Audio editing software gives you the digital tools to record, edit, and produce audio files. Audio editing software is sometimes referred to as a DAW, or digital audio workstation. Podcasters, DJs, video editors, TikTokers, and other media producers often use this type of software to edit audio.
The process of editing audio files can be time-consuming and tedious, and the best audio editing software programs make it easier for you. There are free options and paid ones, which may influence your choice. The best audio editing software features a user-friendly editing interface, extensive editing tools, effects, and add-ons.
Best Audio Editing Software of 2021
Best Overall : Audacity
We picked Audacity for best overall because it comes loaded with professional-level editing options and is available for free.
Easy-to-use multi-track editing
Works on all popular desktop operating systems
Free to download and use
The visual interface isn’t as polished as some paid competitors
Some features may be challenging for beginners
Audacity is our pick for best overall audio editing software because it is a full-featured software with multi-track editing features and cross-platform support for Windows, macOS, and Linux. It’s great for a variety of audio editing projects, including podcasts.
Best of all, it’s completely free. That makes it great for beginners and at-home users. But don’t let the price tag fool you. It works very well for professional needs, particularly if you customize your interface with plugins suited to your specific projects.
Audacity is developed as open-source software. Any volunteer developers can contribute to the Audacity project. That means you may not get quite as much visual polish as with paid software, but all essential tools work very well. You can also download plugins to add more features, effects, import and export options, and other goodies.
Best Free : GarageBand
We like GarageBand because it is beginner-friendly and free for Mac users. If you own a Mac, it may already be installed and ready to go.
Easy-to-use audio editor
Free for use on Mac computers
Good for vocal and instrument recordings
May not be suitable for professional-level needs
No Windows version available
GarageBand is a free audio editing program for macOS laptop and desktop computers. It is the best free audio editor because, among free editors, it is one of the best-looking choices, comes with a solid list of effects and instruments for creating new music, and integrates deeply with the Mac ecosystem, which makes sense because it’s made by Apple. It may be preinstalled on your Mac computer, or you can get it for free from the Apple App Store.
GarageBand includes features to record, edit, and create music and other audio. Podcasters may find it to be an easy option to start recording right away. At the same time, musicians can build more complex, multi-layer audio projects with plenty of useful effects and instrument generators.
It should handle many professional projects, but some pros may find the features a bit light. If you have a Mac, it’s worth starting with GarageBand first to see if it works for your project before shelling out money for a paid audio editor.
Best for Live Music : Adobe Audition
Adobe Audition is a powerful audio editor for Windows and Mac that’s great for improving audio quality, mixing, and mastering.
Powerful tools for noise reduction and mixing
Professional-quality editing and effects
Well-supported if you need help
Subscription required after free trial
Harder to use for beginner audio editors
Adobe Audition is a professional-grade audio editing software from a well-known name in media production. Available on its own or as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, Audition is regularly used by professionals in the radio, television, and movie industries. It is our pick as best for live music because it does an excellent job recording multiple channels simultaneously from multiple inputs with excellent post-recording production tools.
While it’s not cheap, it includes tools to reduce background noise, mix and master recordings, and add effects to make your sound pop. It’s good for a wide range of uses, including live music recordings, where the noise reduction and mastering tools come in extremely handy.
You can try Audition for free for one month before paying for a subscription. Standard pricing is $20.99 per month on its own or $52.99 per month when bundled with other Adobe Creative Cloud apps. Students and teachers can get Creative Cloud for $19.99 per month.
Best for Podcasts : Hindenburg Journalist Pro
- Price: $375 or subscription
- Experience Level: Intermediate to Expert
- System Compatibility: Windows, Mac
We picked Hindenburg Journalist Pro because it includes tools to improve vocal audio and interviews for radio and podcasting.
Custom-built tools for vocal audio editing
Auto-leveling and fixing options
Multi-track editing and normalization
More expensive than some competing programs
Not ideal for music editing and production
Hindenburg Journalist Pro wins as best for podcasts because it includes tools to quickly cut and re-arrange recordings into a narrative format. If you want to create journalistic shows like those from NPR, Gimlet, and Serial, you should know about Hindenburg Journalist Pro. This app has too many features to list everything here, but it is made just for this type of show, with advanced tools to normalize and clean up spoken word interviews, multi-track editing, chapters, and more. That makes it perfect for any podcaster or audio journalist.
Some standout features include the automatic leveling and “Magic Levels” tools that auto-fix mixing problems and balance your audio for a great listening experience. In addition, you can record multiple tracks at once or import and merge files at will.
You can buy Hindenburg Journalist Pro for a one-time $375 payment or one of three subscription plans. If you are on a budget, consider the lower-cost (and lower-featured) Hindenburg Journalist app for $95. You can try it free for one month before committing.
Best for Music Production : Ableton Live
Ableton Live is a good choice for DJs, electronic dance music (EDM) producers, bands, singers, and songwriters who want to record or create music with a plethora of editing tools and effects.
Record live or create your own music
Dozens of sounds, effects, and instruments
Optimized to work with multiple tracks at once
High cost for Standard and Suite versions
Ableton Live is a standard for music creators and producers. We picked it as best for music production because it includes customized tools for creating new instrument sounds and loops and it works for live performance recording and studio creations. Whether you’re a singer-songwriter looking for a warm-sounding finish or a DJ looking to create a thumper to blow away the dance floor, Ableton’s audio production tools have your needs covered.
The Standard version supports up to 256 input and output channels, MIDI production and editing, and other advanced features. Depending on the version you choose, you can tap into up to 5,000+ sounds, 17 software instruments, 59 audio effects, and 15 MIDI effects. That’s a lot of power to alter, edit, and refine your music project.
The biggest downside is cost. The lightweight Intro version costs $99, the Standard version costs $449, and the Suite version costs $749. However, if you’re a professional, that’s a small price to pay for a top-level suite of pro audio editing features.
Best for Professionals : Pro Tools
We chose Pro Tools because it features leading technologies to create, edit, produce, mix, master, and deliver professional-quality music recordings.
Professional audio production software suite
Integrated hardware options
Robust editing and mastering features
Subscription pricing required
Lower-end versions may not have what you need
Pro Tools is a longtime leader in audio production for serious pros. We chose it as best for professionals because it includes extensive editing and production tools to help you create, edit, produce, mix, master, and export high-quality audio suitable for a Hollywood movie or professional studio album.
Beginner and intermediate users may enjoy trying the free version, but there’s little surprise that the best Pro Tools has to offer comes from the highest-end Pro Tools Ultimate version. That comes with the highest limits, most functions, and native integrations with Pro Tools hardware.
The Pro Tools First version is available for free, the regular Pro Tools version costs $29.99 per month, and Pro Tools Ultimate costs $79.99 per month.
Best for Apple Devices : Logic Pro X
We picked Logic Pro X because it delivers one of the highest-quality audio editing experiences for Mac, with powerful editing tools and seamless macOS integration.
High-quality audio editing designed exclusively for Mac
Straightforward editing and composition experience
Massive library of plug-ins, effects, and sounds
No Windows version available
Relatively high price tag
For die-hard Mac users, Logic Pro X may be the best audio editor available. This DAW includes powerful features and is extendable to support a huge list of plug-ins, effects, and sounds. Whether you’re a DJ working on a remix or want to create a high-quality recording from scratch, Logic Pro X has the tools you need.
The low-latency app allows you to edit audio on the fly. Once installed, you have access to dozens of plug-ins, including 70 effects and 24 instruments. It also includes more than 10,000 premade loops, drum kits, and sampler instruments. There is so much in Logic Pro X that it’s unlikely one person would use everything, but just about any audio editing and mixing need is covered.
Logic Pro X costs $199.99 from the Apple App Store. You can download and try it with a 90-day free trial before paying.
Best for Android Devices : AudioLab
We like AudioLab as best for Android because it includes high-end tools to trim and mix audio for your Android smartphone or tablet.
Tools to edit, mix, merge, and compress audio from your phone
Many features are free to use
Paid upgrade required for more than the most basic features
Only basic audio editing features
If you want to cut or mix audio away from home quickly, the freemium AudioLab app for Android is a solid option. We picked it as best for Android devices because it enables you to trim, mix, merge, tag, convert, normalize, change speed, remove silence, and use many other features without paying.
It’s not nearly as powerful as many of the desktop apps discussed above, but it’s pretty good for a smartphone-based editor. You likely won’t want to use this for professional use, but it’s great for things like ringtones, social media, and basic edits.
You can download AudioLab and start for free. The Pro upgrade uses a “pay what you want” pricing model where you can pay $1.49 to $14.99. The two most important features unlocked are an equalizer and multichannel editing. AudioLab is also available at no extra charge as part of the Google Play Pass subscription.
Thanks to advanced audio editing features and an unbeatable price (free), Audacity is our top choice overall. It’s great for a wide range of use cases, including podcast editing, music mixing, and more. It isn’t the most advanced software out there, but it’s free and, after you get up the learning curve, you could find it does a very good job at meeting your digital audio workstation needs.
If you have more basic needs or need a full professional suite, there are plenty of good options available at any price level. But for our money, Audacity is a good place to start.
Compare the Best Audio Editing Software
|Software||Price||Experience Level||System Compatibility||Good For|
|Free||Intermediate to Expert||Windows, Mac, Linus||Podcast editing, music editing|
|Free||Beginner to Intermediate||Mac||Podcast editing, music production, music editing|
Best for Live Music
|$20.99 per month||Intermediate to Expert||Windows, Mac||Live music, studio recording, radio, podcast editing|
|Hindenburg Journalist Pro
Best for Podcasts
|$375||Intermediate to Expert||Windows, Mac||Podcasting, vocal audio|
Best for Music Production
|$99 to $749||Expert||Windows, Mac||Music production, music editing, electronic dance music|
Best for Professionals
|$29.99 to $79.99 per month||Expert||Windows, Mac||Music production, music editing, audio editing for video|
|Logic Pro X
Best for Apple Devices
|$199.99||Intermediate to Expert||Mac||Music production, music editing, podcast editing|
Best for Android Devices
|Free, $1.49||Beginner||Android||Basic audio file editing|
How to Choose the Best Audio Editing Software
When shopping for audio editing software, it’s important to consider the type of audio you’re going to record or edit and what you’re going to do with it. Live band and studio recordings are very different from electronic dance music production, which is also different from recording and editing podcasts. Budget is also an important factor for professional-level software.
- Recording options: Can you record from external devices and can you record with separate channels?
- Number of channels supported: Podcasts may only need three or four tracks, while bands and singing groups may need a dozen or more.
- Editing features: Depending on what you’re working on, you may need to normalize, add effects, or just make basic trims and mixes.
- Plug-ins and add-ons: Some audio editing software is expandable with additional features, sounds, and more through plug-ins and add-ons. Some are free, and some cost extra.
- Price: You don’t have to spend a ton of money on audio editing software, but professionals may need to spend hundreds of dollars for top-level tools.
- Operating system: Make sure your favorite software works on your computer or mobile device.
- Export options: When you’re ready to export the final product, it’s important to have options for extremely high quality for a feature film or album or highly compressed mp3 for a podcast.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Does Audio Editing Software Cost?
Audio editing software is available for a range of costs. Some top options are available for free, while others cost hundreds of dollars. Examples of free audio editing software include Audacity, available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, as well as Mac-only GarageBand. Premium options come from companies including Apple, Adobe, and Avid Audio and typically cost from around $100 to $800. Some offer subscriptions instead of a single payment option. You could spend much more after including custom hardware, add-ons, and effect or sound packages. Professionals may spend well over $1,000 for an audio editing suite.
Are There Any Audio Editing Software Programs That Are Functional Without Internet Access?
Most digital audio workstation software is downloaded to your desktop and works with or without a live internet connection. You may need internet access to purchase and download the program initially but can then work without the web. Some software may require internet access to download additional sound effects or add-ons, but those may be downloaded in advance and may not be critical for all projects.
Should You Have Audio Production Hardware Before Investing in Software?
In most cases, you can produce professional-quality audio files from your existing Windows or Mac computer. Specific audio production hardware is only required for expert, professional audio needs. For example, using software like Ableton Live, many popular electronic music producers use their laptops to create music without the need of studio equipment. Additional hardware is useful for plugging in external instruments, keyboards, and production equipment. However, that is not necessary when starting out in many situations.
Is There Specific Audio Editing Software for Podcast Production?
Any audio production software should be able to export an mp3 file suitable for podcasting. Some software includes customized features for podcast editing. For example, Hindenburg Journalist Pro includes features to remove pauses and rearrange a recording with chapter markers. Vocal-specific tools may normalize audio volumes and auto-level multiple voices for a high-quality post-production result. If you don’t have podcast-specific software, however, your current software may include tools for vocal audio that are useful in editing podcasts.
Is Audio Editing Software Good for Beginners?
Some audio editing software is good for beginners, with others requiring more advanced knowledge. While many features are common between audio editing apps, not all are beginner-friendly. GarageBand is a good option for beginners because it is free and has an interface that’s easier to navigate than more powerful tools with additional features and options. Audacity is also popular with beginners due to the price. While it’s not quite as intuitive to navigate, there is a robust community with strong support that gives you extensive resources to self-teach.
To choose the best audio editing software, we looked at features available for beginner to expert needs, including basic audio edits, podcasting, live recording, and music production. Major factors reviewed include editing features, production features, supported file types, supported operating systems, pricing, and available plug-ins. We reviewed more than 10 different audio editing software programs to choose the best software included in this list.