If you’re interested in my take on living in Australia when you’re not Australian, check out my old podcast, Lost Out Back. If you’re not, sit tight—I hope to have something a lot more relevant to this site for you to listen to soon!
They say the audio quality is far more important than the picture quality when it comes to producing watchable video for the Web. When all you’ve got is the audio, it’s even more important!
QuickTime Player is a great podcast recording tool, and it’s on every Mac. Another approach—and the one that I use—is to record conversations via the $30 Call Recorder for Skype by Ecamm Software.
Although GarageBand has become the bundled application for sound recording, we’ll also be investigating a number of smaller and more specialised pieces of software. If you ever need to record audio – be it for a podcast, interview, radio broadcast, or for any other reason – some of these apps may be particularly interesting! At $20 per month, or $240 per year, it isn’t cheap, but it is the best podcast recording and editing software in that price range. If sound quality is your main concern, Audition is well worth the investment.
No matter what your podcast is about, a little extra work to get the details right will go a long way. Here are a few quick tips that I’ve learned through hard experience. If you have any to add, leave a comment and I’ll post the best ones in an upcoming Tech Times!
1. Get a Nice Mic
There are crappy microphones, and there are really crappy microphones. If it came with your computer, or if you found it hanging in a blister pack at your local discount computer shop, it’s probably not suitable for producing a nice-sounding podcast.
Good podcasting microphones are directional, which is to say they capture sound from directly in front of them, and not the various hums and echoes in the rest of the room. A really good microphone can make your voice sound more pleasing than it does in real life!
Microphones are one of those technical areas that you can sink a whole day into researching (dynamic vs. condenser, directional vs. omnidirectional, USB powered vs. phantom powered), and still not be sure what to buy at the end of it. If you’re just getting started, however, Macworld’s recent review of 8 good quality USB microphones is a great place to start.
For best results, think about getting a pop filter for your mic. They’re relatively cheap, and can squash those popping Ps that can ruin an otherwise perfect podcast.
2. Pick a Good Space
It goes without saying that a quiet space is essential, but the room you choose to record in can make a big difference. Blank walls, big windows, large tabletops, and hardwood floors all create echoes that can completely ruin that “up close and personal” sound you’re going for.
A good directional microphone will block out a lot of the echoes, but anything you can do to get rid of them entirely will make a noticeable difference to the end product. You can fix a lot of things in editing, but an annoying echo isn’t one of them.
Thick carpets, drawn curtains, and soft furniture are all excellent echo absorbers. That’s why I prefer to record podcasts at home, rather than in the austere surroundings of your average office.
3. Record Separate Channels
If you plan to podcast alone you can skip this one, but for my money the best podcasts are conversations. If you will be speaking with your co-hosts (and guests!) over Skype, you may be tempted to use software like Pamela to record the call as a podcast.
The problem is that sound quality takes a big hit when your voice is transmitted over a Skype call, so podcasts produced this way tend to sound uneven, with one voice sounding a lot better than the others.
The ideal approach is to get each person participating in the podcast to record his or her own audio on his or her own computer, and then edit them together after the fact.
Audacity is an excellent, free program that anyone can use to produce a good-quality recording. Whoever edits the tracks together will need to invest in multi-track recording software, however. Amadeus Pro is a nice, affordable multi-track option on the Mac. The real pros use pricey software like Adobe Audition.
4. Stereo or Mono?
If you go to the trouble of recording each of your participants separately, you have the option of balancing the voices at different spots in the stereo field.
For example, you might pan one voice slightly to the left (so that it’s a little louder in the left ear than in the right ear), and the other slightly to the right. This can make the conversation easier to follow (if only subliminally), without requiring the listener to have both earbuds in to hear both voices.
The downside of stereo separation is that you have to publish your podcast as a stereo audio file, which makes for a significantly larger download. Consider your audience (and your hosting bill!) before you make the leap to stereo.
Good audio editing software (including all the titles mentioned above) will have a compressor feature—and not the kind of compression that makes files smaller.
In the audio world, compression is a filter that reduces the volume of the loud parts of your podcast so that they are closer to the volume of the quiet parts of your podcast. Compression is arguably the easiest way to make a recording sound more professional after it’s on your hard drive.
It’s worth doing some reading (or listening to a podcast or two) on compression to really understand how it works. If you use too much compression, you’ll crush the life out of your sound. If you use too little, your sound won’t have that professional touch.
Once you’ve compressed your audio, you need to normalize it. Normalization boosts the volume of your audio so that it uses the full volume range of which speakers are capable. If you forget to normalize, your listeners will need to crank up the volume to hear you properly!
Because compression followed by normalization first pushes the louds and softs of your podcast together and then stretches them back out again, you can lose some sound quality in the process. If your audio editing software supports it, convert your 16 bit audio to 24 bit before going through these steps. Although few listeners can hear those extra bits, they will save a lot of the detail that would be otherwise lost.
When you’re done fiddling with your audio, you should convert it back to 16 bit in preparation for output as a finished MP3.
7. Export to MP3
Although some podcasts offer fancier file formats, an MP3 version is mandatory, and is often all you need. We discussed the choice of mono or stereo output above, but there are a couple of other decisions to make when exporting to MP3.
The bitrate of an MP3 directly controls the quality of the sound. The higher the bitrate, the better it will sound, but the larger the resulting MP3 file will be. If your podcast is mostly voices, a bitrate as low as 96kbps (64kbps for mono) will sound pretty good. For a podcast where frequent music needs to sound really good, a bitrate as high as 192kbps (128kbps for mono) could be justified.
You can also choose constant bitrate or variable bitrate (CBR or VBR) compression. A variable bitrate can make complex portions of your show sound better without taking up a lot of extra space for the simpler parts. Constant bitrate compression can be more wasteful, but offers better compatibility with cheaper MP3 players. Unless achieving maximum quality with minimum file size is especially important to you, I recommend sticking with CBR.
8. Tag it!
This is a pet peeve of mine. Find some software for setting MP3 metadata (commonly known as ID3 tags), or just use iTunes. However you do it, make sure the following is embedded in your file:
- Track number: the episode number of your podcast.
- Title: the title of the episode.
- Album: the name of your podcast.
- Artist: your name, or your company name.
- Genre: set it to Podcast.
…and if you really want to look good, take the opportunity to add an image as the album artwork for the episode. Typically, this would be your podcast’s logo.
Do all that, and you should have a pretty solid podcast on your hands. Now you just have to publish it! In two weeks, I’ll be back with my podcast publishing tips.
In the meantime, leave a comment with your tips for producing a great sounding podcast!
Whether it’s creating videos, recording podcasts, digitizing music from musical instruments, or advanced sound production tasks, having a well rounded and robust audio recording/editing application at your disposal is pretty much essential. But there are numerous such sound recording programs out there, ranging from lightweight applications having essential editing functionalities, to professional grade audio production suites. And that kind of makes finding the one that suits your needs best, a bit cumbersome.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way, as that’s the confusion this article is intended to clear, discussing applications that are perfect for both basic and advanced usage scenarios. Stoked? Let’s strap in, as we take a granular look at the 10 best audio recording software.
Advanced Editors & Digital Audio Workstations
Undoubtedly one of the most popular and well known audio editing software out there, Audacity includes a truckload of impressive features, with robust audio recording functionality being one of them.
Best Podcast Recording Software For Mac
Audacity lets you record audio from a multitude of audio input sources, such as external and built-in microphones, and even streaming audio. And that’s just the start. It can be used to convert audio from sources such as tapes and records, to digital recordings in a multitude of formats. Audacity also lets you apply numerous filters and post processing effects (e.g. amplification, noise reduction, silence removal) to the audio files, and supports multi-track mixing with granular audio spectrum analysis. Other features include advanced editing functionality, vocal reduction, and support for numerous Virtual Studio Technology (VST) plug-ins. Audacity supports all popular audio formats, such as MP3, WAV, FLAC, and OGG.
In a nutshell, if you’re looking for the best audio recording and editing program that doesn’t cost a dime, go for Audacity with closed eyes. And the fact that it’s cross-platform and open-source, just makes things better.
Platform Availability: Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP; Mac OS X 10.5 and above; Linux.
Looking for a beastly audio recording and production suite, stuffed with every feature you could think of? Take MixCraft for a spin, as it just might be what you need.
Aside from being a professional grade audio recording application, MixCraft is also a powerful digital audio workstation, MIDI sequencer, and then some more. From built-in microphones to external devices like MIDI keyboards, MixCraft can record from a vast array of sources, and even record simultaneously from multiple devices. It includes digital simulations of a bag-load of musical instruments, ranging from classic synthesizers to electric guitars, and comes with huge collection of royalty free loops, sound effects etc. that you can use to create and mix your own music. Other features include Tempo matching (to sync current track’s tempo to that of a pre-recorded audio file), and support for numerous plug-ins and audio effects like distortion and reverb. From MP3 and WAV, to OGG and FLAC, MixCraft supports all audio formats for both input and output.
MixCraft is perfect if you’re a sound engineer/producer looking for something feature-laden for your mixing and production needs. However, it’s only available for the Windows platform, so that’s a bit of a bummer.
Platform Availability: Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP.
Price: Paid versions start from $89.95, 14 day trial available.
Sonar bills itself as the “most advanced music production environment” available. And given the truckload of features it comes loaded with, it’s hard to argue with that claim.
One of the most powerful Digital Audio Workstation applications out there, Sonar includes just about everything you’d expect from a software of this caliber. You can record audio from numerous sources, and also interface it with a diverse array of external devices such as mixers and MIDI keyboards. And that’s not all. Other features include support for unlimited MIDI and sound tracks, and quick A/B comparison. Then you have a huge collection of special effects (e.g. reverb, delay), and support for virtual instruments such as samplers, drum machines, and synthesizers. Applying and editing effects is as simple as drag-and-drop, and nearly all popular audio formats, such as WAV, ASF, WMA, and AIFF are supported.
All in all, Sonar is an extremely powerful audio mixing and production software, and its 64 bit sound mixing engine ensures maximum performance. So if that’s something you need, go for Sonar without a hitch. However, a downside to using/trying out Sonar is it’s clunky installation method, which requires you to download a “command center” application and then use your free account to install the Sonar version you want to try out.
Platform Availability: Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP.
Price: Paid versions start from $49, 30 day trial available.
For a lightweight application that’s also (comparatively) easy to use, Reaper sure as heck packs in a lot of punch, and then some more.
Want a fast and fully loaded digital audio recording and editing suite that’s super easy to use and offers powerhouse features for a fraction of a price? Reaper is all you need. Then there’s the fact that it’s cross-platform, and has the creator of the legendary Winamp behind it.
Platform Availability: Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP; Mac OS X 10.5 and up; Linux (via Wine).
Price: Paid versions start from $60, 60 day free trial available.
The digital audio recording and production applications discussed so far are no doubt incredibly powerful. However, they are all Windows specific, so if you’re using something like Linux, you’re out of luck.
Not really, as Muse is here to the rescue. A robust and feature heavy MIDI and audio sequencer built specifically for Linux, Muse comes with impressive audio recording and editing capabilities baked in it. It lets you record (and playback) from multiple internal and external audio sources, with both stereo/mono inputs and outputs, and includes real-time recording as well. Other than that, you can directly import/export MIDI files for quick editing using a variety of tools, such as piano roll, drum editor, and score editor. Muse is compatible with standard VST plug-ins (among others), and supports drag and drop arranging of audio tracks and plug-ins in projects. From MP3 and WAV, to WMA and OGG, Muse supports all formats for both audio import and export.
In a nutshell, if you’re looking forward for a free and capable audio recording software, with some very good editing and sequencing functionalities, specifically for Linux, it’s hard to go wrong with Muse.
Platform Availability: Linux.
Basic Audio Recorders And Editors
Looking for an audio editing application that packs in a healthy number of advanced features, while being amazingly comfortable to use? Do take Ocenaudio for a spin.
Being an exceptionally responsive and fast audio editing and recording software, Ocenaudio works surprisingly well. And its clean interface makes getting started a walk in the park. Whether it’s basic audio recording or a bit more advanced audio analysis, Ocenaudio excels. It features a wide array of effects, including a 31 band equalizer, flanger, chorus, multiple filters, and noise gate, all of which can be applied and previewed in real-time. There’s support for detailed audio spectrum analysis, and you can granularly select multiple portions of audio to preview and apply effects to them. Finally, in addition to its native effects, Ocenaudio fully supports VST based plug-ins, again with real-time previews. It is fully compatible with all major audio formats, such as MP3, WAV, and AIFF.
Whether you need just basic editing features, or advanced audio editing with plug-ins and effects too, Ocenaudio will work just fine. And did I mention it’s cross platform as well?
Platform Availability: Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP; Mac OS X 10.6 and later; Linux.
It may not have a whole barrage of powerhouse features, but AudioDope still packs in enough features to hold on its own.
As a feature rich audio recording and editing software, AudioDope works surprisingly well. You can record either from external/internal sources for editing, or load up audio files you already have saved on your computer. AudioDope features full audio waveform analysis, and editing all or some parts of the audio stream is an extremely simple affair. There is a large variety of audio effects available, such as high/low pass filters, pitch scale, normalization, chorus, and reverb. Other than that, advanced sound analysis can be done via tools like noise generator, and frequency analyzer. AudioDope fully supports numerous VST plug-ins, ranging from Compressors to Phasers, which can be downloaded here. AudioDope is compatible with a diverse range of audio formats, including ADPCM, MPC, and WMA.
If you want a lean audio recording and editing application that doesn’t bog down the system, AudioDope is just the thing you need. However, it’s Windows specific only, so that’s something to keep in mind.
Platform Availability: Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP.
Feature laden audio recording and editing software don’t have to be monstrous in sizes, and Wavosaur is the perfect example of that, being unbelievably tiny, at just about 1.5 MB in size.
Yep, you read that right. This ultra lightweight and portable application makes quick work of recording, editing and processing audio tracks and sound loops, both from internal devices as well as external ones like MIDI keyboards. And despite its minimal footprint, Wavosaur supports everything from basic editing and recording functionalities to batch conversion and real-time effect processing. It fully supports VST plug-ins, and its multi document interface makes it easy to work with numerous tracks on one go. You can apply numerous effects like volume normalization, audio inversion, and silence insertion, both during editing and post-processing. Other features include full audio spectrum analysis, and ASIO (audio stream input/output) support. Wavosaur supports all general audio formats, like MP3, WAV, and OGG.
If you’re on the hunt for a robust yet lightweight audio recording software that can also handle a bit of editing, Wavosaur is definitely worth checking out. However, at times it’s unstable when handling specific audio files, so bear that in mind.
Platform Availability: Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP.
We’ve discussed super advanced audio production suites and powerhouse recording applications that are loaded with all sorts of pro features, plug-ins, and whatnot, but there are users out there who just want an efficient way of recording voice (e.g. for audio notes), and don’t care for all that fancy stuff.
If that’s what you’re looking for, RecordPad is going to suit you just fine. A featherweight and utterly simple recording application, RecordPad takes all the hassle out of audio recording, and supports both internal and external input devices. It’s super easy to use, and lets you get started with your recordings in seconds. Simply select the audio input device, and hit the Record button. The recordings can be saved in a variety of popular audio formats, such as MP3, WAV, and AIFF. What’s more, the nifty voice activation feature only triggers the recording when you’re speaking, and you can sort the recordings on the basis of parameters like format, size, and duration. You can also directly send your recordings via email, or upload them to an FTP server. Pretty slick if you ask me!
If all you want is a cross platform audio recording software, with a few extras thrown into the mix, RecordPad is perfect for you.
Platform Availability: Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP; Mac OS X 10.4 and later.
Price: Paid version consts $50, Unregistered software can be used for unspecified number of days.
What makes RecordForAll stick out from the crowd is that it just focuses on doing one thing, and does it exceptionally well. And that’s to help you make better podcasts.
Having a lean and easy to understand UI, RecordForAll makes recording podcasts a child’s play. From built-in microphones to external mics, it supports a whole range of input devices. You can record your own voice, general music, or just about any other kind of audio. The recordings are immediately loaded up for editing, and the track timeline view makes it super easy to extend, trim, and selectively remove portions of the recording. Other than that, you can overlay the recordings with background music, and even add special effects. Once everything is done, the created podcasts can be published in numerous formats, such as MP3, WAV, and WMA. How cool is that?
If you’re an emerging pod-caster and want a no-frills audio recording application that’s both easy and has a few nice extras, things can’t get any better than RecordFor All.
Platform Availability: Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP.
Price: Paid versions start from $39.95, 120 days free trial available.
SEE ALSO: 10 Best Audio Editing Software
Ready to record and edit your audio projects better?
Whether your audio recording and editing needs are as basic as simple videos and podcasts, or as big as big musical productions, having an efficient and well rounded audio recorder software is a must. And the above discussed applications are perfect for that. Looking for the best commercial digital audio workstations and mixing suites? Try MixCraft, Reaper, or Sonar. Want something that’s a little toned down but still powerful enough to handle advance editing and recording needs? Audacity and Ocenaudio will serve you fine. And if you need something specific, there’s always RecordForAll and RecordPad. Take them for a spin, and let us know how they work out for you. Know of any other audio recording applications that could’ve made the cut above? Do mention in the comments below.