while providing a practical tool that can be enjoyed now.

Release Notes

  • v1.0.0 First release verified with Xcode 8.3, Swift 3.1 and RxSwift 3.3.1.
  • v1.0.1 Made sure that the presence of variable width encoded characters do not affect text matches.
  • v1.0.2 Handled negative numbers. Fixed output to show only when duration is available.
  • v1.0.3 Added reporting of detectsilence starts that have no end. Added retrieval of total duration. These changes handle the case where silence starts in the middle of a file and continues until the end.
  • v1.0.4 Added a graphic rendering of silences that extend all the way to the end of a file.
  • v1.0.5 Prevented sending a result with no values.
  • v1.0.6 Reduced some extraneous code.
  • v1.0.7 Further optimized Observable handling.
  • v1.1.0 Updated for Xcode 9.0, Swift 4.0, and RxSwift 4.0.0 beta 1.
  • v1.2.0 Updated for Xcode 9.3, Swift 4.1, and RxSwift 4.1.2.
  • v1.2.1 Changed the project to use INSTALL_PATH in Xcode.


The script has an open-source MIT license and repository links are here: