There is a suite of options when it comes to audio editing software in 2021. Many of the programs on the market offer both destructive and non-destructive solutions (the latter usually referring to audio engineering programs or DAWs).
If you need the bare minimum of basic editing, then you might want to look at some of the free options. This also rings true if you are just starting out as a musician or if it’s just you and your guitar in the living room giving things a try for a first time.
But it also doesn’t hurt to dive right and start using what the professionals use for audio editing because tools are getting more intuitive, tutorials are getting more abundant, and nothing is cooler than showing of your skills to your friends or that significant other.
Here are Audio Assemble’s choices for the best audio editing software, this year.
If you’re a beginner and you’ve landed on this article then chances are Garageband is one of the best options for you. It’s the one of the easiest applications to start performing tasks right away. It gives you the best chance of figuring out audio editing without doing to much googling from the get-go – even though you will definitely have to watch a few tutorials to accomplish some of the more complicated tasks.
Recording multiple tracks and overlapping them, choosing out of the box effects, and recording to a timed metronome are things that you can start doing right away, and get great sound from doing so.
Built in Plugins
Garage band has a solid sound library with built in instruments and a small but sufficient arsenal of audio effects. There are also a plethora of free plugins you can find online with a few simple Google searches.
Garageband has always been free and that is because Steve Jobs wanted to “democratize music-making.”
Adobe audition was acquired by Adobe back in 2003 and ever since then it has been one of the go to pieces of tooling for podcasting. So if you’re need of some advanced podcasting tools, and aren’t looking to get heavy into music production, then this might be the best option for you (Although it still does pretty well for music creation as well). Where audacity really shines is in the process of building a podcast episode. Manipulating a track – especially when it comes to multiple files – is much easier including tasks like stretching, overlapping, and splitting (to name a few).
Being that it is an Adobe product means that it also integrates pretty nicely with Adobe Premiere Pro, which is the company’s timeline based video editing software. This is also nice as many podcasters have a need to integrate video with their audio at some level.
Built in Plugins
Adobe Audition isn’t known for its free plugins, and it doesn’t have the plethora of options that the other contenders on this list have, although there are some good paid, third party options.
If you already have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, then you can start downloading it right away without any additional cost.
$20.99 a month for the singular App
$52.99 a month for all adobe apps
Mac 10.11.1 or higher
Microsoft Windows 7 or higher
Ableton Live 11
Ableton Live has a great reputation, and they are known for making quality enhancements with each iteration rather than complete overhauls which means you won’t have to make insane adjustments every time a new version hits the market.
It comes equipped with a vast array of different collections of sounds, kits, and other virtual instruments to get you up and off the ground running as a music producer
Ableton has a few great built-in instruments, which are much easier going on your computer than some of the third-party instruments out there. A few ones that stand out are operator, sampler, and simpler.
You can try Ableton Live for free for 90 days. They offer three different versions of the software. The simplicity of the billing structure is nice for those looking for a one-time payment. Upgrade prices are usually lower than if you were to buy the new versions outright as well. So it pays to be an Ableton Life longer.
Ableton Live 11 Intro
Ableton Live 11 Standard
Ableton Live 11 Suite
Mac X 10.13 or later
Avid Pro Tools
Pro Tools is the standard that all other DAWs set some sort of benchmark against. Not every number #1 hit has been recorded on Pro Tools, but chances are if you are working in the music industry and are seeing a lot of different recording studios, many of them are going to be working on projects that touch Pro Tools in some sort of way . If you’re doing the bare minimum of basic music editing, it offers a free version called Pro Tools First to get you started.
Pro Tools is constantly innovating. Since their ecosystem is so large, they aren’t always the first ones to come up with the newest features, like converting audio to midi for example, but when they do implement a feature, they do it in a very grandiose manner. On top of converting audio to MIDI, some of the newest features in Pro Tools include dark theme, ableton link, folder tracks, and space clips.
Pro Tools comes bundled with industry leading plugins and other special purpose software components that provide additional functionality. These include, but are not limited to dynamics and EQ, effects, filters, and emulators, reverb and delay, stompbox effects, and virtual instruments.
They also some of the best plugins available for purchase on the market like the Auto-Tune Pro plugin and altogether have over 115 plugins available to choose from.
Pro tools offers three different price tiers, and one can compare these different options right on their site:
Pro Tools | First – Get started with this absolutely free edition.
Pro Tools | Standard – All of the essentials for native music and post production
Pro Tools | Ultimate – All the bells and whistles that give you that audio editing edge.
Pro tools in compatible with both Mac and Windows systems however the newest versions usually get released on Mac first, with a follow up release on Windows.
Formerly known as “Fruity Loops”, the DAW FL Studio has a solid reputation of being one of the best beat makers on the market. It’s geared towards rap music and electronic dance music as opposed to being the audio editor of choice for the singer/songwriter that is looking to record live instruments through a microphone. It has contributed to the creation of many modern day classics. For example, Post Malone famously recorded the monster track “White Iverson” on the software, and has always kept it in his repertoire.
Many audio engineers use FL Studio as a stepping stone to other professional DAWs because of it’s ease of use, “out-of-the-box-ability” to create beats, and price point – however it is 100% capable of being the sole tool of choice on a professional grade sounding modern day album. One of the most liked features of the audio editing software is how it works in “patterns” which allow users to build tracks ina block-like manner.
Built in Plugins
FL studio is known for having the best built in plugins (what they call generators) and it one of the reasons that audio engineers often choose this DAW over other ones. Three popular synths to get you started are 3x Osc, Sytrus, and Harmless.
FL studio has four different price points. It’s important to know that purchasers have lifetime updates for free (another feature that makes the software very popular indeed):
Fruity – $99
Producer – $199
Signature – $299
All Plugins edition – $499
Apple Logic Pro
Apple Logic Pro continues to make large strides since its acquisition in the early 2000’s. For many, the $200 price tag, combined with the advanced capabilities makes it an easy no brainer for Mac users. You are now able to run up to 1,000 stereo audio, instrument, and auxiliary tracks.
There are ton of audio editing features that you can start to take for granted but that really bring the platform to that next level of professionalism. For example, rather than storing fades as separate audio files, you can generate them in real time as well as apply them to multiple regions simultaneously. This is just but one example of the awesome features of Apple Logic Pro.
Built in Plugins
Apple is constantly tweaking things under the hood with their base software. This is true with their plugins as well. For example they recently redesigned their most popular plugin – Sampler – and gave it a new single window design, making it much easier to edit and create sampler instruments.
They’re re-created instruments bring life to vintage instruments, modern synths, and other multisampled instruments. They have a wide array of effects including professional DJ style effects, and over 70GB of content in the form of samples.
Apple continues to make improvements on their software so that it can run more seamlessness on older hardware.
iOS 13.1 or later. Compatible with iPhone,* iPad, and iPod touch.