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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 5 best recording software options
We’ve broken down our picks for the best recording software into five categories so there’s a little something for everyone.
Best audio recording software for podcasters: 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, we’re biased, but this is our blog so what do you expect us to say? Descript has all the bells and whistles you need to streamline the audio production process. Not only can you record audio files using Descript, but 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 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. You can also do this by recording your podcast in Riverside, SquadCast, or Restream — all excellent software built specifically for recording — and then hitting the Edit in Descript button. It will export your audio (and video if you did that too) to Descript through the cloud, so you don’t have to download it or keep those big files on your hard drive.
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
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
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.