Picking the right editing app
There are a plethora of audio editing tools available. Some are aimed at music producers while others are fine-tuned just for podcast editing. Let’s review some of the most popular apps, often referred to as DAWs (digital audio workstations).
In this section we’ll only look at Windows and Mac. Some people do edit audio on Linux, but those who do tend to already know their way around the software that’s available on their platform.
Recording vs editing
This lesson only focuses on editing your podcast episode, not the recording aspect. That’s because the software or hardware you use to record will vary depending on your station. If you’re recording over Skype, for example, you can look into Skype Call Recorder for Windows or Mac (we’ll cover remote recording in a later lesson). You might use a web-based tool to record your episode, or you might have a handheld recorder like a Zoom H4N.
Watch the video above for a brief rundown on your recording options, as well as an overview of the apps we recommend.
As with our hardware picks, we don’t earn a commission for referring you to these apps.
The audio editor that comes bundled with the Mac is focused towards hobbyist music creation, but is easier to use than Audacity. If it’s not already installed on your Mac, you can download it from the Mac App Store for free. It’s worth noting that GarageBand used to have podcast-specific features like audio ducking (automatically lowering the volume of music when someone was talking) but these features were lost in favour of feature parity between the Mac and iPad app. So you might find how-to videos and other guides online that point to features that haven’t existed in GarageBand since 2013.
Hindenburg have a suite of software for Windows and Mac, aimed at radio journalists and podcasters. Hindenburg Journalist is an affordable product (at around $80) that provides tools all podcasters need, like auto-levelling of audio to make sure it’s as loud as it can be without being disrupted, easily applying EQ and compression tailored to your voice, and more.
You can record directly into Hindenburg Journalist and edit multiple tracks, importing audio from other sources too. It has simple noise reduction effects and you can download plugins to add more effects, but it’s not as full-featured as some of the more established DAWs, plus Journalist has some restrictions you might bump up against, that may warrant upgrading to Journalist Pro.
While all the apps we’ve covered so far deal with blocks of audio that you move around in a timeline, Descript takes an entirely different approach. Instead of looking at the peaks of a waveform and making your edits that way, Descript starts by transcribing your audio and letting you edit your recording as you would a text document.
You can start simply with Descript by removing ums and ahhs from your tracks, or shorten gaps of silence, and remove full sentences or individual words. If you train Descript on your own voice, you can even let the software replace a word or two.
It’s also a great way to offer your listeners a transcription of your podcast, as you can export the edited transcript as a Word document or copy and paste the text into your website. It doesn’t have effects and isn’t really geared to editing a full episode of a podcast — especially if you have lots of different voices, clips or pieces of music — but it’s a great way to clean up your speech, and either export a simple podcast episode, or bring those edits over to a traditional DAW to clean them up, since Descript makes non-destructive edits.
Descript is a subscription service with a downloadable app for macOS and Windows. It has a free tier, and the lowest-price plan is $10 a month.
Logic Pro X
Apple’s flagship audio editing application is a great way to advance from GarageBand, as it takes the same design cues, so you won’t feel lost. It’s designed for working with music — especially in recent updates, electronic music — but it has all the tools a podcast editor would need to make great-sounding audio.
There are a great number of effects you can add (like EQ and compression) to make your audio sound cleaner, and as with most desktop DAWs, it supports audio plugins. It has some quirks and eccentricities, but it is reliable and well-supported.
It costs roughly $200 and is Mac only, but this is a one-time purchase that entitles you to free updates. It’s available via the Mac App Store.
Adobe Audition started its life over 20 years ago, and has remained a popular choice for radio professionals. It was subsequently rolled into the Adobe Creative Cloud suite of products, so is encumbered by a high subscription fee. Adobe Audition provides both destructive- and non-destructive audio editing modes, with broadcast quality compression effects that are easy to apply, and that will make your audio sound crisp and clear. It has a steeper learning curve than some DAWs, but is easier to use than Audacity.
Audition works on Mac and PC, and costs a little over $20 per month, or around $240 a year. If you already have a Creative Cloud subscription, it’s worth adding Audition to your toolkit, as it is the best DAW you can work with, for mixing spoken word and music.
Bonus mention: Ferrite Recording Studio
UK-based Wooji Juice make a number of audio apps for iOS. Their most recent is Ferrite Recording Studio (or simply “Ferrite” to those in the know). Ferrite works at its best on an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil, as it can make editing with your hands a fairly smooth process. Professional podcasters use Ferrite to edit multitrack podcast episodes on their iPads, and apply effects like EQ and compression, and volume automation. In this way, it fills the space Apple left behind when they removed their podcast-specific features from GarageBand.
Many people use Audacity to edit podcasts, and recommend it because it’s free and works across Windows and Mac. However, Audacity has a steep learning curve and is built for Linux, so even experienced Mac or Windows users may find the interface difficult to navigate, and the app frustrating to use. If you’re just starting out, there are equally well-equipped apps that are more suited to the task.
There are other popular DAWs like Reaper and ProTools, but these are more music-focused and in that regard are similar enough to Logic and Audition that it’s not worth covering them here. However if you’re curious about them or you already have one of these apps and want to put it to use for podcasting, you’ll find lots of resources online.
How to choose the right app
Pick the software that’s right for your platform, the type of podcast you want to make, the time you have available (both to work with the app on a regular basis, and to learn it initially), and your budget… including whether you prefer spending a little more upfront vs a regular amount each month.
Take advantage of free trials to figure out if a particular app is right for you, and make sure you know where you can go to get help or tips.