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Best voice recording software 2021

Best Voice Recording Software 2021
(Image credit: Karolina Grabowska)

The best voice recording software can help you capture high quality audio. Whether it’s narration for audiobooks, voiceovers, podcasts or presentations, voice recording software is essential for a range of jobs that involve recording, editing and mixing vocal tracks.

And while you’ll often find extra features such as beat-making or clean-up to remove the clicks and pops that can creep into recordings, the best voice recording software is often something more pure, focused on getting the cleanest recording in the simplest way, and letting you worry about what to do with it after that. With this in mind, one of the best recording apps we’ve found is completely free, but it can be worth considering paying for software just to get the extra features and support that come with it.

The most important of those features are the ones that enable editing of your recordings. Background noise removal is important if you’re looking for really high quality recordings, along with the ability to trim your tracks and remove preamble. Being able to remove the little ‘um’ and ‘ah’ sounds we litter our speech with can be important too. 

Look out for apps that offer non-destructive editing – where your changes don’t overwrite the original recording, but are applied only when you export a new version of the track – as being able to undo your edits if you make a mistake is a valuable tool.

To complement your voice recording software, why not investigate the best digital voice recorders, or the best audio editing software to get the most out of your recordings?


1. Audacity: Best voice recording software overall

Audacity

(Image credit: Audacity)

Audacity

A great value voice recorder that is very simple to use

Completely free
Works on any operating system
Simple interface but is feature-rich
Doesn’t have non-destructive editing
No beat-making tools

This is one of the most popular audio and voice editing programs currently available – and for good reason. It’s a completely free tool, but it still packs in all of the features you need from a high-end voice recorder. On top of that, it’s compatible with all the main operating systems: MacOS, Windows 10 and Linux.

Its simple interface means that it’s perfect for beginners. The program makes it easy to connect and set up external equipment, record, edit and mix tracks, and polish your work before exporting it. The software also allows you to easily import sound from video clips and it even packs in tools that analyse sound frequency.

However, it is definitely geared towards people who are recording clips for podcasts and voice overs, rather than anyone who wants to make multi-track music. This is because it’s primarily an audio editor, rather than a fully fledged digital audio workstation. It also uses something called destructive editing, which means that any changes you make will overwrite the previous version of your audio. 


2. Adobe Audition: Best for creatives

Adobe Audition interface

(Image credit: Adobe)

Adobe Audition

A superb suite for creatives

Intuitive interface
Creative Cloud benefits 
Subscription only
No MIDI support

Audition is Adobe's podcast creation app, available as a standalone subscription or as part of the full Creative Cloud suite of apps. Those who have been in the business a long time may remember Cool Edit Pro, an app admired for its simplicity and large number of features. Audition is the spiritual successor to that app, created after Adobe bought Syntrillium in 2003. 

Audition is geared toward podcast production rather than musical use, but there's no reason it couldn't be used for that even though there's no MIDI support - you can still import samples. Adobe's DAW offers single- or multi-track editing, but clicking on a track isolates it from the others so you can work on it, say to clean up background hum. Adobe's clever adaptive noise reduction makes this simple - you select a quiet section of the track, and Audition uses this reference to clean the track of the frequencies causing the hum. 

For anyone who's already a subscriber to the Creative Cloud suite, it's possible you already have Audition, tucked away in the folder of apps you don't access very often. It's a high-quality toolset for audio engineering and fixing up tracks for podcasts and even broadcast, but if you're looking for something for music production work, then there are better options elsewhere.


3. Wavepad: Most easy to use

Wavepad: Most easy to use

Wavepad

Our top choice of voice recorders for most people

Has over 20 filters and audio effects
Extremely easy to use
Compatible with all common file formats.
Pop and click removal is time-consuming
Not as many fade options

WavePad is intuitive and powerful voice recording software that’s simple enough for a novice to use. It is compatible with a multitude of audio file formats and gives you the option to convert files to an equally large array of audio formats. The program can mix and split audio files, edit silences, reduce or eliminate background noise, integrate filters and special effects, and even convert a mono audio file into stereo.

The program’s layout is clean and intuitive, and meant to encourage a smooth workflow. It does an impressive job of balancing all of its features without hurting its usability. Toolbars within change as you click on different tabs, keeping features and functions organized. It lets you customize the toolbar to include or remove any tool and configure many other features to create an optimal workspace.

WavePad comes with tons of effects and filters, which can be applied manually or set automatically. Whether you want to add distortion, reverb or a delay to your latest song, or you need to amplify, reverse, fade out or otherwise tweak and equalize your tracks, WavePad makes it easy to do that. And if you need to convert a file to a different format that’s compatible with your gear, such as to MP3, you can quickly do so.


4. Mixcraft 9: Best for audio professionals

Mixcraft 8

Mixcraft 9

If you're an audio pro, and demand things like DAW crossover, this is for you

Advanced abilities like pitch correction and plug-in support
Over 7,800 loops, samples and effects
Integrated recording timer for defined sessions.
Lacks ripping and burning options
Not available for Mac

Although Mixcraft 8 is easy enough for people of any experience level to use, the recording application looks and works like a digital audio workstation and has an intimidating-looking interface. However, after tinkering for a few minutes, anyone can see that the software is powerful and full of features to help you not only record your audio but edit, enhance and burn it as well. And while it is the priciest program we tested, it’s also the most versatile and a great option for those focusing on audio engineering and music recording.

Mixcraft is stocked with an arsenal of over 7,800 loops, special effects, filters, digital instruments and samplers. It also boasts unlimited submix nesting, allowing you to tweak each track perfectly. All of the standard effects and editing functions are available to you, including an equalizer as well as fade and reverb options. It can reduce or eliminate unwanted background noise, remove pops and clicks, and edit silences in your tracks. There is no option for converting a mono audio file to stereo. You can set a recording timer; however, the biggest downside to this particular program is that it doesn’t have a voice-activated recording option. There’s also no ripping or burning option.


5. Recordpad: Most recording options

RecordPad

RecordPad

A great array of voice recording options for a wide audience

Loads of recording options
Good for burning and ripping
No option for changing file format

Though RecordPad is technically part of a larger range of digital audio applications from NCH Software, it runs as a standalone recording tool capable of supporting audio feeds from multiple channels.

You can use the other programs to complement and enhance RecordPad’s abilities, however. The software supports audio input from all sources using default application settings and the “loop cable” method, and it allows you to capture audio from internet streaming sources, a line-in device or computer playback.

With this recording software, you can record, rip or burn audio, and schedule future recordings, though you may need to enable a plugin for editing, conversion and burning functions. If you want to edit or add effects to your audio, you’ll have access to noise reduction, reverb, pop and click removal, equalizing and fade among other abilities. However, keep in mind that the program’s weak point is its limited file format compatibility. It’s only compatible with WAV, MP3 and FLAC, unlike other programs that include several others.

Voice recording software: Key features

We rate all of the above voice recording programs, but before you take the plunge and buy any of them you should think carefully about your recording needs. Below, we’ve outlined the important features you can find in voice recording software. Make sure that you pick a program that packs in any tools and tricks you’ll need to complete your audio project.

Audio feed/ input source for capture

Recording is traditionally done using a microphone and line-in jacks located on the audio interface panel of the computer system. But more advanced software also supports audio pick-up from media playback; CD, VCD, DVD, USB devices; internet streaming; phone recording or any audio playback by sound card. Essentially, you can record any audio being played by or through the computer. The best recording applications understand this and already have the ability to work with you if you need to work with other input sources. Consider your current input methods – and any you plan to use in the future – before choosing an application.

Record/rip/burn features

A few additional features are essential to the recording and sharing process. For example, recording timers and schedulers let you define the time frame of a particular session, ensuring that your recordings start and end exactly when you need.  Similarly, voice-activated recording automates the start of a recording session whenever a predefined level of audio signal (decibels) is registered by the software. All of these can make it a little easier to record things like a podcast or a college lecture without wasting space on your computer’s hard drive.

A program with both digital and analog ripping offers the most versatility for a variety of needs. Digital ripping is useful when recording digital media, and you need analog ripping with copy-protected digital media that cannot be ripped conventionally. Both are handy methods to digitize your aging CD or DVD collection, for example. Burn tools are used for saving files to optical media for storage and playback.

Filters, effects and editing

Most of the time, simply recording the audio isn’t enough; you may want to enhance the recording or edit the files before releasing your finalized product. You might need to edit a silence, add a filter or special effect, or manage background noise. Most programs can handle standard editing needs, but the best applications can handle whatever you throw at them.

Many programs let you trim or insert a silence in an audio track or file, which typically smooths out the flow of a recording or makes it easier to add music or other effects later. Special effects like Sound Warmer, Bass Boost or Echo can also be applied to further enhance or achieve a particular audio effect. Whether you’re using filters and effects to enhance clarity or for fun voice morphing, a good set of filters is an essential component of voice recording software. Some programs – typically those with a DAW interface – offer far more effects and editing options, as they are closer to the software that studio audio engineers use.

Women recording with microphone

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A program with a noise reduction function can mostly or completely eliminate background noise interfering with your actual recording, such as your air conditioner, refrigerator or a vacuum. Any program worth its weight will also have a pop and click removal option for handling additional unwanted noise. Although a frequent problem, pops and clicks can come from a variety of sources and often be fussy to track down and resolve. So, having a program that automatically monitors and limits that is essential, especially if you don’t have the extra dough to purchase things like a pop filter or a more powerful CPU for your computer.

Options to change a file format and size are also useful and are often used to output files in the desired audio quality, typically to MP3. An integrated ID3 tag editor is also useful to label files appropriately for better organization for archiving and future searches.

Supported formats

If the software can’t manage or play all of your audio files, what good is it? While most voice recording suites are compatible with only a few of the most common audio file types – MP3, WAV, WMA – others go the extra mile and support additional file types, like FLAC and AAC, as well as file compression and converting. Top programs are not only compatible with a wide variety of file formats but are also adept at importing and exporting files.

Ease of use

Recording your voice – or any audio, for that matter – on your computer can be difficult when you factor in things like choosing and setting up hardware or searching for the right software application to use. However, it doesn’t have to be, and choosing the best voice recording program can make things much easier. From installation to implementation to actual use, the entire process of voice recording should be straightforward and simple.

Help and support

A good help and support system is essential for a speedy and trouble-free learning experience, and further instilling confidence in the user. Help files, manuals, FAQs and tutorials address day to day issues, whereas phone support, email, live chat and forums are best for solving specific issues. The best developers host a full array of informational resources on their website and provide multiple ways to contact their technical support teams directly.

Voice Recording Software versus DAW

You may have heard the terms “voice recording software” and “DAW” used interchangeably, but it’s important to know their similarities as well as how they differ. We've outlined how to identify both types of programs below – but, in brief, the larger DAW programs are much more complicated beasts that help musicians compose multi-track pieces, while voice recording software focuses primarily on capturing vocals alone.

Voice recording software

Voice recording software is the simpler of the two. You can record audio manually or set the program to run on a schedule or be triggered by sound over a certain decibel level. Afterward, you can edit the audio with special effects. In addition, this type of program has tools you can use to trim files, eliminate unwanted background noise and export. Voice recording software works on a laptop or desktop computer, and some programs even have compatible mobile apps you can use while you’re on the road. This is also the cheaper of the two types of software, making it a great choice for those on a budget as well as anyone not using it for professional audio production.

Digital audio workstation

A digital audio workstation (DAW) is a more heavy-duty version of voice recording software. This kind of software can handle more inputs and tracks, has wider file format compatibility, and generally produces higher quality audio files. Because DAWs are more powerful, they cost more and are predominantly made for audio professionals. As such, they have steep learning curves. However, once you get a handle on how to use the software, and especially if you can afford quality recording hardware in addition to it, you can churn out beautiful, complex audio tracks worthy of a Grammy.

Ian has been a journalist for 20 years. He's written for magazines and websites on subjects such as video games, technology, PC hardware, popular (and unpopular) science, gardening and astronomy. In his spare time he has a pet tortoise and grows his own vegetables.