The Best Audio Editing Software of 2021

Our audio editing software reviews are the result of over 40 hours of research on 40+ audio editing software companies from across the web. These reviews and our audio editing software guide help small businesses and startups find the best audio editing software for their business.

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How We Chose the Best Audio Editing Software

The best audio editing software depends in part on what you’re trying to accomplish. Novice audio editors look for uncluttered workflows that provide one-click repairs, while professionals may require multitrack editing with nondestructive capabilities, filters, and effects and the ability to output product to meet broadcast standards. A lot of audio editing software companies are out there with a wide range of features and services available. We evaluated the options based on their editing tools, recovery tools, and integrations.

Editing Tools

Most audio editing software offers a wide array of features to help you manipulate music and sounds in creative ways. The programs let you upload prerecorded audio files or even record live audio, saving and outputting different types of audio files. Most audio editing software offers virtual mixing devices, virtual musical instruments, and even prerecorded sound patches. Among the advanced editing tools that we looked for in making our choices were audio restoration tools and scrubbing capabilities.

Recovery Tools

Nothing is more heart-stopping — or heartbreaking — than losing your data after spending hours and hours editing. A crash of any kind can cause you to lose tracks, recording files, or any other audio files. It can be nearly impossible to recreate all that lost work, and the extra time required can cause you to miss deadlines. The best audio editing software protects you from these painful moments. We looked for automatic crash recovery and other audio recovery tools to shield you from unwanted loss of data.

Integrations

Audio editing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We looked closely at the pre-built integrations in each of the audio editing apps we examined, checking to see how they sync up with different recording apps and other sound manipulation programs. When audio editing programs provide a seamless workflow across different applications, the entire process flows more smoothly.

The 15 Best Audio Editing Software Programs of 2021

Ableton Live

Ableton
Ableton Live is a music editing program that allows music creation in a real-time environment, including live onstage. Unlike most other digital audio workstations (DAWs), Ableton Live builds music tracks intuitively through a clip-based approach. Multiple versions of the software are available to appeal to different types and levels of users. The Intro version allows four inputs and offers 16 audio/MIDI tracks plus four virtual instruments and 21 effects. The Standard version ups this to unlimited tracks, 256 inputs, and 34 effects, plus audio warp and audio-to-MIDI capability. The Ableton Live Suite adds analog, synth, and orchestral emulation sample packs, 15 instruments, 55 effects, and the Max sonic creation environment package.

Ableton Live facilitates music creation without a timeline, making it possible to experiment and improvise with audio and MIDI loops, while Live’s Arrangement View opens a timeline for music organization, creation, and arranging. The audio-to-MIDI features let you capture live and synth sounds, with the ability to edit melody, harmony, and rhythm riffs as you please. Any sounds can be warped in terms of timing and tempo to match other loops, with sampled instruments also offering warping and slicing capabilities. Native devices include wavetable, FM, and physical modeling synthesis, and Live also offers a rich library of audio effects, MIDI effects, and sampled sounds, including curated collections of instruments.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
Intro: $79
Standard: $359
Suite: $599
90-day trial>Deployment: Installed: Mac, Windows
>Service options: Phone, email, fax
>Features include audio restoration, scrubbing, and integrations
>More features at Ableton Live

Pros & Cons of Ableton Live Audio Editing Software
ProsCons
>Ability to build custom synthesizers, sequencers, and samplers
>Comes with 70GB of included tools
>EQ includes integrated spectrum analyzer
>No mobile deployment

ACID Pro

ACID Pro
ACID Pro is an audio editing suite and DAW designed to elicit the creativity and inspiration of its users. It offers a strong effects collection and lets users play its MIDI chopper as if it were an instrument for remixing and composing. After recording multitrack audio, musicians can incorporate ACID Pro’s looping tech into their pieces. Users can arrange their tools as they prefer. Regular updates to the software bring new features at an affordable price.

ACID Pro’s sampling tools let you pull vocals, drum beats, and music from existing tracks without losing sound quality. Use the MIDI keyboard of your choice to rearrange loops, samples, and your own recordings, and play with the software’s Morph Pads to create your own unique sounds. The app’s wide library of loops and samples can be matched to tempo and key. Other features include precision editing tools, a wavetable synthesizer, and a library of virtual instruments.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
ACID Pro: $99
Pro 365: $9.99/month
Pro Suite: $399
Free trial>Deployment: Installed: Mac, Windows; web-based, cloud, SaaS, iPhone/iPad, Android
>Service options: Phone, email
>Features include batch processing, automatic crash recovery, and integrations
>More features at Acid Pro

Pros & Cons of ACID Pro Audio Editing Software
ProsCons
>Versatile and easy to use
>Eliminates sample artifacts automatically
>Compatible with many third-party plug-ins
>No audio restoration
>No scrubbing

Acoustica

Acoustica
Acoustica comes in two editions, Premium and Standard, both of which include the app’s Remix tool that lets users split an existing mix into isolated stems. The Premium edition of the program includes tools for removing background noise from dialogue, multi-channel support, spectral editing capabilities that deliver waveform information, and a library of powerful plug-ins, including equalization, restoration, reverb, and mastering tools. The plug-ins alone cost more than Acoustica Premium, making the upgraded version worth the purchase. Acoustica’s workflow is streamlined and versatile, with plug-ins for professional mastering available.

Acoustica’s spectral editing mode offers a variety of selection tools, including a brush and magic wand, to remove noise and perform precise restoration work defined by time and frequency. Audio mixing can be done in real time, looping and time-stretching clips as needed. Reverb, chorus, and pitch shift tools are integrated, and batch processing is available. With support for up to 32 bit resolution and 384 kHz samples, Acoustica outputs work at ultra-high quality, including surround sound. A suite of restoration tools helps get rid of noise and restore high frequency

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
Standard: $59.90
Premium: $199.90
30-day free trial>Deployment: Installed: Mac, Windows
>Service options: FAQ, forum, ticket
>Features include FFT, batch processing and integrations
>More features at Acoustica

Pros & Cons of Acoustica Audio Editing Software
ProsCons
>Excellent restoration tools
>Access to third-party plug-ins
>Easy-to-navigate workflow and interface
>No reports

Adobe Audition

Adobe Audition
Adobe Audition is a cross-platform audio editing system that handles a wide variety of post-production tasks and serves as a mini-DAW, although it doesn’t include the music composition tools of many DAWs. It offers multiple modes to let users toggle between mixing and stereo editing, and it has a spectral frequency editor to make it easy to adjust recorded waveforms. Its Multitrack view offers nondestructive editing and makes it easy to strip multiple audio channels when recording for film or TV, where the app can meet broadcast standards. Audition also offers powerful audio restoration and noise reduction tools. It also lets users set up macros for tasks they perform frequently.

Audition features a huge sound effects library to augment music and podcasts, including hundreds of dedicated comedy and gaming effects, all of them tagged to make searching quick. The app works across a wide range of equipment and platforms, and it provides customizable audio controls. The Sensei remix function lets you create tracks to meet exact timing needs, and sound panel tools remove extraneous noises, adjust levels, and manipulate waveforms at high frequencies.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
$20.99/monthFree trial>Deployment: Installed: Mac, Windows
>Service options: phone, email
>Features include FFT, automatic crash recovery, and scrubbing
>More features at Adobe

Pros & Cons of Audition Audio Editing Software
ProsCons
>Audio output is broadcast quality
>Offers many approaches to edit audio and remove noise
>Lots of shortcuts to speed up workflow
>No mobile deployment

Apple GarageBand

Apple-Garage-Band
Apple GarageBand is no longer the low-end toy that came bundled with Apple computers some 15 years ago. The software has matured and developed to become a serious entry-level audio editing and recording app. With a 255-track capability, GarageBand allows simultaneous recording up to the level of your audio interface, with the ability to comp multiple takes. Editing tools let you match tempo and groove to existing tracks, apply compression, and add reverb — although the app still doesn’t include an actual mixing board. GarageBand syncs smoothly with the Logic Remote app, and it offers a vast library of instruments, including Asian instruments and dozens of instrument-specific amps. Additional libraries provide more than 3,000 loops and 400 sound effects, as well as piano and guitar lessons from big-name artists.

GarageBand lets musicians and composers plug their electronic instruments right into the app to make music, or they can start with virtual instruments. The Drummer feature provides signature percussion kits and loops designed for every style of music, and 100 synth sounds are available for EDM and hip hop musicians. Editing features include visual EQ, compression, and audio effects plug-ins. The app also makes it easy to release tracks directly to Apple Music as well as saving them as ringtones or to social media, and the ability to save work to iCloud allows remote access to GarageBand via iPad or iPhone.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
Free
In-app purchases available
Free>Deployment: Installed: Mac, iPhone/iPad
>Service options: phone, chat, email
>Features include integrations, FFT, and batch processing
>More features at Apple

Pros & Cons of GarageBand Audio Editing Software
ProsCons
>Intuitive and easy to use
>Automatic save feature
>Amazing array of virtual instruments
>No scrubbing
>No automatic crash recovery

Ardour

ardour.org
Ardour is a DAW that allows users to experiment with music and sound, including editing and mixing multitrack audio, mixing soundtracks to videos, generating sound installations, and producing CDs. Its anything-to-anywhere routing system incorporates as many I/O ports as your system can handle. Its video scoring features include pullup/pulldown sample rates and video timecode syncing, and it also offers persistent undo. Its other features include full automation support, multichannel recording, nondestructive editing, a mixer, and unlimited busses, plug-ins, and tracks.

Ardour works with any audio interface, providing true tape-style transport of masters and individual tracks. It offers unlimited multichannel tracks with individual outputs to separate mixer strips and the ability to pan multichannel tracks into busses. Its nondestructive editing includes unlimited undo and redo even across editing sessions, and video soundtrack editing is available across one to three machines. Multiple panners are available, and you can display plug-in controls right in the mixer strip. Thousands of plug-ins are available, and export is offered to many different output types.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
$1, $4, $10 or $50/monthDemo>Deployment: Installed: Mac, Windows, Linux
>Service options: Live chat, email
>Features include batch processing, audio restoration, and FFT
>More features at Ardour

Pros & Cons of Ardour Audio Editing Software
ProsCons
>Powerful routing options
>Strong open-source support community
>Inline mixing console
>No reports

Ashampoo Music Studio

Ashampoo
This low-cost suite of music software allows users to edit, play, extract, and record audio; output to MP3s; and create CD covers. Its interface, which is designed to mimic Windows Media Center, is clear and easy to use, and the program also allows organization of users’ music libraries.

Ashampoo Music Studio is packed with shortcuts to facilitate the organization and editing of music libraries, including the ability to organize songs by templates. Its editing features include audio trimming, time stretching, modifying by pitch or tempo, smart splitting, and retrieval of missing data. The app is able to edit AAC and m4a files and to output to Apple, Android, and Windows devices. Music production features include playlist creation, BPM detection, and the ability to burn MP3s, CDs, AAC, and m4a files, as well as to extract audio tracks from videos.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
$29.99Free version>Deployment: Installed: Windows; Web-based, cloud, SaaS, iPad/iPhone, Android
>Service options: Phone, email
>Features include integrations and batch processing
>More features at Ashampoo Music Studio

Pros & Cons of Ashampoo Music Studio Audio Editing Software
ProsCons
>Extended free trial options
>Strong organizational features
>Easy-to-use UI
>No audio restoration
>No automatic crash recovery

Audacity

audacity
Audacity is a free, open-source music and audio editor that enables importing, mixing, editing, and rendering of audio tracks, with many options available for working with dialogue and sound editing. It lets users work at the spectrogram level, and it enables recording with 16-, 24-, and 32-bit audio, providing smooth conversions for all sample rates and formats. Basic effects are provided in the box, and batch processing is easy. Audacity’s built-in mixer is simple, and it supports third-party plug-ins, including LADSPA, LV2, Nyquist, VST, and Audio Unit. However, multitrack layering is complicated to accomplish, and its editing isn’t nonlinear. Audacity also offers only destructive editing.

Audacity lets users digitize existing recordings or record live into the program, and it also facilitates import and export of audio files in many formats. Users can modify plug-ins or even create their own. Unlimited sequential undo and redo commands streamline editing, and the app’s Spectrogram view allows frequency analysis and visualization. Audacity’s user community is large and active, providing constant updates and improvements to the software.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
FreeFree>Deployment: Installed: Windows, Mac, Linux
>Service options: FAQ
>Features include reports, audio restoration, and integrations
>More features at Audacity

Pros & Cons of Audacity Audio Editing Software
ProsCons
>Small install size doesn't use up computer resources
>Excellent noise reduction
>App is free
>No technical support by email, phone, or social media

Avid Pro Tools

Avid-Pro-Tools
Pro Tools sets the standard for audio editing workflow, with Avid providing state-of-the-art support to the program. While the software is pricey and many users don’t like the monthly subscription model, Pro Tools is updated regularly, with three different versions available (Pro Tools First, Pro Tools Native, and Pro Tools Ultimate) to meet different levels of needs. The Edit workflow is seamless, precise, and easy to use, with tools that handle crossfades, volume adjustment, groove, and timing issues, and retroactive recording for those times you forgot to hit Record while jamming. The selection of virtual instruments and sound sets is impressive, with expansion modules available. The app’s MIDI capabilities are greatly improved, and its score editor is essentially Sibelius (now owned by Avid). The Mix workflow is also excellent, with a mixing board display that makes it easy to grab any parameter. Cloud-based collaboration allows up to ten people to work together, and importing from Avid Media Composer, Cubase, and Logic is smooth and easy.

Pro Tools makes it easy to handle large sessions through organization tools that allow consolidation, routing, and color-coding of tracks. It captures live performance and facilitates the reshaping of sounds through its editing tools, and its mixing and mastering outputs professional-quality work. Plug-ins include reverb, stompboxes, virtual instruments, compressors, and EQ. Its AvidPlay feature makes it easy to distribute music across Apple Music, TikTok, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Spotify, and other outlets. The app’s audio post-production tools are used by professional sound and music editors to design sonic environments for video, handle extremely complex mixes, and deliver 3D, immersive sound for Dolby Atmos and Ambisonics. Hardware and apps are available to deliver Pro Tools’ capabilities to everything from mobile devices to high-end sound stages.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
One-year subscription: $29.99/month, or $299 paid up-front
Monthly subscription: $34.99
Free trial>Deployment: Installed: Windows, Mac, Linux
>Service options: Phone, email
>Features include reports, scrubbing, and FFT
>More features at Avid

Pros & Cons of Avid Pro Tools Audio Editing Software
ProsCons
>Superb workflow that encourages creativity
>Industry standard that improves with each update
>Collaboration tools
>No mobile deployment

Cockos Reaper

Cockos-Reaper
Reaper delivers virtual and live instrument recording along with a full mixing console and video scoring support, all for an ultra-low price. Users can build their own menus and macros, building out Reaper to become a fully equipped DAW — although it’ll take some time and effort to make that happen, given that when you open the program, you’re presented with a mostly blank screen. It doesn’t demand much in the way of computer resources, which means graphics are pared down. You can record multiple audio channels from multiple inputs simultaneously (but don’t look for virtual instruments or preexisting loops on the software). Reaper supports all sorts of third-party plug-ins, including professional packages such as Native Komplete. Its audio clip and MIDI editing tools are powerful and simple, and its mixer is highly flexible once you get it set up. Full automation is available for tracks, effects, and instrument parameters.

Reaper’s ability to record and overdub MIDI and audio is limited only by your own inputs. Its recording tools let users record in layers and loops, record surround and multichannel files, arm and disarm tracks without stopping playback, and handle FX processing with separate monitor mixes. Production tools allow versatile manipulation of tracks with up to 64 routable channels per track, with drag-and-drop capability for importing, arranging, and rendering. Reaper accepts almost all third-party plug-ins, with real-time pitch correction and time shifting. Its interface is fully customizable, and the app loads quickly, with portability that lets you carry the whole program on a USB drive for remote work.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
Discounted license: $60
Commercial license: $225
60-day trial>Deployment: Installed: Windows, Mac, Linux
>Service options: Forum
>Features include scrubbing, integrations, and automated crash recovery
>More features at Cockos Reaper

Pros & Cons of Reaper Audio Editing Software
ProsCons
>Affordably priced
>Uses very little RAM space
>Ability to customize interface
>No audio restoration
>No batch processing

FL Studio

FL-Studio
FL Studio, which was originally called FruityLoops when it debuted in 1998, is a DAW primarily aimed at electronic music production, although its higher-end versions offer the ability to record with mics. Purchase of the software guarantees users free updates and full upgrades for life. Its interface supports touchscreens and is scalable across multiple monitors. Recent upgrades have added the ability to set time signatures and functionality on Macs. FL Studio treats recording as establishing a series of patterns, which can be duplicated, removed, or manipulated. No score editor is available, and while it’s possible to record audio from instruments or mics, the process is convoluted. The synth presents make it easy to mix dance music, and working with third-party plug-ins is also straightforward. Channels have to be assigned to tracks manually before mixing, although automation clips are easy to generate, duplicate, and manipulate.

A wide array of plug-in bundles is available for the app. FL Studio also offers mobile apps that make it possible to record, edit, mix, and render songs on mobile phones and tablets. Mobile features include a flexible interface, high-quality samples and synths, touch-controlled drum pads and keyboards, MIDI control, and effects. A robust community adds to the plug-ins and presets, extending the functionality of the software.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
Fruity: $99
Producer: $199
Signature: $299
All Plug-ins Bundle: $399
Free trial >Deployment: Installed: Windows, Mac
>Service options: Email
>Features include batch processing, audio restoration, and FFT
>More features at FL Studio

Pros & Cons of FL Studio Audio Editing Software
ProsCons
>Easy to make beats
>PC and mobile versions integrate well
>Doesn't require steep learning curve
>No phone support

NCH Software WavePad

WavePad
WavePad by NCH Software provides users with all the basic audio functions as well as the ability to record music, add audio effects, and use VST plug-ins as well as offerings from its free stock audio library. WavePad allows batch processing of thousands of files at a time, and it offers scrubbing capabilities for each search and assembly of file segments. Users can also strip vocals from music tracks and create ringtones. Other features include text-to-speech synthesis, spectral analysis, a voice changer tool, and noise reduction tools.

WavePad comes in a basic free edition with a Master’s Edition available for those who need professional-level tools. The app integrates with the MixPad audio mixer, and it provides nondestructive editing, including audio associated with video. The Master’s edition enables VST plug-in support and a large sound effects library with hundreds of clips and effects available.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
Master's Edition: $69.95
Master's Edition Quarterly Plan: $5.50/month
Standard Edition: $39.95
14-day Trial>Deployment: Installed: Windows, Mac; web-based, cloud, SaaS, iPhone/iPad, Android
>Service options: Email, phone, fax, mail
>Features include integrations, FFT, and automatic crash recovery
>More features at NCH

Pros & Cons of NCH Software WavePad
ProsCons
>Works with video formats
>Handles most major audio file formats
>Free version for entry-level users
>No multitrack editing
>Lacks high-end editing features

Ocenaudio

Ocenaudio
This free audio editing program is a solid choice for home musicians and podcasters. It uses very little in the way of system resources, making it reliable, and while it isn’t open source, it supports a wide array of VST plug-ins to enhance its capabilities. Its interface is well-marked and intuitively designed, with a spectogram to let you see the properties of the waveforms you’re working with. Filters and effects are available (although filters can’t be stacked), and batch processing is easy to accomplish.

Ocenaudio offers real-time preview when using both native and VST plug-in effects, so users can hear the signal while adjusting EQ and gain. It’s also possible to listen to and adjust multiple portions of an audio file at the same time. Ocenaudio uses your computer efficiently, applying basic functions like cut, copy, and paste instantaneously, no matter how large the file you’re working with, and it also applies spectrogram settings in real time.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
FreeFree>Deployment: Installed: Windows, Mac, Linux
>Service options: Email
>Features include integrations and FFT
>More features at Ocenaudio

Pros & Cons of Ocenaudio Audio Editing Software
ProsCons
>Ease of use
>Real-time application of effects
>Customizable hotkeys
>No batch processing
>No automatic crash recovery

PreSonus Studio One

PreSonus
PreSonus Studio One is a serious DAW aimed at composers working in electronic as well as more traditional forms of music. Its drag-and-drop workflow, integrated mastering, and ARA plug-ins facilitate music creation, and the program keeps adding new features to expand its capabilities. Its score editing features translate musical symbols (such as crescendos and diminuendos) smoothly to playback. Studio One is also gig-worthy, with the ability to map all the hardware controllers, backing tracks, keyboards, and instruments you need onto your screen for live performances. Recently added recording and mixing features include an independent listen bus, clip gain adjustments, and the ability to text mixes using different plug-ins and save multiple versions. Its native plug-ins include several vintage gear models.

Studio One makes the most of drag-and-drop editing, applying it to effects chains, presets, audio-to-MIDI conversions, virtual instruments, audio loops, and more. Its Score View incorporates the key features of PreSonus’ notation software Notion, providing the ability to shift your view of an entire score depending on what you’re working on. The app’s Harmonic Editing feature enhances music arranging, and the ability to work with multiple virtual instruments at once lets you develop unique sound libraries. Studio One also lets you work with analog signal processors to create warm, vintage sounds.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
Sphere: $14.95/month
Professional: $399.95
Artist: $99.95
Prime: Free
Free version >Deployment: Installed: Windows, Mac; web-based, cloud, SaaS, iPhone/iPad, Android
>Service options: Email
>Features include batch processing, integrations, and scrubbing
>More features at PreSonus

Pros & Cons of PreSonus Studio One Audio Editing Software
ProsCons
>Intuitive workflow for songwriting
>Drag-and-drop functionality
>Excellent MIDI programming capability
>No live support

Soundtrap

soundtrap
Soundtrap, a music editing program owned by audio streamer Spotify, is a cloud-based DAW that’s popular with podcasters and hip hop musicians in particular. It allows musicians to collaborate remotely in real time, including streaming live recordings, and it records and transcribes phone calls for use in streamed interviews. In addition, Soundtrap for Education offers the fundamentals of audio mixing designed for a classroom environment, and Soundtrap for Storytellers is dedicated to the needs of podcasters. Among Soundtrap’s key features are AutoTune, a wide array of more than 4,000 free presets and loops, and Beatmaker, a looper that lets users create beats easily. Automated mixing and mastering are easy to use for those without DAW experience, although few customization options are available.

Because Soundtrap stores work in the cloud, users can create and edit music remotely from anywhere, working on any device. Any mic or electronic instrument can be connected to play directly into Soundtrap, and the Soundtrap Capture app allows collaborative jamming and recording via mobile device.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
Music Makers Premium: $7.99/month
Music Makers Supreme: $11.99/month
Storytellers: $11.99/month,
Complete: $13.99/month
30-day trial>Deployment: Installed: Windows, Mac; web-based, cloud, SaaS, iPhone/iPad, Android
>Service options: Live chat, email
>Features include integrations and audio restoration
>More features at Soundtrap

Pros & Cons of Soundtrap Audio Editing Software
ProsCons
>Easy collaboration tools
>Encourages creativity
>Easy recording on the go
>No batch processing
>No automatic recovery

What Is Audio Editing Software?

Audio editing software, which is also often referred to as DAWs or digital audio workstations, gives users the ability to create and edit audio recordings, whether music or speech. They’re also used to create, edit, and mix complex audio for film and video. With most audio editing software, users can record live audio, often on multiple tracks, as well as output audio to many file types.

Many audio editing programs offer virtual instruments and the ability to mix them together. They make it possible to sync audio and video, both for editing dialogue and sound effects and for adding musical scores. DAWs provide the ability to manipulate every element of musical tracks, separating out instruments and voices and tweaking the actual waveforms of the sounds. Audio editing tools make it possible to remove unwanted noise from audio tracks, shorten or stretch audio tracks to sync with video tracks, alter the tempo or pitch of individual notes or passages, and loop beats.

Benefits of Audio Editing Software

Audio editing software lets music and sound editors deliver audio tracks that don’t lose any quality during the manipulation process. Sections of audio tracks can be tweaked and moved with no loss of quality, even with very large files. The editing of film scores and backing tracks is possible through this software, which enables editors to process the smallest sections of tracks in real time.

Most high-end audio editing programs offer nondestructive editing, which applies edits and other processing without doing any harm or making any changes to the underlying original file. With nondestructive editing, effects and edits can be adjusted in any order and at any time, including during playback. Effects can be stacked or chained, and some programs automate effects to occur at specific moments during playback.

Must-Have Features of Audio Editing Software

Different audio editing software is aimed at different markets and users, so the features offered may vary accordingly. Audio editing software designed for podcasters or the educational market is likely to be simpler to use and have fewer features than high-end programs designed for professional music editing or film scoring. Here are the most popular features found in audio editing software:

  • Audio recording: Most audio editing software can record live audio, sometimes extending to dozens of tracks for complex productions. In addition, the programs can upload prerecorded files for manipulation.
  • Volume control: Audio editing software can handle ducking, lowering the volume of music in relation to dialogue on multichannel tracks. The software should also be able to normalize sound levels across tracks.
  • Tempo control and time stretching: Because audio editing software is used to pair audio tracks with video tracks, the ability to stretch or shorten the audio to match the length of the video track is beneficial.
  • Mixing: Most audio editing software allows users to work with multiple channels of sound and mix them together in varying ways. Some apps allow mixing of live instruments and vocals as they’re being performed or recorded.
  • Virtual instruments: Many high-end audio editing programs offer entire suites of virtual instruments, many of them sampled from the best instruments of their type in the world.
  • Noise reduction: The ability to remove unwanted sounds from a track, including the clicks and pops that are artifacts of recording, is a must-have for audio editing software. Some apps also allow the removal of individual voices, such as a vocal line or a drum track.
  • Sound libraries: Many audio editing programs provide libraries of sound effects, filters, samples, and loops for users to incorporate into their own audio creations.

The Cost of Audio Editing Software

The cost of audio editing software can vary greatly depending on its intended market and the level of features offered. Several highly respected programs, including Audacity and Apple’s GarageBand, are free, although users might find themselves paying significant costs for plug-ins, instrument packs, and other add-ons to enhance the free programs.

The high-end programs used by professional music and sound editors, such as Avid’s Pro Tools, Ableton Live, and Reaper, can cost anywhere from $200 to $600. These programs are typically fully featured and offer ample customer support and regular updates. In the middle are programs intended for aspiring musicians, podcasters, and hobbyists, which generally run $10 to $60 per month. Several programs offer various levels of software, with more features commanding higher prices, to appeal to different kinds of users.