If you’re thinking about starting a podcast, you’re far from alone. We’re so deep into the “golden age of podcasting” that the phrase itself has already become cliche.
Anyone can create a podcast, but you’ve got to have the right tools. Recording in a studio is the best option, but that might not be possible for podcasters yet to secure sponsorships.
Even if you’ve got a killer angle, the first step in becoming the next big hit is choosing the right tools. So here are the best apps and software podcasters of every level should be using.
Audacity is a free podcasting app that does pretty much anything a podcaster would need. While this is a bare-bones option, it’s one of the best podcasting tools for beginners looking to test out the medium.
The open-source software runs on Mac, Windows, and Linux and you can easily hook up a USB microphone and start recording.
The main window serves as your dashboard. Here, you can access all editing tools, mix audio tracks, and monitor recordings. Beyond the basics, Audacity includes a handful of sophisticated audio-processing effects that remove unwanted coughs, static, or other distracting sounds.
The software doesn’t support MIDI or instrument plug-ins, so this isn’t the best choice for someone who wants a tool they can use for music and podcasting.
Once you’ve played around with the app, you can learn how to streamline your podcast production using Audacity.
If you have a Mac, GarageBand is a free digital workstation (DAW) that is a solid option for amateurs and podcasting veterans alike. Getting started is as simple as opening the app and starting a new project.
The layout is attractive and easy to navigate, and you’ll even have access to a few templates designed specifically for podcasters. Like Audacity, GarageBand is free, but there are a few key differences. GarageBand is a full-fledged recording studio that comes with a MIDI synth station, instrument plug-in support, and a better interface.
GarageBand’s primary features include the suite of digital instruments such as keyboards, drums, and guitars. As such, it’s clear Apple has musicians in mind, not podcasters. Still, there are some built-in podcasting templates, plus sound profiles for both male and female voices, jingles, stingers, and sound effects.
GarageBand is only available on Mac, so PC users looking for a free option should stick with Audacity. The apps are comparable, though Audacity comes with more podcast-specific tools, whereas GarageBand comes with a more attractive interface and a lower learning curve.
Apple’s Logic Pro X is certainly the prettiest option in the lineup. But the bullet points in Apple’s marketing tend to focus on music production with features like Smart Tempo, Brush Drum Kits, and more plugins and sounds than ever.
Whether or not you’re jazzed about the program’s built-in brass section or the ability to add in drummers, Logic brings some powerful tools into the podcasting arena.
The post-production effects are top-notch and there are several automation features that will help you streamline the editing process.
The Track List feature means you can edit more than one track at a time or quickly shift between them by Shift-clicking to another. For some, Logic X may have a few too many features. If you’re not a musician, it may be a bit too much.
You can hide the items you don’t need, such as the MIDI keyboard tools or the music notation editor. Logic Pro X is a great choice for podcasting, albeit a costly one at $199. Whether this is the best choice for you depends on what you want your podcasting tool to do.
One of the most popular choices for experienced podcasters and newbies alike is Adobe Audition. This DAW is a flexible, subscription-based option that allows you to record audio files, then mix and edit to your heart’s content.
Adobe’s audio software is considered a premium option, at least compared to free platforms like Audacity or GarageBand. You’ll get the most out of Audition if you understand the basics of audio editing.
Adobe Audition comes with a range of features that give your tracks a crisp, professional touch. The noise reduction tools are particularly good, as is the approach to multitrack recording, which allows you to set levels for each guests voice and edit them separately in post-production.
Audition costs $20/month and isn’t the cheapest software by a long-shot. However, if sound quality is your primary concern, Adobe Audition is well worth the investment.
Hindenburg Journalist is a storyteller’s dream. As the name suggests, the software is for broadcast journalists. It’s perfect for narrative podcasts in the vein of Serial or This American Life. Hindenburg’s automatic settings use the same standards as NPR, so you can channel your favorite public radio personalities with ease.
Where Apple Logic Pro X focuses primarily on music, Hindenburg provides a curated collection of essentials.
Hindenburg records uncompressed sound, so you’ll get the best audio quality possible. Beyond that, Hindenburg comes with an automated equalizer that helps you maintain a consistent sound throughout each recording.
This helps when you’re on the go, working from different locations, or using a laptop outdoors. The software works across multiple devices and allows users to plug in their USB microphone and start recording.
Organization tools like the clipboard help you arrange the best sound bytes from every interview, add in music and effects, and insert multi-track clips. What’s nice about this is, you can zoom out and really consider how the story fits together.
The Journalist software is $95 for a license but leaves out several key features. Multi-track recording, for example, is locked behind the $250 Pro pricing tier.
Zencastr is perfect for podcasters working with remote guests and comes with an easy-to-use invite system that records each guest on a separate audio track.
The software records each voice locally with pristine quality. Sometimes, recording remotely can present a few snags—like lag or audio issues. Which makes sense, given that the software is a lot like Skype or Zoom, just with a podcast-centric interface.
Zencastr beats using your run-of-the-mill VOIP. It comes with redundant backups and keeps recording if you lose the connection.
You can connect it to your Dropbox or Google Drive for access to files and easy editing. Zencastr also comes with a soundboard for live editing, which lets you insert your intro, ads, or other segments as you record.
Zencastr also offers automatic post-production tools and lossless .WAV, but these features are part of the premium package. Free users get high-quality MP3, which sounds pretty good to the untrained ear.
Pricing ranges from a free Hobbyist plan, which includes two guest tracks and eight hours of audio. You won’t get any post-production features, but you can purchase them a la carte.
The professional plan is $20/month for unlimited guests and episodes. And if your podcast starts to hit the big time, you can access professional features, plus analytics and advertising features for a whopping $250/month.
The Right Tools Can Help Make or Break a Podcast
Podcasts are a fantastic medium for telling stories and connecting with people who share similar interests. And these tools will help you deliver your narrative, be it a true crime podcast or deep dive into your favorite video game.
However, software isn’t the only tool you’ll need to buy before recording a podcast. For more on microphones, headphones, and other essential hardware, check out our roundup of the best podcast equipment for starters and enthusiasts.