In order to create a podcast, cut the pauses out of a webinar recording, or add effects to a video soundtrack, you'll need audio editing software. It lets you record audio, trim a file down to size, convert to web-friendly formats, and clean up an old recording.
And there's no shortage of audio editors to choose from. Which you pick depends on what you're hoping to achieve, your budget, and your overall skill level.
After considering more than 50 apps and doing in-depth testing on dozens of contenders, these are my picks for the best audio editors.
The 7 best audio editors
Adobe Audition for the most powerful audio editor
Audacity for the best free audio editor
Acoustica Standard Edition for a budget-friendly alternative to Adobe Audition
Hindenburg PRO 2 for journalists and podcasters
SOUND FORGE Audio Studio 17 for Windows users on a budget
Audiate for transcription-based audio editing
AudioMass for free, browser-based audio editing
What makes the best audio editor?
How we evaluate and test apps
All of our best apps roundups are written by humans who've spent much of their careers using, testing, and writing about software. We spend dozens of hours researching and testing apps, using each app as it's intended to be used and evaluating it against the criteria we set for the category. We're never paid for placement in our articles from any app or for links to any site—we value the trust readers put in us to offer authentic evaluations of the categories and apps we review. For more details on our process, read the full rundown of how we select apps to feature on the Zapier blog.
The best audio editors are designed purely with audio editing in mind. Many digital audio workstations (DAWs) include audio editing features alongside a far larger feature set that can make them bulkier and more expensive. I've chosen only true audio editors for inclusion in this piece, so you won't find software like GarageBand, Ableton Live, or AVID Pro Tools on this list.
Some of these picks bring something unique to the table, but there was a basic set of criteria each app had to have to be considered for the list.
Basic editing features that make editing audio quick, straightforward, and pleasant. This includes standard waveform editing, multi-track editing, and a wide range of supported file types. You should be able to use any of these apps to trim an audio file down to size or merge two files together. (These kinds of simple waveform edits are often referred to as destructive editing, where edits you make to the file overwrite the original when you click Save.)
Plugins and one-click operations for applying automatic or modifiable effects and any AI-driven tools that make editing easier. These features are designed to make it easy to recover imperfect recordings, adjust equalizer settings, add reverb or echo, or edit audio in unique ways.
Overall ease of use, including interface design, support documents, and any active support communities. I also noted whether the app offers a tour of its features when you first start using it.
Value for money. With so many free audio editors available, it's important that premium apps provide a good sense of value with best-in-class features, unique tools, and other features that don't usually come for free. Though free apps inherently offer great value, only the best were chosen for inclusion in the final list.
Any additional integrations, perks, and extras someone looking to edit audio might find useful. This could be cloud storage integration, sharing and publishing tools, a sound effects archive, easy access to additional plugins or themes, or anything in between.
To test the apps, I performed a set of basic edits in waveform view, applying effects like noise reduction and exporting files, and then I put any unique features through their paces. After tinkering with dozens of apps, these are the best audio editors I found.
The best audio editing software at a glance
Powerful features at a price
Industry-standard audio editing
$20.99/month (Single app), $54.99/month (Creative Cloud)
Free audio editing
Open source but very powerful
A budget alternative to Adobe Audition
Complex effect chains
$59.90 (Standard Edition), $199.90 (Premium Edition)
Journalists and podcasters
$12/month (Standard), $15/month (Plus), $30/month (Premium)
Windows users on a budget
$59.99 (Single License), $2.99/month (Audio Studio 365)
Editing recordings like a text document
$29.99/month or $199.99/year
Browser-based audio editing
Best audio editor for powerful features at a price
Adobe Audition (macOS, Windows)
Adobe Audition pros:
A feature-rich single- and multi-track audio editor
Works with other Adobe products like Premiere Pro
Adobe Audition cons:
Subscription model means you can't buy it outright
Adobe Audition is a powerhouse audio editor that continues to push industry standards forward, with a pricing model to match. The app is updated every year with new features and expanded compatibility with the latest versions of macOS and Windows.
Audition can function both as a single-track audio editor or as a multi-track mixer for recording and layering sounds. It's a fully-fledged digital audio workstation with support for recording multiple sources at once as well as external plugins (VST, VST3, and AU). Adobe also added best-in-class audio restoration tools, allowing you to grab a sample of "noise" in your recording, then remove that unwanted range of sound from the entire file. You can even use adaptive noise reduction (which intelligently detects undesirable sound for you) and automatic or spot healing to remove pops and clicks.
You can save your frequently-used actions, so they're always a click away under the Favorites menu. Easily change Audition's interface to suit your current task, with layouts for audio to video editing, radio production, and dual-monitor setups. There are even templates to speed up multi-track editing of projects, including radio voiceovers, podcasts, or surround-sound video production. Audition supports video tracks (in addition to mono, stereo, and 5.1) with the ability to see the reference video as you edit.
All these features make Adobe Audition a highly capable, if expensive, audio editor. Though complex in nature, Adobe's set of video tutorials introduce many of the features in an easy-to-digest manner. And if you go all-in on an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, you can send audio clips from the Premiere Pro video editor straight to Adobe Audition for editing and processing.
Adobe Audition price: $20.99/month (billed annually) for a single app plan; $54.99/month (billed annually) for a Creative Cloud plan with access to Adobe's full suite of apps, including Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and Illustrator.
If you're looking for an Adobe Audition alternative, Steinberg WaveLab Elements is a complex and feature-packed audio editor that operates under a standalone buy-to-own license ($99). Though primarily aimed at music production, there are a lot of tools in it for editing all types of audio on Windows or macOS—and you don't need to take on a monthly subscription in order to enjoy it.
Best free audio editor
Audacity (macOS, Windows, Linux)
Simple yet effective single- and multi-track editing for free
Apply single effects or deploy an effect chain
Lacks the refinement and features of premium products
Audacity is the most capable free audio editor money can't buy. It includes a full set of editing and mastering tools, including destructive waveform editing and multi-track mixing. Despite utilizing an open source development model, Audacity contains many features commonly associated with paid products.
The editor places a library of effects at your disposal, including a compressor, noise reduction, and an automatic repair tool. There's also support for external audio effects and plugins in VST, AU (on Mac), LADSPA, and LV2 format. You also can download loads of plugins from the Audacity Plugins database. And owing to its open source roots, Audacity supports the import and export of a wide range of formats, like Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, and M4A.
A basic and slightly clunky interface takes it down a peg compared to some of its rivals. You also can't record multiple audio sources at once or perform non-destructive edits. Given that it comes without a price tag, I can forgive the limitations. Audacity is good enough for the vast majority of users who just want a simple tool to edit or enhance their audio.
Audacity price: Free
ocenaudio is another free audio editor with support for macOS, Windows, and Linux. The app is very similar to Audacity, though the focus is on single track, waveform editing. You may prefer the slightly more modern interface—particularly for fast edits or if you aren't going to be using a lot of plugins.
The best budget alternative to Adobe Audition
Acoustica Standard Edition (macOS, Windows)
Single- and multi-track editing on a tabbed interface
Apply complex processing chains to enhance or clean up audio
Not as feature-rich as Adobe Audition
Acoustica Standard Edition offers more than your average free audio editor in a package that won't break the bank. It's a high-resolution audio editor, with support for 32-bit audio and sample rates of up to 384 kHz. You can use Acoustica for single-track waveform editing or multi-track mixing where you can loop, stretch, and fade clips on a timeline.
Basic effects include a limiter, an equalizer, and a suite of audio restoration tools for removing hiss, pop, and hum from recordings. Acoustica also includes support for external plugins in VST, VST3, and AU format (on macOS). Each of these can be chained together, saved, and deployed with a click across multiple sessions and files. Build your effects in the Processing Chain box on the main interface by clicking the + button to add equalizers, limiters, plugins, and more. Acoustica is also compliant with common broadcast standards, making it easy for working with video soundtracks.
Acoustica's neat row of useful icons, dark color scheme, and tab-based interface for working on multiple files should prevent you from feeling overwhelmed by the extensive feature set. If you find yourself craving more "professional" features, the Premium Edition of Acoustica offers even better audio restoration tools, multi-channel 7.1 surround sound support, and spectral editing.
Acoustica Price: $59.90 for the Standard Edition; $199.90 for the Premium Edition
Best audio editor for journalists and podcasters
Hindenburg Pro 2 (macOS, Windows)
Hindenburg Pro 2 pros:
Multi-track mixing and editing for journalists and podcasters
Auto-leveling and additional effects for improving spoken word recordings
Hindenburg Pro 2 cons:
Geared mainly at spoken word; pretty unsuitable for other uses
Transcription features are locked behind a more expensive subscription
Hindenburg Pro 2 is a multi-track audio editor aimed at professionals who produce podcasts and content for radio. The app can act as a mobile recording studio, allowing you to assign different tracks to different inputs, or as an editor for arranging files you've already recorded elsewhere. It's perfect for cutting together interviews or producing podcasts since it handles some of the more technical aspects of production for you.
One of the app's standout features is its ability automatically adjust levels. As soon as you're done recording or importing a waveform, watch Hindenburg Pro 2 automatically increase or decrease the volume of the track to comply with modern loudness standards. You can then use the built-in profiler, an automated equalizer for enhancing voice tracks, to optimize your audio for publishing.
Hindenburg makes it easy to create and arrange projects on a timeline. You can add markers or separate audio by chapter while recording, so you don't lose track of important sound bites. The app's clipboard function provides four groups into which you can divide your sound bites, music, ambiance, and other audio clips, with the ability to paste the top clip with a custom shortcut.
On top of this, you get access to a library of sounds from Soundly for use in your production. At the heart of Hindenburg Pro 2 is a decent basic audio editor, which you can use to select waveform audio, delete sections, and move clips around. You can apply simple fades, and the app even supports automated transcription if you shell out for the Plus and Premium tiers.
Hindenburg Pro 2 price: $12/month for the Standard tier, or upgrade to Plus ($15/month) or Premium ($30/month).
Best audio editor for Windows users on a budget
SOUND FORGE Audio Studio 17 (Windows)
SOUND FORGE Audio Studio 17 pros:
Single-track, multi-channel editor with support for video
Great for adding complex effect chains and mastering audio using
SOUND FORGE Audio Studio 17 cons:
No multi-track editing
SOUND FORGE Audio Studio 17 is a moderately priced audio editor for Windows. The app is a step up over freebies like Audacity, while offering a "buy it outright" single license model that Adobe Audition doesn't have. Feature-wise, the app falls somewhere in the middle, offering advanced features like multi-channel editing (up to six channels) and the ability to edit audio attached to video files while omitting features like multi-track editing.
Audio Studio 17 focuses on single-track file editing or recording. Common tasks that the app handles confidently include cutting up files, merging recordings into a single file, cleaning up audio, and applying effects. Audio Studio 17 comes with iZotope Ozone Elements, a dedicated mastering processor which runs alongside the main app as a plugin. Ozone includes professionally-designed presets to make your recordings sound richer and punchier with minimal effort.
Video integration is one of Audio Studio 17's strong points. You can open a video file and see the individual frames on the timeline while making your edits. When you've improved your soundtrack, it's easy to merge that audio file back into the video, without having to take the time to re-render the whole thing.
SOUND FORGE Audio Studio 17 is one of the most compelling options for applying multiple effects to your audio files, with plenty of built-in options and the ability to add more using VST2 and VST3 plugins.
SOUND FORGE Audio Studio 17 Price: $59.99; also available as Audio Studio 365 for $2.99/month.
The best audio editor for editing recordings like a text document
Audiate (Windows, macOS)
Transcription-based editing lets you edit audio like a text document
Access the waveform and edit audio files the old-fashioned way, if you want to
Designed for spoken word, not ideal for editing sound effects or music
Expensive subscription model
Audiate is a different kind of audio editor, and one of the best examples of its kind that I tested. You can record directly into the app or open recordings within Audiate, then transcribe them to text. From there, it's a case of editing your (spoken word) as you would a text document, while Audiate takes care of the nitty-gritty of editing the waveform.
The transcription tools work remarkably well, though in the event that Audiate gets a word wrong, you can correct the text without any ill effects. Alongside a new breed of AI-powered editing, Audiate includes standard waveform audio editing, so you can still get your hands dirty if you want to. The app is a non-destructive editor, with some neat editing shortcuts like "Insert silence before" and "Insert silence after" to break up your text.
On top of this, you can edit a clip's properties to add effects that include audio quality like noise reduction, volume leveling, and removal tools for plosives, clipping, and unwanted reverb.
The app is approachable, and the ability to walk out of your edit with a written transcript is a nice bonus. With that in mind, Audiate is a pricey tool and probably not worth it unless you see a productivity boost from this sort of editing.
Audiate price: $29.99/month or $199.99/year.
The best browser-based audio editor
Free and easy browser-based online editing
Record right into your browser, apply effects, and export your sounds
A limited feature-set even compared to other freebies like Audacity
Only really suited to quick edits
AudioMass is a completely free audio editor that works entirely in your web browser. Use it to record audio using your device microphone, edit uploaded audio files from your computer, or point it at a URL to open a file from the internet. This single-track waveform editor uses a simple UI that will be familiar to anyone who has used apps like Audacity in the past.
On top of being able to trim, cut, move and duplicate audio, AudioMass includes a range of effects that you can apply, including noise reduction for voice recordings, several equalizer effects, a compressor and normalizer, delays, reverbs, and distortion. There are even frequency and spectrum visualizers that pop up in a new window.
One of the best things about AudioMass, outside of it being completely free, is that there are no barriers to entry. Access the web page, and the editor is right there, ready for you to use. You don't need to register or log in before you can get going. You can even store an offline version of the editor using the Help > Store Offline Version option in the menu, if you want (though I'd recommend Audacity if you're going the offline route).
Unfortunately, there's little in the way of help documentation included with AudioMass. But the toolset is simple and limited enough that it's hard to get lost if you're even vaguely familiar with editing audio.
AudioMass price: Free
You might also consider TwistedWave Online, another web-based editor that is limited to mono recordings of five minutes or less on the free plan. If you want a more feature-rich online editor and you're happy to pay for it, a TwistedWave Online subscription (from $5/month) might be the way to go.
What about apps like Riverside?
Over the past few years, there's been an explosion in apps designed to help podcasters record and produce content. This includes apps like Riverside, Podcastle, and ZenCastr, which offer mostly web-based solutions for recording, editing, and publishing podcasts.
Though these tools have some editing tools under the hood—some of which even use AI-powered transcription editing—ultimately, they're not the kinds of audio editors I was looking at. If all you want to do is edit audio, it's not the way to go, since the tools you're looking for are hidden beneath a layer of features aimed at content production.
Having said that, these are powerful platforms for creating video or audio interviews, podcasts, or even radio content. They can vastly simplify remote recording, increase the overall quality of your production, and even improve the editing workflow, so they're worth checking out if you need an all-in-one production solution.
What is the best audio editor?
Free editors like Audacity and AudioMass are good starting points for most people. If you're finding the free options a little limiting, it's time to consider paid options like Adobe Audition and Acoustica. Other premium products provide unique benefits, like Hindenburg's focus on interviews and podcasts and Audiate's transcription-based editing.
In reality, the best tools for the job are almost always premium products, with fairly expensive price tags. Audition is an industry-standard tool, but the subscription model offers some flexibility in terms of your use. If you only need it for a month, it could be a cheap and effective route to take.
This article was originally published in January 2019. The most recent update was in September 2023.