How to Choose Audio Editing Software
The top performers in our review are WavePad, the Gold Award winner; Adobe Audition, the Silver Award winner; and Acoustica Digital Audio Editor, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 products.
Audio editing software is an affordable and simple way to edit and record audio. Whether you are looking for an audio editor to record your podcasts or you have a crate of old vinyl records and tapes that you want to digitize and restore, audio editing software has the tools to accomplish those and many other audio editing tasks. Aside from being affordable and simple to use, most audio editors have an innate ability to restore bad analog recordings to higher quality audio. Many of the professional audio editing software programs we reviewed provide tools to remove hiss, hum, clicks and pops that are associated with bad analog recordings.
Many of the programs we reviewed only work with PC-based operating systems. If you are a Mac user, you can visit our site on Audio Editing Software for Mac to find products that are exclusive to editing and recording audio on Mac computers.
Audio editing software is also a great tool for podcasters. Most audio editors allow you to record one or two sources of audio simultaneously. The amount of equipment you need is minimal, which is an advantage to owning audio editing software compared to a digital audio workstation (DAW). All you need is a USB microphone, an audio editor and something to talk about, and you'll be on your way to recording a podcast. If you want to find more information on audio editors or podcasting, take a look at our additional articles on audio editing software.
Audio editing programs seem synonymous with DAWs, but they are two different entities. DAWs have the ability to record an unlimited amount of audio sources simultaneously. DAWs also provide many plugins, effects and virtual instruments to aid in the production of music.
The downside to DAWs is that even the introductory versions of DAWs are expensive compared to professional audio editing programs. An introductory version of a DAW will run at least $100, whereas you can purchase a professional-grade audio editor for under $50. If you are looking for a professional-level DAW, that can cost upwards of $550 and eat up much of the available storage and memory on your computer, something an audio editor won't do. If you are looking for software that is more powerful than these audio editors, you can visit our Recording Studio Software site for more recording options.
Many free audio editors are available to download. These programs offer limited resources compared to their purchasable counterparts. When you purchase audio editing software, you get far more effects, filters and editing tools. When you have more tools and effects, you end up with better-quality audio recordings.
Audio Editing Software: How We Tested, What We Found
One of the most important attributes to consider when searching for the best audio editing software is how well the audio editor removes unwanted noise from a bad audio recording. This depends on the type of noise reduction tools the software has and their effectiveness.
Noise Reduction Test
We used a vinyl recording of a single talking voice laced with hiss, hum, cracks and pops associated with old vinyl recordings. We imported the recording into each program and used the noise reduction tools provided within each software program to clean up the recording as much as possible. The recording was not enhanced by effects or plugins; we only used tools such as DeNoisers, DeBuzzers and other available noise reduction tools to remove the unwanted noise. We compared each of the recordings side by side using a frequency analyzer to not only hear but see the results of each sample. Then we ranked them based on how noiseless the audio was after restoration.
The best audio restoration results we found came from MAGIX Audio Cleaning Lab and Adobe Audition. These two products removed the majority of the noise without compromising the volume of the vocal track. Diamond Cut 8 was not far behind in terms of quality of the restored audio, as it removed the majority of the original audio sample noise. MAGIX Music Maker 2015 does not provide the audio restoration tools needed to execute our noise reduction tests.
File Compatibility Test
Another important attribute of a top-rated audio editing program is its ability to import and convert a variety of different audio formats. We took a number of different audio files, including AAC, AIFF, AU, FLAC, MP3, MP4, M4A, OGG Vorbis, WAV and WMA audio files, and attempted to import them into each software program. We also tested to see if each program could export or convert files to those same formats. If those files could be both imported and exported, it received a checkmark. If a file format could be only imported or exported, you will see import or export only in the ranking criteria.
To test each program's ability to extract audio from video files, we ran the same import tests on each software program with video files. We used seven different video files, including M4V, MOV, MP4, MPG, DIVX, DV and WMV, to determine whether or not each program could extract the audio data from each video file. WavePad trumps all other products in terms of file compatibility. No other product was able to both import and export every file format that we tested.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. We obtained the units in our comparison by downloading fully functional versions of each program. The manufacturers had no input or influence over our testing methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
Other Important Attributes of Audio Editing Software
Outside of the ability to restore noisy analog recordings, an audio editor with a plethora of audio editing tools and effects will give you more options on how you edit your audio.
An audio editor should also provide a clean and customizable workspace. When you can customize menus and toolbars, you can create a workspace that is conducive to productivity. The user experience is every bit as important as the tools provided within the software.
Audio Editing Software: Our Verdict and Recommendations
The three top performers – Adobe Audition, Acoustica Digital Audio Editor and WavePad – performed better than the rest at cleaning up the test audio sample as well as providing intuitive workspaces to record and edit audio projects. They also have the ability to work with a number of different audio formats so you don't run into any importing or conversion problems.
MAGIX Audio Cleaning Lab, although it didn't rank as high as our top-rated products, deserves an honorable mention. This software program provides one of the cleanest interfaces to use. Plus, the audio restoration tools work well with little effort. This software program did one of the best jobs at cleaning up our audio sample.