Whether you need a soundtrack for your film, you’re a DJ and need to polish up your sets before sharing them, or you’re a musician looking to produce the next big club hit, you need a good audio editor to eliminate noise, convert your files, edit tracks, and output the whole thing. This week, we’re going to look at five of the best audio editing applications, based on your nominations.
Earlier in the week, we asked you which audio editing tools you thought were the best. We tallied up your responses, and now we’re back to feature the five applications you said were the best of breed. It’s worth noting the list will be a bit of a mix of Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) as well as audio editors—they’re definitely different classes of tools. If you’re not sure of the difference, audio editors let you manage and splice existing audio files, while DAWs are more for creating new music from scratch. Now, on to the top five:
Free and open source, Audacity makes audio editing simple and easy. It’s no DAW, but if you’re a DJ looking to polish a set before sharing it with the web, or if you just want to remove the noise from your music collection or normalize the volume, Audacity is a simple tool to master and gets the job done quickly. It supports a number of different file types, including mp3, OGG, WAV, AIFF, and more, and can even record live audio for editing and export later. Plus, Audacity’s flexible features make it perfect for home projects like basement mixes and digitizing old cassettes or vinyl. You can read more about Audacity’s features here.
Formerly Cool Edit Pro, Adobe Audition is a powerful suite that makes audio editing, splicing, remixing, and restoration easy. It’s pricey on its own ($349 USD), but can be purchased as part of Creative Suite. Adobe retained Cool Edit Pro’s user-friendly interface in many ways—Audition is easy to pick up and difficult to master completely, but that’s just because of its depth of features. Audition makes it easy to mix, splice, and edit files you already have, and can support just about anything you throw at it. You can use the tool’s built-in effects to add flair to your recordings, set up your frequent changes in an action and batch process dozens of audio files with the same settings, mix multiple tracks, and more. You can read more about Audition’s features here.
Avid Pro Tools is more of a DAW, although it can edit existing audio like a champ. Professional musicians use Pro Tools for studio recordings and album mixes, DJs use it to correct mistakes in their mixes after the fact, and music producers can assemble entire albums in a fraction of the time required with other tools. That power will cost you—$699 for the base version—but for the money you get an industry-standard, studio-grade tool that supports anything you send its way, has a wealth of plug-ins to extend its functionality, works seamlessly with studio equipment, and has its own music composition tools and instruments built-in. You can read more of Pro Tools’ features here.
Reaper is another DAW that many of you praised for its flexible and deep feature set, customization options, and the fact that it’s a lightweight application—especially when compared with other DAWs with similar feature sets. It sports a number of plugins that can extend its functionality, and even non-professional users can pick it up and work with it fairly quickly. Reaper works just as well if you want to record music from professional gear or an amateur setup, or if you want to make music entirely with your computer. Reaper features hundreds of built-in effects and features to make your music really shine, and has a huge and vibrant community of users, to boot. Oh, and the price tag is nice—it’ll only set you back $60 for individual, non-profit, or small business use. Even the full commercial license is only $225. That’s a lot of power for little cash. You can read more of Reaper’s features here.
Ableton Live draws a bright line between making music and editing audio files. It’s a very powerful DAW, and popular too—many of you noted it for its professional-grade features, specifically geared towards live recordings, but it’s no slouch if you’re looking to write music as well. It sports an almost ridiculous number of features for the advanced user, and caters to both live musicians and DJs alike. If you want to edit existing files you may have a hard time getting around Ableton’s features, but it does support virtually any type of audio you try to import, features pre-loaded effects and processing tools, a host of built-in instruments, and more. You can read all of Ableton Live’s features here.