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Best Free Recording Software: Top 7 Picks for 2020

Sia Mohajer
Last updated: Aug 27, 2020

Once upon a time, you had to pay hundreds of dollars to get decent recording software. Even then, you had to spend more money decking out your room or home studio and making it soundproof just to capture high-quality sound. Getting the attention of the music industry from home used to be a lot harder!

These days, some of the best free recording software allows you to capture your high-quality sound and edit it before sending it in to an audition, all without spending a penny.

Alternatively, you can use some of these software picks for fun and games – it’s easier than ever to come up with amusing mixtapes or add awesome soundtracks to your videos.

Whatever your needs, let’s take a look at the best free recording software picks.

Best Free Recording Software


Since each of these software picks are free, finding the best was easy.

Recording Software Creations

We tried them out ourselves and got a feel for the user interfaces and different features – we’d highly recommend you do the same if you’re uncertain by the end of this guide.

#1 Audacity


Key Specifications:

  • Editing controls
  • Noise remover
  • Preset setting controls
  • Plugin support
  • Multi-track recording
  • Supports recording from 44.1 to 192 kHz

Pros:

  • Track editing/mixing is super easy
  • Works with most equipment and plug-ins
  • In-depth controls are great for learning users

Cons:

  • Uses destructive editing

Audacity Logo

Audacity Review

Audacity was released in 2000, right when people were first jumping onto personal computers and the Internet en masse. Since then, the open-source program has remained popular in part because it’s totally free of charge. But its age does show somewhat in its simplistic and somewhat clunky interface.

Many common plug-ins work well with Audacity. Nyquist, VST, Audio Unit, and more plug-ins are all supported once you update the software or download the most updated version for free from the main website.

It’s also great for recording from various types of equipment, whether it’s home microphones or live streaming audio.

Notable Features

Audacity has a lot to offer. Tracks appear as detailed waveforms on its interface by default, so editing a particular section of a track is as easy as highlighting what you want to edit and pressing the corresponding button.

It supports recording for garage-band level to studio-level quality sound, and it can even work with ultrasonic recordings if you have the appropriate hardware.

Audacity New Features

Multitrack recording is also available if you like. Filtering out unwanted noise, boosting certain frequencies, equalization and much more are all at your fingertips. Again, remember that the navigation bar is a bit cluttered, so finding all of these features might take you a few minutes.

Ease of Use and Overall Value

You’ll note right off the bat that the interface isn’t as fancy or modern as you might find with modern recording software. But the minimalist layout will have its fans, and navigating through the various functions and controls is pretty easy once you get the hang of it.

This does keep it from being the perfect choice for beginners, however. Additionally, the fact that it’s made with older code means that it uses so-called “destructive editing”.

Basically, adding any sound effects to a track alters the original waveform. You can’t recover the original audio after the fact.

Still, it’s a versatile and robust recording software for any hobbyist’s needs. While there are some better choices for purely studio-level recording, this is perfect for YouTubers, streamers, home audio mixers, up-and-coming musicians, and anyone in between. 

#2 Garage Band


Key Specifications:

  • Has sound/loop library
  • Uses special Mac plug-ins
  • Can add your own sounds
  • Includes music lessons
  • Includes virtual effects and amps
  • Tons of editing tools

Pros:

  • Very slick interface
  • Easy to edit tracks
  • Sound library is always growing

Cons:

  • Only available on MacOS

Garage Band Logo

Garage Band Review

Right off the bat, make sure you’re aware that Garage Band is only available for MacOS platforms.

This is easily the biggest downside for the software, because otherwise it’s fantastic and has been a staple for classroom audio editing fun for decades (since 2004, actually, when it became one of the most popular recording programs of all time).

Editing everything is super easy thanks to the color-coded tracks and the drag-and-drop interface. Being an Apple-only product, it is a little bit more limited in terms of plug-in integration than other recording software on the market.

Still, the available Apple plug-ins you can combine with Garage Band allow you to expand the sound library ahead of time, or create a comprehensive library that customized for your jam sessions.

Notable Features

Garage Band is most notable for its wide-ranging features and perks. For instance, there’s a detailed sounded loop library that you can edit into your own tracks. It’s perfect for home movie makers and YouTubers for this reason alone.

Even better, you can import your own sounds and loops if you have a little bit of coding expertise. Even if you don’t, the library is always growing to keep things fresh.

GarageBand Tutorial

Virtual amps and other effects (for instance, drum tracks or guitar solos) are also available to spice up the audio. It’s no stretch to say you can create a full-on album from whole cloth just using the tools available on Garage Band.

But when it comes to recording, this software is really valuable since it lets you mix in those other sounds with your recorded music or vocals. Additional music lessons are built-in if you want to give yourself some lessons over time. 

Ease of Use and Overall Value

Being an Apple product, it’s perhaps no surprise that Garage Band benefits from a slick and intuitive user interface. The easy to learn controls are perfect for beginners who want to record something right away or those who want to plug in an instrument and see how well they can mix tracks without any practice.

All in all, it’s a phenomenal free software to record music and a perfect choice if you have an Apple computer.

#3 Avid Pro Tools First


Key Specifications:

  • Nondestructive editing
  • 16 simultaneous audio track editing
  • AAX Native and AudioSuite plug-ins
  • MIDI editor
  • Mixing controls
  • Upgrades available

Pros:

  • Easy editing
  • Not too hard on most computers
  • Support for multiple plug-ins

Cons:

  • Storage limitations
  • Editing limitations

Avid Logo

Avid Pro Tools First Review

Avid Pro Tools First was first available in 2001 (fairly early for free software) and is the free version of Pro Tools and Pro Tools Ultimate, both of which offer extra features and better editing capabilities.

Avid’s highest-priced software is the industry standard for audio recording and mixing. Professional singers and songwriters use the paid versions all the time.

Still, the free version is quite useful and offers the ability to edit up to 16 simultaneous audio tracks at the same time. There is a minor limitation of only 1 GB storage space for your projects if you want to stick with the free version.

Avid Pro Tools Folder Tracks

However, Avid Pro Tools First puts less pressure on your system compared to the paid versions, which is a nice bonus. Even budget computers can run this audio software without hiccupping all the time.

Because of this and its track limitations, it’s the best free voice recording software for singers and songwriters that are learning the ropes of audio recording.

Notable Features

Avid Pro Tools First offers many of the same features and capabilities that the paid counterparts do, including nondestructive editing. This is distinct from Audacity’s editing and allows you to access the original waveform of a sound or track even after you add special effects to it or mess with it for fun.

Additional features like a MIDI editor and support for AAX Native and AudioSuite plug-ins are included as well. Plus, you can use up to four inputs and 16 at once – enough for a minor jam session with your friends or a one-mand band type deal.

Again, the biggest limitation comes from the fact that you can only store three projects in the cloud and they can’t collectively exceed 1 GB in size.

Ease of Use and Overall Value

Avid Pro Tools First is fairly easy to use and intuitive to learn. But the limitations placed on it by the storage cap really do change how it feels to use. You’ll have to keep your music files down to enjoy the software’s free version for coughing up cash.

Avid Pro Tools build your Audio

Ultimately, we rate it decently as a reasonable and permanent trial for the main software, which comes with slightly better editing features and better storage metrics.

If you decide to go with either of the paid versions, you’ll have to pay $30 or $80 a month.

#4 Ardour


Key Specifications:

  • Multitrack recording
  • Nondestructive editing
  • Great MIDI editor
  • Additional upgrades available for fee
  • Easy to combine tracks
  • Good plug-in compatibility

Pros:

  • Great for combining with Jack sound server
  • Works with any audio engine
  • Good ripple edits

Cons:

  • Doesn’t come with built-in effects/instruments

Ardour Logo

Ardour Review

Ardour is an open-source software recording program available for both Windows and MacOS – interestingly, its main developer was also one of the first programmers at Amazon and created the Linux Jack sound server.

Beyond this history, Ardour is a great pick for multitrack recording. The user interface can get a little cluttered because of this focus, but it’s still workable. It’s an ideal fit for any audio engine, including Core Audio, ASIO, ALSA, and more, and offers additional upgrade if you pay some extra fees.

Notable Features

A MIDI editor is standard in most free audio recording software and is included here as well. Most importantly, Ardour allows you to import video straight to the main interface.

This makes it arguably the best free recording software for movie makers or YouTubers. Mixing the ideal soundtrack for your video or movie is easier than ever using this software.

Ardour Features

Since it works with the Jack sound server, you can combine it with tons of other plug-ins and outside applications. Nondestructive editing and combining individual tracks into a single recording can also be accomplished with the press of a few buttons.

The biggest downside is that it doesn’t come with built-in effects or instruments the same way that Garage Band does.

Ease of Use and Overall Value

The user interface, although cluttered, is modernized, though it’s not very aesthetically appealing. Click-and-drag editing means that even beginners should get the hang of its functions fairly quickly.

All in all, it’s a quality piece of free recording and editing software. You can even overcome the lack of effects or instruments by installing third-party software. We think it’s great for more technical recorders or movie makers.

#5 Hya-Wave


Key Specifications:

  • Browser-based software
  • Effects included
  • Cloud storage
  • Fast social media sharing
  • Makes basic quality recordings
  • Click-and-drag editor

Pros:

  • Easy to share music to social media
  • Works for most computers
  • Intuitive interface

Cons:

  • Limited editing
  • No storage on your PC

Hya-Wave Audio Editor

Hya-Wave Review

Sometimes free recording software isn’t designed for those future superstars who will release their first hit single before they turn 21. Hya-Wave was created in 2015 and is instead designed for solo artists looking to experiment or college students trying to share their home mixes on social media.

To this end, it’s not downloadable software, but is instead browser-based. This means you can play with it on any device that can access the site, which also helps give it a little extra mobile value.

Using the site is pretty intuitive and storage is all handled via the cloud. It’s truly one of the most innovative and interesting free recording software programs you can find.

Notable Features

The big thing to notice here is that you can’t share or store data for your own computer. Everything is handled via the cloud. Furthermore, Hya-Wave has other limitations you might expect from such a browser-based is of software.

There’s no multitrack editing, for instance, and even the editing tools included are fairly basic and bare-bones.

Hya-Wave Features

Recording, along with all other editing functions like copying, pasting, and cropping is all handled from the main screen on the Hya-Wave website. Fortunately, Hya-Wave does include several effects to help change the audio texture of your sound or add a bit of spice.

Ease of Use and Overall Value

Using Hya-Wave is super easy, especially if you want to share your media on Facebook or Twitter (as is intended by the site’s creators). You can do that all from the main interface and not having to worry about storing your music will be attractive for casual recorders.

We think it’s good for what it is. But don’t expect it to serve you as well as some of the other, better free recording software picks on this list, especially if you want to really tinker with tracks or make something that will get you attention on YouTube or in the industry.

#6 Zynewave Podium Free


Key Specifications:

  • VST improves sound quality
  • Free effects library
  • Good for third-party plug-ins
  • Never times out
  • Expansive editing options
  • Upgrades available

Pros:

  • Interface can be customized
  • Great features in free version
  • Regular bug fixes

Cons:

  • Free limitations are stifling
  • One input and output for MIDI editing

Zynewave best recording program

Zynewave Podium Free Review

Zynewave Podium Free first cropped up after developer Frits Nielsen, having created one of the best paid recording programs on the market, wanted to make it accessible to everyone.

The result is this free version (offered in 2010) that has many of the same features and advantages that caused the original Podium to become so beloved.

The big drawbacks are a lack of multiprocessing (which slows down your recording and editing), and no surround sound playback capabilities. You also don’t get access to the 64-bit mixer engine that’s included with regular Podium.

Still, it’s one of the best free music recording software for Windows 10 and can be seen as a free trial for the main Podium software.

Notable Features

You get most of what makes Podium so valuable, including a great MIDI editor and third-party plug-in compatibility. VST or virtual signal technology (a special type of plugin) is included with Podium free as well – this can simulate traditional recording studio hardware and really increase the value and quality of your mixes.

Zynewave Podium Audio Recording features

You’ll also get access to a full suite of extra effects to add to your tracks. Keep in mind that the MIDI editing interface only allows one input and output at a time, which can also slow down your recording and editing process.

Ease of Use and Overall Value

The program is a little quirky to learn at first. But it’s insanely customizable, so the interface can be tuned exactly to your needs. The program generally runs smoothly and regular bug fixes roll out all the time.

All in all, it’s a solid example of free recording software, but the limitations are a little more in-your-face here than they are with other programs. As with Avid Pro Tools, the paid software looks more and more tempting once you run into strategically placed roadblocks.

#7 Traverso


Key Specifications:

  • Keyboard and mouse shortcuts
  • Reduced latency
  • Nondestructive editing
  • CD burning
  • Lots of plug-in compatibility
  • Make edits without changing original sample

Pros:

  • Ideal for demo CDs
  • Easy to use interface
  • Runs smoothly

Cons:

  • Lacks a library of effects/instruments
  • No traditional main menu structure

Traverso recording software logo

Traverso Review

Traverso, released in 2017, is chock full of features that are ideal for common recording and hobbyist music mixing. The most noteworthy difference between it and other programs is the plethora of mouse and keyboard shortcuts. Learn these and you’ll zip around the program like a pro in no time. 

It’s a program specially designed for those who like to make demo CDs. If you have dreams of making it big in the music industry, or just like sharing your mixes around with your friends, you’ll like Traverso.

Recording demo CDs takes a couple of button presses and everything can be accomplished from the same main screen.

Notable Features

Traverso really doubles down on its user-friendly nature, especially by offering nondestructive editing that allows you to alter waveforms in their original contexts, even after adding effects and heavy editing. Editing sound without changing the original sample is a breeze.

It’s also great for integrating with plug-ins, and the software offers a streamlined user experience thanks to its real-time “lockless” audio processing.

Traverso Features

This is technical talk for reduced latency (i.e. smoother playback) that you’ll definitely notice, particularly if you make use of the keyboard and mouse shortcuts.

Ease of Use and Overall Value

While the aforementioned shortcuts are great, this does create a learning curve that some people will find uncomfortable. We think most people will get the hang of it relatively quickly, though, and benefit from Traverso’s other features.

In the end, it’s a solid piece of free recording software that is most worthwhile, in fact, for its editing more than the recording function. This is to say that it’s not the best for recording studio-quality sound, but smart editing and snappy functionality make it a great hobbyist or beginner’s tool nonetheless.

Buying Guide for the Best Free Recording Software


Audio Recording Programs For Any Situation

These days, decent audio recording programs are a dime a dozen – and many are totally free! This is a great thing for hobbyist music lovers and would-be recording professionals.

It’s easier than ever to practice audio recording and editing with free tools that offer just as much functionality and flexibility as industry-standard stuff. 

The above choices are particularly well known in the industry and come with special points or gimmicks that make them stand out from the crowd. Take Audacity, which is well known as an old-fashioned but in-depth piece of recording software that makes editing any track in any way you like possible.

If you’d rather work with software that doesn’t destructive editing, try Garage Band, especially if you have a MacOS computer. It includes a full library of sounds and effects to mix with, plus extensive editing tools to make something uniquely your own.

The overall point is that each of the above software choices is great, though they might be suitable for different users.

Skills Make Sounds – Not Software

In line with the above, remember that it’s ultimately the skills and creativity of software users that determine whether their mixes and tracks will actually be worthwhile. You could, in theory, use any of the above free recording software picks and create something that gets the attention of a studio head.

Or you could make great audio to go along with your next YouTube video. If you’re more casual, any of the above choices are great for fun mixing or audio tracks to share with your friends at school.

Reviews on The Best Recording Softwares

Bottom line: don’t worry about taking the wrong software. It’s always skill that makes sound worthwhile. Besides, each of these choices is free!

How to Use the Best Free Music Software in Creative Ways

Recording software is only limited by your imagination. Here are just a few clever ways you can use free recording software to excellent effect.

Create a Podcast or Radio Show

It seems like everyone these days has their own podcast or radio show. The barrier to entry is incredibly low and you could potentially start hosting your own podcast for $0 – just use one of the free software programs above!

In a more professional context, podcasts and radio shows are great for getting your name spread around the web and for attracting industry attention based on the podcast’s topic. Plus, they’re just plain fun to make and listen to.

Create Samples and DJ Mixes

If you really do have a desire to make it in the music industry, free recording software is a great way to start. Many of the above programs have the tools you need to fine-tune your music or record it as you play.

Some, like Zynewave, can even simulate a recording booth or studio as your music is translated into digital information.

Recording with the newest technology

This can also just be a fun practice. Want the DJ at your wedding to play a custom mix? This is how you make it.

Make a Recording of Your Interviews

Job interviews can be a really stressful affair, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Next time you’re at a Zoom job interview, record it! You can review yourself after the fact and pay attention to your vocal tone and see where you went wrong or what you aced.

What You Need to Know About The Best Free Recording Software


Recording software is a particular type of software that can take digitized audio information recorded by a microphone or via keyboard inputs and turn it into code.

Then it can adjust those sounds if it’s equipped with editing tools and play back the sound through speakers. Recorded sound can be sent throughout the Internet, burned to a CD, or otherwise stored.

Although each of the above choices is great, some are definitely better for certain microphones than others.

A microphone’s polar pattern is how sensitive it is to sound relative to the angle or direction from where that sound hits the microphone. In other words, it’s how well a microphone hears sound from other directions.

Omnidirectional microphones are, of course, great for hearing sound from any direction. Cardioid microphones are more sensitive at the front, which makes them ideal for ignoring ambient sound and focusing on vocal tones or instruments.

Supercardioid microphones reject ambient sound even further but do pick up some noise directly at the rear, requiring more specific positioning.

How Does This Relate to Free Recording Software? Make sure that your microphone (whichever type it is) is well-suited to the recording software in question. Some software can clean up ambient sound picked up by your microphone.

Best Options For Recording

But in general, all of the recording software above will work better if you choose a microphone that’s best suited to your purposes.

You Might Also Run Into Other Key Terms as You Seek Out the Perfect Recording Software for Your Needs

  • Binaural hearing is what humans have naturally – it’s hearing derived from two ears working together to create stereo sound.
  • A decibel is a unit of measurement that measures how loud a sound is. For context, whispers are normally around 30 dB, regular conversations are around 60 dB, and some motorcycle and car engines can run as high as 95 dB. This is important since your recording software might be limited to certain decibel caps when you play or sing.

FAQ


What is the Easiest Free Recording Software to Use?

Garage Band is possibly the easiest free recording software to use, but it’s limited to MacOS users only. If you have a Windows computer, Avid Pro Tools First and Hya-Wave are also quite intuitive, though the latter is extremely limited in functionality.

What Recording Software Do Singers Use?

Avid Pro Tools First is the best, bar none. It’s also the industry standard – use it to record your vocals, then mix and edit them until they’re perfect for a mixtape or studio audition.

What Free Recording Software Do Most YouTubers Use?

YouTubers use all kinds of free recording software based on their needs. Generally, software that works well with video is the best bet since it allows for better synchronization. Ardour is, thus, perfect for most  YouTubers, although Garage Band is a close second thanks to its extensive sound and effects library.

Conclusion


The best free recording software for your needs will be right for your experience level and suitable for your recording goals. Don’t worry about trying one of these and not falling in love instantly – they’re all free, so there’s nothing stopping you from trying them all out until you find your favorite!

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