There are so many audio recording programs out there you can choose from for home recording. Let’s talk about the ones I think are best.
So when I say “best,” what do I mean? Well I am going to focus on a few variables, including price, what you will use the software for, and capabilities of the program.
I am a musician and also a voiceover actor/narrator. So I’ll take those things into account for these recommendations.
For Voiceover (Podcasts, Video Narration, Audiobooks, etc.)
If your primary focus will be to record great sounding voiceover audio – and I include podcasts, video narration and audio books in that category, you can get by with a lot less than musicians wanting to record their songs. So let’s start there.
Audacity is free software that can do AMAZING things, especially for the price. A lot of pros recording their voices use this software.
You can record your voice at whatever quality your microphone and/or interface allows. That is to say that the software does not determine the original quality of the sound recorded, which is a common misconception. The audio quality is much more a matter of what happens before the audio ever hits the software.
Once you have recorded your voice, there are a ton of options for what to do next using Audacity’s capabilities. For instance, you can add another track to play background music with your voice if you want. Or you can add other voices for dialogue, etc.
You will also want to edit your audio, which you can do with tools that come built right into Audacity. For instance, you’ll likely want to do noise reduction to get rid of background noise, like hiss, electronic noises, computer fans, A/C fans, etc.
You can do all of that in Audacity. The only thing I really do not like about this program is the vertical scale along the left side of an audio track. Most programs use decibel (dB) levels so you can see exactly how loud your audio is. But Audacity uses a percentage (0-1) along the side, which means nothing to most people. I find it less than useless.
For the most part, though, you may not need it. You can set the maximum dB level (how loud the highest peak will be) when using the Normalize tool.
Adobe Audition is an amazing program that can basically do it all. It can do professional multitrack recording as well as audio editing. I’m not a huge fan of its multitrack function. But for audio editing, I don’t think it can be beat. This is what I use to record and edit my voiceovers.
There are so many editing tools available that are so powerful that it can be overwhelming if you are’t well-versed in “audio speak.” And it is definitely not free. It’s is now part of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite of programs. And that means you pay monthly for it ($22/month), which I do not like. But I pay for it because I love it so much.
One unique feature of Audition is its floating (HUD – heads-up display) amplitude control. This is AWESOME. It is a visual volume control that lets you quickly adjust the volume level of whatever you have highlighted/selected. When working with voice recordings, this ability to highlight a section and just turn it up or down with that HUD knob is a huge time-saver. NO other audio editor has this. I’ve checked :-).
Audition also allows you to create keyboard shortcuts for any action, which also speeds things up a lot. For example, I have an EQ setting for getting rid of p-pops mapped to CTRL-D, and Silence to CTRL-X.
I also have a suite of 3rd party plugins called the Accusonus ERA Bundle of vocal plugins installed. I use their single-knob noise reduction tool mapped to the “1” key on my keyboard for fast and hassle-free noise reduction. I highly recommend Adobe Audition if you can invest the $22 per month. Of course, if you already have the entire Adobe Creative Cloud subscription for ~$53/month, Audition is included.
If you are a musician, I highly recommend Reaper. It is an amazingly affordable digital audio workstation (DAW), which is a fancy way of saying “multi-track recording program.
This means that its main function is to allow you to record many tracks of music, or podcasts with multiple speakers on their own track, etc.
You can slice up audio into smaller bits and drag them around both inside its own track or over to other tracks as well. You can the apply effects to entire tracks or just to individual sections of audio on a track. Layer instruments, vocals, drums, etc. Mix and pan them and then render a final finished audio file.
I’ve recorded more than a dozen full albums using Reaper. It is professional software that rivals the MUCH more expensive Pro Tools (which you’ll notice is not one of my recommendations here). You can get started with a 60 day free trial that technically never stops working. You’ll just get prompted after the trial period to remind you it isn’t free. But you can “continue to evaluate” it longer than that if you need to.
When you’re ready to buy, it is only $60! That’s for the personal license, meaning you aren’t making money (or not making MUCH of it) using Reaper. When you start to use it for your business (music or voiceover or both), you should buy the commercial license, which is $225. But there is no difference in capability between ANY of the licenses! It’s basically the honor system, which is unheard of.
I recommend Reaper to anyone needing to record music. Also, if you do anything with voiceover recording that involves putting space between phrases (I’ve had many of these, creating dialogue between 2 or more characters, or super long (hours long) jobs, Reaper has a lot of shortcuts and automation tools to really make these jobs much less work and time-intensive.
there are way too many plugins available for me to recommend a huge number. So I’ll focus on a few designed for vocals, since you usually use those for both music and voiceover recording.
These are simply amazing. I did a review of the bundle here: Review Of Accusonus ERA Bundle (Amazing Vocal Plugins). their new (as of Oct 2020) plan is a monthly subscription for ~$6/month. It comes with standard vocal editing tools like Noise Remover, De-esser, and Plosive (p-pop) Remover.
The best thing about them, besides how effective they are, is the single-knob control. You simply dial in the amount of the effect you want and it’s done! No messing around with trying to understand multiple settings like, EQ frequencies, decay rate, etc. Just turn the knob.
This works best for noise reduction. Usually you have to sample a bit of noise (and ONLY noise) and feed that to a noise reduction effect. Then you select the audio, open the effect again and apply it. But this is risky, because it is really easy (and common) to highlight a little bit of the voice or a breath when trying to highlight ONLY noise. That results in bad sounding audio after applying the noise reduction.
Withe the Accusonus Noise Remover, it just somehow figures out the noise on its own. All you do – again – is turn the knob until the noise is gone. Amazing. I use these tools for every single vocal recording I make. CLICK HERE to find out more or to start your free trial.
This suite of tools is similar to Accusonus. It has tools for de-essing, p-pops, noise, etc. But it has something the ERA Bundle does not have. It’s the mouth de-clicker tool.
Have you ever had a lot of mouth “click” sounds that come from your tongue and lips, and are basically caused by saliva in your mouth? It can be really distracting.
You CAN edit these out with just EQ – available in any audio recording program. I even wrote a post (with video) on how to do it: How To Use An Audio Editor To Remove Saliva Noises From Voice Recordings.
But that can take a really long time, especially if you have a long recording.
The RX mouth de-click tool allows you to get rid of all those noises in an entire audio file in just a single action. That is HUGE if you tent to record a lot of mouth noises.
RX Standard has this tool. RX Elements does not. So be careful when buying. RX Standard is quite a bit more expensive than the Accusonus Bundle, costing $399.
One other thing you can do with RX if you are just recording single voiceover tracks is basically use it for all your recording And editing. You can record into RX, edit your audio, and then render your clean, edited audio into the final file.
So those are my recommendations for Home Recording software. Yes there are tons of options. Hopefully this will help narrow things down for you.