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Best Overall: Audacity at Fosshub
"It’s free and open-source software for Windows, Mac, and Linux simply gets the job done."
Best for Pros: Adobe Audition Creative Cloud at Amazon
"Stands out in large part due to powerful audio restoration functions."
Runner-Up, Best for Pros: Avid Pro Tools at Amazon
"Includes all the tools you could need for recording, editing, mixing, composing, and more."
Best Free for Macs: GarageBand at Apple
"t's been free for the Mac operating system and iOS for many years."
Best Free for Windows: Sony ACID Xpress at Uptodown
"ACID Xpress makes it simple and easy for even beginning podcasters to record audio clips."
Best for Quick Publishing: Alitu at Alitu
"Automates the technical processes for you, whipping up a professional-sounding podcast episode in few clicks."
Best for Storytelling: Hindenburg Journalist at Hindenburg
"Recording on Hindenburg gives you uncompressed audio for maximum spoken-word quality."
Courtesy of Audacity
Audacity is a popular go-to tool for beginning and advanced podcasters alike, a big reason being that it comes at a price that literally can’t be beaten. It’s free and open-source software for Windows, Mac, and Linux simply gets the job done. Just click the big record button to start recording from your USB microphone or other input, or drag in the existing audio file you want to work with. You may be surprised at the range of useful audio processing tools at your disposal, from noise reduction to saving and applying equalizer settings.
Audacity is a powerful audio editor, letting you trim and delete clips, add fades, splice sounds together, and more. Edits done in the program are destructive, though, so it doesn’t give you the same level of control as full-featured, non-destructive, non-linear digital audio workstations (DAWs). You also won’t get much in the way of music production features like MIDI tools or virtual instrument tracks, so more complex music needs are better handled in a separate program.
Another knock on Audacity is that the interface may look intimidating to new users, and there’s indeed a bit of a learning curve involved. But there are plenty of support materials like manuals and tutorials available online, so once you’ve learned to do what you need to do, there’s little in the way of achieving nearly any podcast goal.
If you’re ready to invest in expert-level podcast production software, Adobe Audition is a relatively easy-to-use way to get professional-quality results. It’s ideal for those already subscribed to other apps in the Adobe Creative Cloud suite that it can integrate seamlessly with, but Audition is also available separately.
Audition stands out in large part due to powerful audio restoration functions. It’s stellar at removing unwanted background noise and stray sounds like clicks and bumps. There might be far more features than you’ll ever need, but it comes with presets that help focuses on enhancing certain types of audio, like dialogue. You can even load up a template that sets up your tracks and settings in a way that’s relevant and optimized for podcasts.
With Audition’s Multitrack view, you can drag, drop, cut, and piece together tracks, great for putting voiceovers on top of background music or mixing in interviews and other recorded segments. You can record to multiple tracks at the same time, too, using separate microphones for different speakers. Audition also comes with thousands of music loops and sound effects, along with a Remix tool that can trim music down in an automated and intelligent way. With no music scoring tool or MIDI support, though, its strength is more on audio editing and sound quality than music creation.
To complete your setup, check out our guide to the best USB microphones and the best mic stands.
For many audio-industry professionals, Avid’s Pro Tools is a standard-setter. The DAW gives you a clean, uncluttered interface, while at the same time including all the tools you could need for recording, editing, mixing, composing, and more. It’s an extremely robust tool for streamlining workflow in everything from a serious home studio to a large commercial one. It will take some time to learn the system if you’re new to it, but its widespread use means it won’t be hard to collaborate with audio pros of all kinds on your projects.
Podcasters will find a rich array of editing and mixing tools with the capability for quick, real-time adjustments. Musicians can take advantage of the built-in virtual instruments, MIDI editor, and score editor. The base Pro Tools software offers up to 128 tracks of non-destructive editing, while a free Pro Tools First version is capped at 16 tracks. Pro Tools First also limits you to three projects at a time, saved on Avid’s servers on the cloud. A Pro Tools Ultimate version is available with even more tracks, an expanded feature set, and much more expensive monthly subscription costs.
Most Mac users will already be familiar with GarageBand since it’s been free for the Mac operating system and iOS for many years. But while GarageBand is known and loved for being an intuitive, accessible music creation tool, it can also serve very effectively for podcast recording. You can work from a simple podcast-oriented template, with tracks optimized for male or female voices, sound effects, and musical jingles. With an interface built for drag-and-drop music composition, it doesn’t get much easier than this to arrange and adjust your recorded elements while adding custom musical touches.
With GarageBand’s loop-based music focus, though, its audio-editing features are on the more basic side when compared even with free and cross-platform competitors. For Mac users finding GarageBand too simple for their needs, Apple’s Logic Pro X is a more full-featured paid DAW that’s still simple to use and comes at a reasonable price.
ACID Xpress is a loop-based multitrack audio editor that is more than capable of recording, mixing, and cleaning up podcasts. It's completely free and a limited version of the much more advanced ACID Music Studio. The differences with the Xpress product include a reduced number of free trial loops, a maximum of 10 total tracks, and the ability to record only one track at a time.
Even with those limitations and few audio processing options, ACID Xpress makes it simple and easy for even beginning podcasters to record audio clips, cut and arrange them as needed, and adjust panning and volume levels. The program’s music composition features, from in-line MIDI editing to pitch adjustment to tempo matching, are nice bonuses in case your needs happen to call for them at any point.
For recording music, see our reviews of the best music production software.
Courtesy of Alitu
Most tools for producing podcasts are full audio editors or DAWs that may have more features than you’ll ever use. Plus, you’ll need to have some idea of how exactly to get your recording sounding the way it should. Alitu is made for podcasters who don’t want to worry about any of that. The service (available as a free seven-day trial and then with a monthly or annual fee) automates the technical processes for you, whipping up a professional-sounding podcast episode in few clicks.
You start by uploading the recordings and other audio files for your episode, and if you have multiple channels or tracks from the same call as separate files, they can be linked together. You can also record right on Alitu. This works only from a single source, and it’s best to stick with short clips in case you run into browser issues.
If you think you’ll be set with your recording basically as it is, you can jump right to building your episode, where Alitu runs its automated processing to clean up your audio. Otherwise, you can go into the editor to make your own custom edits, whether it’s rearranging and trimming your segments or cutting out unwanted noises or silences. You can also adjust your intro and/or outro music, like how long it runs and how it transitions to your content. Then you can download your finished episode or have Alitu publish it directly to a linked hosting service.
Courtesy of Hindenburg Journalist
Podcasts are a popular and engaging medium for audio narratives and journalism, and Hindenburg’s tools put the story front and center. Their Journalist software is a DAW with strong audio processing features, but many run in the background—optimized voice profiles and audio levels, for example, are set automatically when you record or import audio. Recording on Hindenburg gives you uncompressed audio for maximum spoken-word quality, automatically equalized for consistent sound whether you’re interviewing people in a studio or over the phone or out in the field.
The low-maintenance audio processing frees you up to concentrate your own efforts on the content, which might otherwise be a messy process if you’re juggling material from a lot of different sources. With Hindenburg Journalist’s unique “clipboard” interface, you can easily see and organize all your interviews and sound bites, picking out the best ones to tell your story. You can cut, paste, and arrange clips in the non-destructive multi-track editor, and then publish it straight to your Libsyn or SoundCloud hosting account if you wish.
Our writers spent 2 hours researching the most popular podcast recording software on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 11 different software overall, screened options from 10 different brands and manufacturers, read over 27 user reviews (both positive and negative), and tested 2 of the software themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.