Best Free & Paid Podcast Software
The Best Free & Paid D.A.W.s for Recording Your Podcast
1.06.2020 | Podcasting | By: Jacob Bozarth, Austin Oglesby
Audacity and other free recording software platforms will always have a special place in my heart. Downloading Audacity on my parent’s Windows 2000 machine in high school is where my love for audio recording all started. In a matter of minutes, I transformed their bedroom into a recording studio for free…(well it cost them some grief and inconvenience and I suppose I used my allowance to pay for the MXL condenser microphones). I used Audacity to record a couple music demos and I remember thinking how easy it was to download, record and what I thought was mix a simple demo (complete with drums).
I would venture to say that countless others like myself have been able to record and learn to do post-production for podcasts simply due to the accessibility of free recording software platforms like Audacity. In this post, we will look at 3 free podcast recording software platforms that are available and as well as look at a couple of affordable software options to help you decide which podcast recording software will best fit your needs to record your podcast.
A simple internet search reveals that there are countless ways to record podcasts and it can be overwhelming trying to decide which way is best for you. While there is no one “right” way to record a podcast, choosing the best option will come down to the type of recording, the budget you have, the tools you have at your fingertips and what type of computer you are using. At Resonate, this is something we navigate frequently. The advice we would give on recording a podcast and what software to use will vary depending on your specific situation. This resource is aimed at helping people who are considering looking at free podcast recording software as the solution for recording their podcast.
As I mentioned, Audacity was the first DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) that I was exposed to and the gateway software into my love for audio production. The reason that I was able to access Audacity as a broke high school student is that it’s a free, easy-to-use, multi-track audio editor and recorder for Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux and other operating systems. According to the Audacityteam.org website, you can use Audacity to:
- Record audio.
- Record computer playback on any Windows Vista or later machine.
- Convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs.
- Edit WAV, AIFF, FLAC, MP2, MP3 or Ogg Vorbis sound files.
- AC3, M4A/M4R (AAC), WMA and other formats supported using optional libraries.
- Cut, copy, splice or mix sounds together.
- Numerous effects including change the speed or pitch of a recording.
- Write your own plug-in effects with Nyquist.
- And more! (See the complete list of features)
But as rings true with all recording software, Audacity has it’s pros and cons.
The pros of this software are that it is compatible on Mac, PC, and Linux. Moreover, this open source software is free to download and has the ability to record high resolution audio that is often found in more expensive programs like ProTools, Adobe Audition, and Logic Pro. Additionally, the layout is pretty simple and easy to navigate, it allows you to start recording quickly, and you can export multiple individual tracks simultaneously.
While Audacity is highly appealing for all these reasons, there are also several negatives. First, the editing features are not intuitive and the learning curve is steep. Second, the program is lacking aesthetically and is pretty underwhelming overall. Personally, this is not a software program I would want to look at or work in for hours and hours. Finally, it is easy to accidentally shift tracks out of sync while editing. In spite of all these negatives, with a little practice, even a novice can learn how to get great results out of Audacity.
If you watch the Audacity tutorial for podcasting video below, you will be well on your way to recording and editing your podcast in Audacity like a pro.
Since its release 15 years ago, GarageBand has been one of the most popular free recording software platforms for the Mac platform. GarageBand being a free program native on all Apple computers is a very popular option for podcasters looking for a reliable way to record podcasts with minimal investment, simplicity and ease of use. Like most of Apple’s hardware and software brainchildren, GarageBand is a beautifully-designed application and is pretty user-friendly overall.
Like Audacity and every other podcast recording software, there are pros and cons of using GarageBand. The pros of this software are that it is free and comes installed on every single Apple computer. Moreover, it looks great and is one of the easiest to use and navigate recording software platforms. Additionally, it comes with a built in sound library with many great loops and sounds. Lastly, it is available on other Apple devices as well, including the popular iPad and iPhone, to be a solution for recording on-the-go.
While GarageBand is great for the reasons listed above, there are still a few downsides to this software. First, when recording using the built in voice presets, the program defaults to adding reverb and other low quality effects to your recording that will not sound good for your podcast VO. While these built in effects may be more fitting for recording music, you will want a dry vocal with no reverb or effects for your podcast dialog recording. Second, you are very limited with the editing features in GarageBand. Unlike ProTools and other professional recording software platforms there is not an actual fade or crossfade feature. Finally, there is no way to export your session as an OMF file. An OMF file is an audio session saved in a standard format based on the Open Media Framework Interchange (OMFI), a standardized interchange file format. It may be exported from digital video editing or audio workstation (DAW) software and is commonly used to share or transfer project data or digital media between different software applications. Chances are that you may not be mixing your audio using GarageBand so if you are sending off your session to someone else to mix and master, not having an OMF export feature will limit someone from being able to open your session in another DAW. While this may not be a dealbreaker for everyone, this is a feature we would love to see in a future version of GarageBand.
If you watch the GarageBand tutorial for podcasting video below, you will be well on your way to recording and editing your podcast in GarageBand like a pro.
Pro Tools First
Hands-down Pro Tools is the industry standard for audio recording, editing, and mixing software. Even having a 4 year degree in audio production where much of my time was spent learning how to use Pro Tools , there are still new features and things I learn about Pro Tools on a daily basis. The reason for this is that it offers the most features and is one of the most robust recording software platforms on the market. But did you know that you can now get the tools that pros use…for free? Yes, in 2015 Avid released its long awaited free version of Pro Tools known as Pro Tools First. Many people I talk to today are still unaware that Pro Tools has a free version. This is likely due to the fact that Pro Tools has historically had a sticker price outside of the budget for most hobbyists.
While I am a huge fan of Pro Tools and would argue that it is the best DAW for audio production of any kind, there are a few downsides to this free version. First, unlike its big brother Pro Tools, you are limited to only having 16 tracks at a time in your session. While this may not be an issue for recording your podcast it may be an issue if you plan to mix and master your audio in Pro Tools First. Additionally you are limited to 4 inputs (dependent on an interface or other hardware used) and there is no video track support. Also, unlike the paid version of Pro Tools there is no Clip Gain feature, no OMF file interchange, no option to import full session data and you are limited to only 3 cloud projects on your Avid account. Now, I know that sounds like quite a few negatives, but remember that I mention most of these in order to see the differences in the free and paid versions of Pro Tools.
Let’s now take a look at the upsides of using the free version of Pro Tools.
First, this software is free and really does allow users to get familiar with the industry standard DAW that pros use. Moreover, it comes with 23 decent plugins that you can use to mix your podcast. Additionally, it comes with many of the core features that Pro Tools is known and loved for, by so many. These include, QuickPunch, Elastic Audio, MIDI Editor, Offline Bounce, Volume, Pan, Sends, Solo, Mute, and Plugin Parameter automation and more. Again the fact that there is a free version of Pro Tools, even though it is limited, is mind-blowing. Just starting out or looking for a great way of learning post-production, then I would recommend you consider giving Pro Tools First a try. The skills you learn will allow you to grow and eventually become a pro like so many other professionals that use Pro Tools on a daily basis.
Summary of the Best Free Podcast Software
So, these are our top three recommendations for free podcast recording software. As you can tell I am a big fan of Pro Tools and Audacity, but GarageBand is also a great free option for Mac users.
There you have it: our list of the best free podcast recording software platforms and a couple affordable options for you to choose from.
I’m going to pass the mic to Austin to talk about the Best Paid Recording Software.
Best Paid Recording Software
If you are interested in the paid options that were mentioned, I can help you with that decision as well! Next, I will walk through the paid recording and editing software options and help you understand the benefits of these paid programs in comparison to their free counterparts. Each DAW has its own unique licensing, resources, and workflow that will play a role in determining what the best podcast software for you will be.
- Logic X Pro – $199.99
- Pro Tools – $599 or $29.99/month
- Reaper – $60
- Audition – $20.99/month
- Hindenburg Journalist – $95
If you want to upgrade your podcast production software from GarageBand to Logic, the programs will feel eerily similar at first. But as you dive deeper into the advanced features, you will see how much more powerful Logic is.
The interface is initially stripped down to a simple model much like GarageBand, but you can add in the more technical and advanced features as you go. It is a much more customizable experience. You can use features such as custom fades and ripple edits that will make your editing and production much more efficient and professional than it was in GarageBand.
Logic is a one-time purchase license. With the purchase of the license, you are able to install Logic on all your devices connected to your Apple ID and can use it on multiple devices at once. Included in the purchase are the micro-updates and bug fixes, just like any other Apple app (10.0 to 10.1 to 10.2, etc). However, when Apple creates Logic 11, it is projected that they will consider this a new app and require another $199 for the upgrade.
If you don’t want to make the upgrade, you can still keep using the older version, but eventually, new Mac OS won’t support the app and you will be forced to use it only on an older OS or to upgrade. Even still, Logic X Pro comes with many plug-ins, software instruments, and loops, and that makes it one of the best buys for the price.
While the free version of Pro Tools is a great option, the paid version of Pro Tools offers many more features that make it an incredibly powerful tool for podcast editing. While Pro Tools First has many of the same functions, they are often restrained from their full potential. If you need more than 16 tracks, then you will need to upgrade to the paid version.
You can think of your license purchase as freeing up your software to run at full capacity, undoing the restraints, and giving yourself access to all of the tools and features the major studios and pros use. Some of the great features in Pro Tools are the multi-tool, the shuffle and slip modes, and playlists. While Pro Tools can look daunting and overly technical at first, it is these tools that help you efficiently navigate your recordings.
Pro Tools has been an industry standard for quite a while, and that means that it can be found in many production studios and workplaces. This will make for easy collaboration if you intend to do some recording and editing on your podcast but want to be able to share the session with others to work on as well.
Pro Tools has many features and expects you to know how to use them. It is designed to meet the needs of a high level of production. Though it offers many features, it does not do as much intuitive work for you. However, because Pro Tools has been the industry standard for decades, there are plenty of tutorials and helpful blogs to guide you through the process. Though it may take you some time to develop an understanding of the production process, if you are willing to invest your time on the front end, the functionality will repay you in the long run.
If you want to start using Pro Tools, you need to pay a monthly subscription or purchase a perpetual license that will be stored on an iLok Key. You can download Pro Tools onto multiple computers but are only able to use the software with the computer where your iLok key is plugged in and active.
Do you like customizability? Do you have a particular workflow but are struggling to find podcast software that will suit your needs? Reaper is a great option for anyone saying “yes” to those questions! Reaper allows the user to customize the layout and many of the functionalities to the producer’s likings. Maybe you had access to Pro Tools before, but aren’t able to continue paying the subscription fee. Reaper is an incredibly affordable option that will let you customize it to feel as similar to your Pro Tools workflow as possible.
Reaper is affordable and adaptable, which makes it beloved by many. On top of this, Reaper’s developers are constantly updating the software to enhance its functionality. It has all the features you need for a great recording and editing software.
One of the major pros of Reaper is its flexibility. It’s a super-powerful program. However, it’s complexity can be a con for some people who want a streamlined program. You may be looking for a program that is already set up, extremely intuitive and easy to navigate. Maybe you want something that works well out of the box and don’t have time to meddle with the layout until you finally find what works best for you. For people new to the production who are using Reaper, you not only have to learn workflow but have to create one. This may sound overwhelming to you, or maybe it sounds like the perfect challenge and fit for your workstyle! It all depends on your preference.
If you want to start using Reaper for your podcast production, again, it is incredibly affordable! You only have to pay the license price once and the program is yours forever. You may be wondering “What about all those updates you mentioned?” Good news: Those are free!
Are you video streaming or recording your podcasts? If so, you might be using Adobe Premiere as your video editing software and you might already have the Creative Cloud bundle that includes Audition! Maybe you are unfamiliar with this program or aren’t quite sure if it is a high-functioning software. Well, Adobe Audition is quickly becoming a more popular software used by both hobbyists and professionals. If you are familiar with other Adobe products, the workflow and canvas will feel very familiar. It is a great DAW in general, and has some wonderful features for podcast editing and production.
Audition comes with tools that can help reduce background noise and that can help balance the levels of your recordings. Audition may look different from most other DAW layouts, but users of Audition boast of how quick they pick it up and how it is a very intuitive program.
Audition has a subscription-based license. It can be purchased singularly or in a bundle with other production apps you may use. On its own, the subscription can become expensive over time, but you do have the flexibility to stop paying for the license when you don’t need it. You can also pay in yearly increments to reduce the cost. If you need any other applications for video editing, animation, and graphic design, you may find more value in an Adobe bundle that includes Audition instead of other options mentioned in the blog.
As stated above, Hindenburg Journalist (HJ) was created with podcasters in mind. There are many great features tailored to helping both podcast creators and new, less experienced producers. Some of these are the auto mix feature and the clipboard that helps keep many files and clips organized. Another great quality of Hindenburg Journalist is its ability to record directly from multiple audio interfaces.
That being said, HJ is not a recording software just for newbies. It is still a great and professional program that many engineers can take advantage of. Many seasoned producers love the intuitiveness and organization that HJ offers. You may also love that HJ has options for one-click posting to Libsyn and Soundcloud. For those wanting to collaborate, you are in luck here as well since HJ is cross-compatible with Pro Tools.
If you have used other recording software before and really value your current workflow, you may not be a fan of the auto features or the different layout and production process in HJ. Also, if you really want to have a high production value to your work, even with the auto features of HJ, there will still be some user input required.
If these features sound great for you, getting HJ won’t cost you that much! With a one-time license purchase, you will be on your way to uploading your files to HJ, letting it mix for you, keeping your interviews and music neatly organized in the clipboard, and one-click posting your episode for your listeners.
These five DAWs are all great options for podcast production. In general, they all have the features you need to record, edit, and export all the tracks, and all of the inputs you could ever need. They all have their pros and cons, but any of these DAWs would be a great tool for you and your podcast. When you decide to make that purchase, don’t forget to look into education discounts if that applies!
As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team of audio experts if you have any questions about recording, mixing, or editing your podcast. And if you’re looking for a partner to help lighten your load and work with you in the post-production process reach out to our team to learn more about our podcast production services aimed at making podcasting easy.
Resonate Recordings is a comprehensive podcast production company. Headquartered in Derby City–Louisville, Kentucky–we are committed to developing partnerships with our clients, not just performing transactions. Since 2014 it’s been our mission to make podcasting easy for businesses, brands, entrepreneurs, and individuals. We do this by providing support with podcast launch, podcast consulting, podcast editing, podcast production, and other creative podcasting services. If you have questions or are looking to start a podcast, our in-house team is available and ready to help! We would love to schedule a call with you and learn more about your podcast needs and answer any questions you may have. We look forward to hearing from you soon!
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By: Jacob Bozarth
As President & CEO of Resonate Recordings, Jacob leads the team & oversees the vision and growth. Jacob can be found recording, producing, & mixing podcasts when he is not spending time with his family. Jacob & his family live in Louisville, KY.
By: Austin Oglesby
Austin grew up always being around music and productions. As an Audio Editor, Austin works on our Premium audio service ensuring that podcasters like you get a professional, tuned-up sound every single time! He enjoys the work he does as well as exploring the food scene of Louisville and spending time with his wife and son.