Audacity is the go-to audio editor for a lot of people, and for good reason—it’s simple, free, and still reasonably powerful. But with the recent privacy controversy weakening confidence in the new owners, now’s a good time to look at the alternatives. Fortunately, there are a lot of great ones that have been competing with Audacity for years.
But first off, let’s talk about what won’t be included in this list: Audactiy forks. Audacity is open-source, meaning its source code is public and modifiable, directly opening the doors for forks. A fork is a piece of software built off of the source code of an open-source program. Usually, these still share a lot of similarities with the original program but introduce a lot of new stuff.
The reason they won’t be covered here, though, is because they’re often-time not as reliable as dedicated pieces of software. Forks are commonly owned and maintained by community members of the original program, and because of that, can go for long periods of time without updates. Taking a look at one of the most promising Audacity forks, Tenacity, you’ll see that the project maintainer recently had to step down, which is sure to slow development for a while. Uncertainty like this plagues most forks, which is why they won’t be covered here.
Table of Contents
Chances are, if you’re reading this, Audacity is your main tool for anything audio-related, which can make it a tough thing to replace. But there are a lot of great DAW’s (Digital Audio Workstation) out there, so here are the things we looked for when considering entries for this list.
- Features: While Audacity is used across the industry, the ways it’s used varies a lot. From podcast recording to music creation, people have found plenty of ways to push Audacity’s relatively limited features to the max. Because of that, we sought out a variety of software today, ranging from straightforward and easy-to-learn audio editors to industry-standard workstations. While the basics like recording audio, multi-track support, splicing and rearranging clips, and applying effects are seen in every program here, some go much further. If you’ve been reaching the limits of Audacity, then we have some fantastic audio-editing powerhouses here that will expand the scope of your work.
- Open-Source: This means a program’s source code is public and easily modifiable by anyone with the know-how. While this may not sound like much to an average user, being open-source makes it much easier for people to create third-party add-ons to a program that can add new features. As we talked about earlier, Audacity is open-source, but there aren’t many other options out there that share this characteristic. We’ve only included one in this article, Ardour, so if that’s a big priority for you, you know where to look first.
- Price: Being free is a major selling point for Audacity, so naturally, you’re likely looking for something free to replace it as well. Fortunately, there are multiple quality editors available for free we’ll be covering today. Still, we also included a few paid-for programs if you want to dive into some of the more professional options.
- Platforms: Audacity is available on Windows, macOS, and Linux, so to make sure we don’t leave anyone out, most of the programs here support all three platforms as well. The only exceptions to this are Adobe Audition which is only available on macOS and Windows, and Apple’s software exclusive to macOS.
While some people use Audacity for all of their audio editing, many use it rather sparingly for simple audio projects. If you aren’t making music or fine-tuning your voice to that perfect pitch, you probably just need something to record your audio with and then do some simple editing. So if that describes your time with Audacity, then Ocenaudio is what you’ll want to jump to—it focuses on simplicity and ease of use above all else. While the UI appears dated, it’s extremely easy to navigate, which means your transition period from Audacity to Ocenaudio shouldn’t last too long.
But while simplicity is the focus, that doesn’t mean Ocenaudio lacks features. You can still apply effects, fine-tune the EQ and gain (with a real-time preview, so you know what the audio will sound like before actually making any changes), and use the multi-track design for mixing. There are definitely limits relative to more advanced editors, but if you rarely dive into Audacity’s more complex tools, you’re unlikely to notice the limits here.
Ocenaudio is also completely free, so there’s no risk in trying it out.
Ocenaudio’s straightforward and easy to learn design will make the transition period a breeze.
When it comes to Apple hardware, Apple’s software tends to be the best match, and GarageBand is a great example. While primarily made for entry-level music production, it also works for editing podcasts and voiceovers as well. You can mix up to 255 audio tracks at once, record music from digital instruments, and fine-tune it all using GarageBand’s straightforward UI. It can even be used to learn instruments, with entire lessons designed to help you play the piano and guitar.
While there is certainly a focus on music production, the standard editing tools and effects are also here, so GarageBand remains a fairly versatile program. It’s a great option if you’re using Apple devices but still want something free.
Apple’s entry-level audio editor with a large focus on music production.
Ardour is the only program here that’s open-source, meaning it’s free and easy to modify—but it’s still packed with features for all sorts of audio editing. There’s an unlimited number of tracks, dozens of supported file formats, and extremely in-depth effects and mixing tools to get that perfect sound. Ardour prides itself on adding features its users want and need, creating an excellent DAW whether you’re dealing with voiceovers, vocals, or instruments.
This is further into the professional scene than what’s been covered so far, so it will be intimidating if you’re not experienced with a full DAW. There are lots of buttons, dials, and sliders to mess around with, but you can solely focus on the simpler tools if those fit the bill for what you’re doing. Whether you push it to its limits or not, Ardour is a real powerhouse in this scene.
If you’re missing the open-source nature of Audacity in particular, Ardour is the best replacement.
To start, let’s make something clear: DaVinci Resolve is a video editing program first and foremost—and a really great one at that. However, DaVinci Resolve prides itself on including everything you need to create a video, including standard video editing, color grading, special effects, and, notably right now, audio editing. There is an entire DAW hiding within Resolve called Fairlight, and on top of some solid features, it has a clean and straightforward UI.
There are special audio effects, you can quickly edit the EQ and gain, there are plenty of tools for cleaning up the sound, and you can use over 700 tracks at once. While these tools are designed with video production in mind, you can use Resolve solely for audio editing—and if you are working with video as well, then being able to jump from video to audio editing quickly is extremely useful.
DaVinci Resolve 17 is completely free, which is an amazing deal considering the functionality it provides. Whether you want a DAW with a clean design or you’re a video editor with advanced audio needs, Resolve has you covered.
DaVinci Resolve 17
There’s an entire DAW hiding within Resolve and it’s pretty great.
This is the first paid program we’ll be talking about, but Reaper still keeps things reasonably affordable, especially considering how much it brings to the table. Reaper is a complete audio production tool for music, vocals, voiceovers, and other audio-related projects. It’s built to be as fast and efficient as possible, both in performance and UI design, with plenty of effects to alter your recordings. There’s support for 200+ tracks, digital instruments and physical audio hardware, and free updates constantly improve the program after purchase. You can also use third-party plugins to further personalize the program to your liking—both aesthetically and functionally.
Without a doubt, Reaper is the best solution to professional audio editing without professional prices. It has the tools to rival the larger names in this field without breaking your budget. As long as you’re not making over $20,000 a year from creations using Reaper, you only need the “Discounted” license. For a one-time price of $60, this grants access to everything Reaper has to offer (if you use Reaper in a professional capacity and make more than that, then you’ll need the commercial license for $225). There’s also a 60-day free trial if you want to give it a spin before paying.
A professional audio editor without professional prices.
Audition is an industry-level workstation that you should look at if you already use the Creative Cloud. Not only does it offer all the tuning tools you’d need out of a DAW (along with a wide range of effects and free sound samples), but it also works in tandem with other Adobe products such as Premiere Pro and After Effects. Considering the limited audio editing tools found in both video programs, this is a crucial feature for advanced users.
But that’s not to say Audition can’t stand on its own two legs; it definitely can; It features a multi-track design with no limits, in-depth composition and analysis tools, and multiple forms of noise reduction for dealing with white noise and hissing. Like most of the other options here, Audition is built to be a one-stop-shop for everything audio, and it does a great job at that.
Like the rest of Adobe’s products, Audition runs on a subscription service—either $20.99 a month for Audition by itself or $52.99 a month for the entire Creative Cloud.
Adobe’s industry-standard workstation which works great with the other programs in the Creative Cloud.
Logic Pro is Apple’s proper DAW. It certainly doesn’t disappoint with a straightforward but powerful UI and excellent performance on Mac devices (especially those with the newer M1 chips ). Creating music, recording a podcast, and fine-tuning your recordings is made as simple as possible, without compromising on the options you need.
You can still fine-tune your audio to your heart’s content, create music with digital instruments, apply effects, and make use of up to 1,000 audio tracks (which might as well be unlimited). Logic Pro is full of little UI touches that pull the whole program together and makes it a pleasure to work with whether you’re doing it professionally or as a hobby.
Regardless of why you use it, Logic Pro will cost a decent amount. There’s a 90-day free trial to take advantage of, which is always great to see, but afterward, it will cost you $199.99 for a full license.
A full-on, industry-level DAW from Apple optimized for Mac devices.