Best recording software — Everything you need to know

Microphone connected to a record player connected to a laptop

Hello and welcome to all those of you who landed here after searching “best recording software” on Google. Feel free to look around, and help yourself to some nut milk.

You probably already know that you no longer need to book a professional studio to capture high-quality audio. These days, it’s easier than ever to get your hands on powerful recording software that allows you to record, edit, and mix podcasts, music, streaming, or whatever right there on your laptop or phone. Plus, some apps (like Descript) give you the ability to turn any recording, no matter where it was recorded, into something that sounds like it was done in a professional studio.

So whether you’re a musician or podcaster, a DJ creating music using digital instruments, or a gamer recording your sessions to post online — there’s recording software out there to fit your needs.

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What to consider before buying recording software

Prior to searching for software, you’ll want to ask yourself a few essential questions to help guide you in the right direction.

  1. What are your creative needs? This one is super important. If you’re planning to start a podcast you’ll need totally different recording software than someone looking to record and mix original music tracks for their band.
  2. How knowledgeable are you about computers and audio recording? If you’re a beginner, you can avoid a steep learning curve by going with software designed for beginners. You’ll also want to look at your computer’s tech specs (operating system, processor, RAM, etc.) to ensure you don’t end up with recording software that can’t run on your machine.
  3. What can you afford? Professional-level software will obviously cost more than entry-level, so ask yourself if you really need the extra features that come with pricier options. Believe it or not, for basic tasks, you might not even need to open your wallet at all. There’s plenty of free recording software out there, like GarageBand on Macs and Cakewalk on PCs. If you ultimately decide to spend money on recording software, sign up for a free trial before committing. That way you won’t waste money if the software isn’t a great fit.

The best recording software for podcasters — Kevin's picks

Alright, so which software should you use? Depends on what king of podcast you're making — and on who you ask. We asked our colleague Kevin O'Connell, a product specialist at Descript and an experienced, accomplished podcast producer, audio engineer, and ballcap wearer. Here are his recommendations, plus a few from some other trustworthy folks.

Best software for in-person recording: Descript

Cost: Paid plans start at $12 per month; there’s also basic free version that includes unlimited watermarked screen recordings and up to 3 hours of audio transcription.

Sure, Kevin is biased here, but recording in Descript has some big advantages. It automatically transcribes each recording into a script format with labeled voices. The cherry on top is that you can then edit your audio file by simply editing the text of that automatic transcription. Plus, Descript has phenomenal AI tools like Studio Sound, which removes unwanted background noise and enhances voices to make it sound like you recorded in a professional studio. It even has a screen recording tool that makes it effortless to record video of yourself or your screen.

Recording your podcast directly in Descript also is nice because it saves you from downloading and transferring your files from another program. You can dive into editing as soon as you’re done recording. Read on to learn how you can do that in some other built-for-recording apps as well...

Best software for remote recording: Riverside or Squadcast

Cost: Riverside offers a limited free plan, then starts at $15 per month; SquadCast starts at $20 per month.

Kevin recommends these two because they both have simple, intuitive user interfaces, and they both capture high-quality audio. Plus, you can send your recordings directly from Riverside or SquadCast to Descript by hitting the Edit in Descript button in either app. It will export your audio (and video if you did that too) through the cloud, so you don’t have to download it or keep those big files on your hard drive.

Also note that both offer video recording as well — with video quality that's far superior to Zoom or other options.

The best recording software for other stuff

Best music recording software: Avid Pro Tools

Cost: $31.99 per month for Avid Pro Tools Studio or $9.99 per month for the more basic Pro Tools Artist version.

If you plan to create professional-quality music, the best recording software for PCs and Macs, hands down, is Avid Pro Tools. This DAW (digital audio workstation) is the industry standard when it comes to music production, and its advanced features require a powerful computer processor (16GB RAM for the latest version) to function efficiently. It comes with tons of components musicians can use to take their compositions and projects to the next level — think tons of virtual instruments, multichannel surround/immersive audio mixing capabilities, and the ability to work with up to 512 audio tracks in one project.

For beginners looking to produce music for the first time, Avid Pro Tools might be too advanced, and will take some time to learn. A versatile DAW that’s simpler to get the hang of, such as Ableton Live 11, is a good alternative.

Best recording software for games: Screencast-O-Matic

Cost: Paid plans start at $4 a month; there’s also a free version with limited functionality.

Screencast-O-Matic is the best screen recording software and video editing tool for gamers who want to create captivating gameplay videos. This easy-to-use software lets you record video and audio from any game, so you can create walkthroughs, provide post-match commentary on your latest Fortnite victory, or record footage for your game review YouTube channel. Available on all major operating systems (Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android), Screencast-O-Matic comes jam-packed with options to customize gaming videos, like a stock music and photo library (without complex licensing agreements) and a built-in video editor you can use to mix and match content from all your devices.

If you’re looking for free screen recording software that also has the ability to livestream on Twitch and YouTube, another option to look into is OBS Studio.

Best voice recording software for iOS: Voice Memos

Cost: Free

The Apple Watch, iPad, and iPhone all come pre-installed with foolproof free software called Voice Memos that lets you record, edit, and save voice recordings on the go. Whether you need to record a class lecture or a personal audio message to send to a friend, Voice Memos has everything you need to get the job done quickly and efficiently. In addition to trimming capabilities, Voice Memos also has an “enhanced recording” function that instantly reduces background noise and echo. You can easily share your completed recordings directly from your device, and iCloud users can have their audio files automatically synced to all their iCloud-enabled devices.

Best voice recording software for Android: Tape-a-Talk

Cost: Free

Although Tape-a-Talk doesn’t come standard on Android devices like Voice Memos does on iOS, it’s just as easy to use and it’s a quick, free download away in the Google Play store. Tape-a-Talk’s widget lets you record directly from your home screen and even supports recording in the background while you view another app or turn off your screen. After you finish a recording, you can edit the audio file within the app itself and save it in a high-quality, uncompressed format.

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All-in-one audio & video editing, as easy as a doc.
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