Best Podcast Editing Software
Riley Byrne, Owner, Podigy.co
06 December 2017
If you’re familiar with Podigy, you probably know that we like Reaper. A whole lot. And if you’ve followed any of our guides, you know that Reaper is a complicated program, and we only use maybe 3% of its total potential. And that is part of the reason why we chose to use it here at Podigy. Reaper is a program where anything can be mapped, chained, manipulated or automated. More than that, you can batch process, create your own effects, jam with people over the internet, distribute processing across multiple computers, use it from your command line, spectral edit items, and so much more. Essentially, I’m saying it’s a tinkerer’s dream, and I hope that when you read our guides, your mind is filled with ways to customize our workflow to suit your style better. Mine certainly is. I tweak settings and controls and templates all the time to better adapt to my style of editing.
However, Reaper isn’t for everybody. There’s a considerable amount of work to do out of the box to get it setup for podcasting, and the interface is not the prettiest in the world. So what else is out there? Today I’m going to outline the best podcast editing software that isn’t Reaper, but first let’s look at what we want out of our Digital Audio Workstations when we’re podcasting. And the best way to do that might be to look at what we don’t want. And what we don’t want is Audacity.
I’ve never liked Audacity. I respect that it was a great program 17 years ago, and probably continues to be most people’s go-to recommendation when they’re trying to get a remote guest to record their audio locally. However, doing anything other than recording audio into Audacity is such a time suck. More than that though, the skills you learn in Audacity do not translate to DAWs (Audacity is technically considered an audio editor, not a workstation). The unintended consequence of this is that we have a whole group of Audacity editors reluctant to try a different setup that would save them tons of time in the long run because nothing they’ve learned is applicable outside of that one program.
So, one of our criteria should be that whatever DAW we choose should be in fact be a digital audio workstation. We want any skills we learn in one program to translate fairly well to any others. For example, I started recording my podcasts in Ableton Live, but transferring over to Reaper was made easier because Reaper and Live (and all other DAWs) are built around common themes. And one of the most important of those themes is that they are non-destructive editors.
You see, as podcasters, the quality of our audio can change throughout the course of recording. For instance, HVAC systems can turn on or off, windows can be opened, babies can start to cry, guests can move toward or away from the mic, and a whole litany of other problems can occur, and it’s our job to make the best of these bad situations. And with most DAWs it’s easy, because they are non-destructive editors, meaning they keep the original file intact, but apply EQ and compression and other effects in real time so we can hear the changes we’re making. Audacity, however, wants us to commit to the changes we make, because it is a “destructive editor”. Every time I want to apply an effect, Audacity records over my original audio with a new version, with that effect included. If the audio changes overtime in a way I didn’t anticipate and that effect is no longer appropriate, I can’t split it into two tracks and process them differently. Or, as is all too common, if Audacity crashes while processing the effects, you’re often left with a corrupted original file.
Essentially, a DAW offers flexibility above and beyond what Audacity is capable of. However, the flexibility of a DAW is often offset by its ease of use. The more options afforded to a user, the steeper the learning curve. Reaper may be the logical endpoint of DAW flexibility, but it isn’t the most user friendly thing in the world, so our guides concentrate on simply constructing our own single button presses to execute complex commands. Still better than Audacity, but there are options out there that work more intuitively out of the box.
For this reason, I’m going to exclude Pro Tools from the list, as anyone looking into getting into just podcasting is likely uninterested in the investment required to get started in their ecosystem.
It is also important to note that your choice of DAW will not have any effect on the sound of your audio. All will come with plugins (EQ, compression, etc) that you can use to shape your audio, but the DAW itself will not apply a filter of any sort. So find the one you’re comfortable with and get really good at it.
So with all this preamble out of the way, here is our list of software to check out for editing your podcast:
This duo is an Apple exclusive, but if you’re working on a Mac, they are the best podcast editing software to get started. The great thing about this, apart from the former being free, is the potential for growth. Garageband does a great job of keeping things simple, and its tight integration with the OS removes a lot of the headaches of trying to route audio, but it’s layout is a simplified version of Logic, so once you start to feel limited by Garageband’s maximum number of effects, you can migrate to the more robust Logic, and take all your projects with you.
That being said, if you’re a perfectionist, some of the lack of control in Garageband might be too frustrating. While it is certainly enough to get interview podcasts sounding good, it is also a free product designed to get you to upgrade to Logic at some point, so there is limited customizability, and ripple edits (removing a portion of time from all tracks, and moving the audio after the edit to join with the the audio before the edit, essential in podcast editing to quickly remove “ums”) are very clunky to execute. However, it is a free and dead easy way to get started podcasting, and a great way to get your toes wet with DAWs.
Hindenburg is an interesting DAW. It’s geared towards journalists, broadcasters, audiobook producers and podcasters. As such, it has a lot of features that make life easier, and generally keeps things pretty simple. For instance, it allows you to record from multiple interfaces natively, meaning no workarounds using aggregate devices or ASIO4All. It also automatically adjusts the gain of imported clips to keep things level, and has built-in presets for EQ and compression in its “voice profiler”, allowing your podcast to take shape with a very hands-off approach. When you export shows, it will automatically adjust levels to make sure you’re within broadcast loudness levels. Hindenburg is, in a lot of ways, the big brother to the popular Levelator program, doing a decent job automatically mixing your audio, freeing you up to concentrate on getting rid of the “ums” and “ahs”, and getting the flow of your show right.
The ability to mix audio interfaces and USB mics is enough to make it the best podcast editing software for some people, as that has the potential to save many headaches. VST support is nice as well, as the included audio effects are all simplified, and won’t offer much in the way of fixing problematic audio. It also has a dedicated, single-knob noise reduction plugin which works fine, and the ability to pick it for ridiculously cheap on World Radio Day make it very attractive to podcasters just starting off.
Audition seems to be the big-boy DAW everyone talks about these days, so I feel obligated to talk about it here. And on the surface, Audition is fantastic. For a podcaster looking to up their productivity, it has a lot of thoughtful time savers built in. Auto-ducking music, denoising and declicking built in, a wave editor tab, and automatic dynamics processing are all great tools to have for podcasters. Adobe Audition is a great program for those of you comfortable with the basics of production and want to start saving time and doing more.
However! Adobe Audition will cost you. It’s $20/month, every month, forever. Now that cost, $240/yearly, will mean different things to different people. Paying for three months of Audition is the same as buying a license of Reaper (which includes free updates to version 6.99, it’s currently at 5.62), or 30 copies of Hindenburg on World Radio Day (don’t do this). So you’ll never own Audition, but that might not matter to you. All-in-all, it’s a great program, with lots of customizability and an unfortunate payment plan.
You’ll notice that we’re not covering many of the DAWs out there, as, apart from the ones mentioned above, they are all different flavours of the same sort of thing. And for all DAWs besides Reaper, I would strongly consider getting some software to automate keystrokes and mouse movements of repetitive tasks. Reaper can do it natively with Actions, but doing this can speed up your workflow in any DAW, or even Audacity!
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