Best Audio Editing Software of 2018

Billy Bommer ·
Audio & Travel Writer
Updated
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We tested the editing tools, audio restoration capabilities and ease-of-use for 10 audio editing programs under $100. After considering our test results and overall impressions of each product, we recommend Adobe Audition as the best overall audio editing software. It has the best tools for editing and restoring poorly recorded audio. This is the only program we tested that requires a monthly subscription rather than a one-time purchase, but you can cancel your subscription at any time if you aren’t going to use it frequently.  

Best Overall
Adobe Audition
Adobe Audition is a powerful editing software with a customizable user-interface. You can record multiple sources simultaneously, and the restoration tools ensure your recordings sound professional.
View on Adobe
Best Value
Audacity
Audacity is free and easy to use. It has a great selection of editing and restoration tools to make sure your audio projects sound professional on any platform.
View on Audacity
Best for Beginners
Acoustica Standard Edition
Acoustica editing software is PC and Mac compatible. The interface is easy-to-use and supports multi-track editing with an impressive list of restoration tools.
View on Acoustica

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Product
Price
OVERALL RATING
Pricing
Ease of Use
Recording & Editing Features
Ease of Use: Interface
Ease of Use: Editing & Restoration
One-Click Restoration Tools
Operating System Compatibility
Noise Reduction Efficiency
Maximum Audio Tracks
Number of Effect Plugins
-
9.5 10 9.3 9.3
B+
B
Windows, Mac
C+
Unlimited
33
$239.88Amazon
9.7 9 10 10
A-
A
Windows, Mac
A
32
35
$59.9Acondigital
8.6 7 9.3 9.3
B+
B
Windows, Mac
A-
Unlimited
16
$59.99Amazon
8.5 7.5 9.8 7.8
A
B+
Windows
A+
14
$99Amazon
7.9 6.5 9.5 7
B+
B+
Windows, Mac
B-
24
$34Amazon
7.6 7 8.5 7
B
B
Windows
C+
2
25
$60Reaper.Fm
7.2 7 6 9
B
B-
False
Windows, Mac
B
Unlimited
16
$29.99Itunes.Apple
6.9 8.5 5.8 6.8
B
C+
False
Mac
C
2
20
$81.75Amazon
6 5 6 7
B
C+
False
Windows, Mac
B-
3
18
Best Overall
Adobe Audition is one of the most user-friendly audio editing programs available. The layout is customizable and it has all the best tools for editing and finalizing any audio project.
This is one of the few programs in this product category that allows you to record multiple sources simultaneously on separate tracks. If you have an audio interface with more than one input, record each microphone on its own track, which makes post-production tasks like editing and effects processing easier. The audio restoration tools in this software make it easy to fix damaged or old recordings. Highlight a portion of a recording that has too much background noise, or pops and clicks, and use the sound sample tool to analyze the problem area. Once it learns which unwanted noise you want to remove, apply the tool to the entire track and it removes every occurrence of the noise. This was the best software we tested for restoring poorly recorded audio without negatively affecting the source material. It’s available as a monthly, yearly or multi-year subscription, or if you plan to do photo or video editing too, purchase Audition in addition to the entire Creative Cloud package. There are discounts available for students and teachers, or businesses that need multiple licenses.
Pros
  • Great audio restoration tools
  • Multitrack recording
  • Customizable user interface
Cons
  • Subscription based ownership
  • Long-term use is expensive
  • Steep learning curve for advanced tools
Adobe
Read the full review
Best Value
Audacity is a free, open source audio editing and recording software with an impressive list of editing and restoration tools. The interface isn’t visually appealing, but it is easy to navigate.
We uploaded an unedited podcast segment that was laced with pops and room noise to test the efficiency of the restoration tools. Audacity’s noise reduction plugin is a one-click solution for removing unwanted room noise, and it performed well in our tests. The click removal tool also worked well, but it can drastically alter the source material and make it sound worse, so use it with caution. Luckily, Audacity allows you to preview the edit to adjust the settings before making any destructive changes. Audacity works on Mac and PC and is a light load for your computer. The software crashed a couple times during testing, but that’s normal with free software. It’s compatible with most of the important audio file types, including MP3 and lossless formats like WAV, AIFF and FLAC. Audacity imported our 1.5-hour podcast test segment in less than five seconds, which was faster than most of the for-pay programs we tested.
Pros
  • Free
  • Easy-to-use
  • Great selection of editing and repair tools
Cons
  • Ugly interface
  • Plugin presets are limited
  • Occasional crashes
FreeAudacity
Read the full review
Best for Beginners
Acon Digital’s Acoustica audio editing software has an attractive and well-organized user interface. The effects, recording tools and plugins are divided into easily identifiable sections in the menu ribbon, streamlining the post-production process.
The standard edition of this software is available for Mac and PC platforms for less than $60, which makes it one of the best values in our comparison. This is one of the most customizable audio editing programs we tested. In addition to the editing window, there is a file browser, effects chain and waveform analyzer that you can add or remove at your convenience. Acoustica also allows you to customize the toolbar with the editing tools you use most, to maximize your workflow. We tested this software’s ability to remove unwanted noise by importing a noisy audio sample from a podcast that was inundated with clicks, pops and background noise. We used the noise reduction, declicker and declipper tools in Acoustica with great success. Each tool provided some of the best results in our audio restoration test. The premium version of this software has more advanced restoration tools, but it is four times the price of the standard edition.
Pros
  • User-friendly interface
  • Affordable
  • Extract audio from popular video formats
Cons
  • No multitrack recording
  • Limited tutorials and product support
$59.90Acoustica
Read the full review

Why Trust Us  

I have 20 years of experience with audio editing software in both a recreational and commercial capacity. My formative years were spent recording voice-over and producing sound effects as a Foley artist. Many environments were poorly sound-proofed, so I experimented with early versions of audio editing software to create more professional recordings.

As an engineer and producer for a broadcast radio station, I produced hundreds of commercials and advertisements using similar editing software. I also spent two years teaching audio recording and editing at my local University.

My recommendations are based on my impressions of the software as I edited and restored poorly recorded audio with each program, and I specifically focused on testing features that I think are the most useful if you have limited editing experience. I focused my recommendations on the value of each feature and how each interface incorporated those important tools.


How We Tested 

We focused our testing and research on programs that are easy-to-use and designed for novice users with limited editing software experience. We tested the audio restoration (noise reduction) capabilities, editing tools and ease-of-use because those are the most important aspects for podcast production and cleaning up digitized vinyl recordings.

To test the noise reduction capabilities of each product, we uploaded an unedited podcast recording that was laced with hiss, hum, and pops. We used all the tools available in each program to edit the track without adversely affecting the sound of the voices.

I talked to veteran podcast producer at the Banyan Collective, Brandon Long, about the features he uses most, and tips and tricks for fledgling podcast enthusiasts. He suggests using an audio editing software with multitrack recording capabilities, because recording each mic separately saves time in the post-production process and results in a cleaner and more cohesive final product.

He also suggests taking a little extra time before you start the recording process to make sure microphone levels are correct. “If it's a bad recording, it's a bad recording. It can be cleaned up, but it will never sound as good as if it was a clean recording to begin with.” He likens the process to taking a bad photograph and relying on software to fix it, noting, “editing software can only put so much lipstick on the pig.”

Important Features to Consider 

Recording Capability
Some audio editing software can only edit an audio file. If you plan to record your voice for a podcast, make sure that the product you choose can record from a USB microphone or audio interface. Some of the programs we reviewed can also record multiple sources simultaneously (known as multitrack recording). This is a handy feature for podcast producers that use more than one microphone, and it allows you to edit those tracks separately.

Editing Tools and Effects

Each program we tested is capable of simple editing tasks, like fade-ins and fade-outs, volume normalization and copy and pasting. However, the best programs offer advanced tools that allow you to apply fun effects like delay, echo and pitch-shifting. They also have mastering effects to publish your final product at industry standard volume levels for online and physical distribution.

Track Count

All the programs we tested allow you to record audio, but only about half of them let you record more than two tracks per session. The best programs we tested support more than 20 tracks per session. If you plan to record more than one mic and integrate other audio content, like beat-beds and sound effects, the post-production process is much easier if each source is on its own track.