Best Free and Paid Software for Recording and Editing Your Podcast
Updated August 25, 2020 | Jacob Bozarth
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 the best 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:
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.
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.
If you are simply looking for an easy way to record high-quality podcasts, our free online voice recorder is the way to go. With our online voice recorder, you can simply plug in your microphone and record in the browser using your computer or smartphone. You are able to record a high-quality WAV file and download the individual track once you are done. Check out the Resonate Recorder to get started.
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.
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.
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!
Auphonic is an automated audio production platform that does some very basic mixing to single or multi-track recordings. They will balance the level of your dialogue track and any music tracks, do loudness normalization to get your audio to broadcast standards, do some basic audio restoration like reducing background noise and even offer an automated gate/ducking effect for editing multiple tracks. You can download the software for free and use it to process 2hrs of free audio each month. After that the price goes up to $11 for 9hrs of audio, which would be more than enough for most podcasters.
The Levelator is a powerful free automated post-production tool that works on both Mac and Windows. It includes a normalizer, limiter, and compressor but claims to work nearly “magically” to improve the quality of your audio. Much like Auphonic, this service lets you simply drag-and-drop a file in, wait a few minutes, and access the improved audio.
Our friends at Buzzsprout recently launched “Magic Mastering,” their trademarked “instagram filter for your audio.” This simple automated audio software is only available as a part of their paid hosting accounts, costing from $6-12/month. Their website doesn’t share many of the details, but this service effectively just does some simple normalization to your audio to ensure it sounds good for publishing.
Alitu is a more robust automated audio editing software. It has a built-in recorder, tools for moving around different segments of your podcast (eg intro, ad spot, outro), and also offers the audio normalization and improvements that all of these other services boast as well. Alitu has also built out integrations with other podcast hosting platforms in order to make publishing your episode faster, much like we do at Resonate.
LANDR is an automated audio mastering service most commonly used in music production.
While they specifically market themselves to musicians and music producers, nothing is stopping you from uploading your podcast recording for their algorithm to master.
So let’s take a deeper look into what exactly this AI service can and cannot accomplish, specifically compared to what we provide at Resonate Recordings.
The intensity options are basically just loudness options. Most people with untrained ears will just pick whichever option sounds loudest thinking it’s better. Louder audio will always sound better to our ears because of something called the Fletcher Munson curve. Basically we hear more bass and treble the louder things get, making them sound “better” when really they are just louder. I personally found the medium option to be fine except the section of audio they provided as the sample playback only featured 1 of the 2 speakers on this podcast, so I had no idea how the processing sounded on the other speaker. On top of that, the other speaker who wasn’t featured in the sample was not recorded well and was much quieter than the other. If I had recorded this podcast, equalizing the volumes between speakers would have been the number 1 reason I had chosen to send my recording out for mastering.
Let’s pause here for a second. This is a common problem we see every day with our client’s audio. As I said in the first post in this series, podcasters are not recording engineers, nor should they expected to be. They are content creators, producers, communicators, storytellers. This is why post-production is important. You want your audience to hear every word of every episode. You don’t want them thinking about audio quality and constantly changing the volume while trying to focus on content.
This is the whole point of uploading to LANDR isn’t it? You want your audio Mastered. Well, when I got the master back the speaker who was recorded poorly was still much quieter than the other. The recording overall was definitely louder and more smiler to other podcasts you might listen to on Spotify or Apple Podcasts, but I still needed to “mix” the audio as I listened to it, meaning I had to turn the volume up and down whenever the speakers changed. I don’t know about you but if I’m going to submit my podcast for post-production I’d want it to come back at least listenable.
This is pretty much where the road ends for LANDR in the podcast world. They are able to distribute your file to a streaming service, but the only relevant one in the podcast space is Spotify. This is different than a hosting platform that can distribute your content to all available streaming platforms. If you are a Resonate client you have access to our web app where you can send and receive files, comment to approve final mixes, and post to your hosting platform with 1 click!
While LANDR might be making waves in the indie music world, there is still a ton of room to grow in the post-production space. Again, post-production for podcasting is about so much more than just being loud enough to be heard. Take a look at our Services page to learn about all the different ways we can take your podcast to the finish line after you stop recording, or even before you buy your equipment.
Descript is a powerful tool that makes editing podcast audio as easy as deleting some text in a word document. They offer a powerful set of tools for remote recording, transcribing, editing (both audio and video), and overdubbing (creating a digital synthesis of your own voice) audio.
Descript is very helpful for editing the content and length of your podcast. Say, for instance, you record an episode for your podcast that ends up being an hour in length, but you like to keep your podcasts around 30-35 minutes. Descript allows you to easily delete content that is unnecessary or irrelevant for that episode in order to keep the most essential parts of your recording and meet the desired length of your podcast.
Additionally, if your podcast fits a narrative storytelling style that often incorporates multiple recordings, it easily allows you to export clips from each recording that can more easily be compiled into a master file.
Perhaps one of the best features of Descript is it provides you with a transcription. When you subscribe to the producer package, you’re allowed unlimited transcriptions for your projects. That seems like a fraction of the price, compared to what you would pay for an actual transcription service.
Descript offers excellent transparency about how they store, manage, and use your data and privacy. They offer a comprehensive look at how your data is used on their marketing website, but it’s done in a way that boosts understanding, rather than tucking it all away in a user-agreement document in fine print. They are constantly releasing new features, improvements, and educational documents to improve the customer experience.
Watch their tutorial video on how to use Descript to create a podcast to learn more.
Sonarworks Reference 4 is a headphone and speaker calibration software that gives us the best perspective possible when producing your content. In a few words, Sonarworks provides frequency calibration profiles for thousands of different headphones, giving each engineer at Resonate a profile that matches their specific pair of headphones. So what does that mean… Remember that “engineered frequency curve” we talked about earlier that was supposed to make everything sound better? In mixing and mastering, we don’t want that influencing our creative decisions. Why? Because it isn’t relatable to people who won’t listen on those same headphones.
Think of it this way. If your phone screen was naturally more yellow than everyone else’s, and you were editing a photo on Instagram, you would most likely pick a filter that takes some of that yellow out of the photo. But there wasn’t yellow in the photo, it was just on your screen and no one else’s. So now your photo doesn’t have enough yellow in it and looks weird and you lose all of your followers and friends (just kidding).
Now imagine it’s your camera that doesn’t have enough yellow. Every
picture you take lacks yellow, and you love taking selfies and yellow just happens to be a really flattering hue on you. That’s how it is when you record with a microphone that doesn’t pair well with your voice. Microphones are just like speakers or headphones (almost identical in components actually) and have a specific frequency curve to them.
When you record with a mic that sounds bad with your voice, with headphones that accent unflattering parts of your voice you may feel like you aren’t cut out for podcasting, or you don’t have a voiceover ready for Hollywood. But with the help of Sonarworks Reference 4, we are able to get a clear, unbiased perspective of where your project stands, giving us insight into where we need to take it to succeed and translate across all kinds of audio systems.
Next thing you know, someone will be saying…” Your podcast sounds AMAZING!” on whatever system they listen on.
So far most of the software we have recommended in this blog has been for DIY podcasters and teams, or for outsourcing to an automated system for production. Resonate Recordings combines software with human experience and expertise for scaleable comprehensive podcast production services.
Using Resonate, you upload the content for your podcast, drop instructions for our team, and wait for us to send it back in the app. From there you can distribute your podcast with one-click using our podcast hosting, or download your podcast to host elsewhere. Learn more about what partnering with a production company would look like today by chatting with our team on this page or scheduling a call!
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.
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.