Five Best Audio-Editing Applications

If you need a soundtrack to go with your film project, or you're a musician looking to produce the next big hit, a good audio editor is necessary to eliminate noise, convert files, edit tracks and output the finished product. We've rounded up five of the best audio-editing applications in this list, which includes both pure audio editors and Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs).

Photo by Arvind Grover.

If you're not sure of the difference, audio editors let you manage and splice existing files, while DAWs are more commonly used to create new music from scratch.

Audacity (Windows/Mac/Linux)

Free and open- source Audacity makes audio-editing simple and easy. If you you want to remove the noise from your music collection or normalise the volume, Audacity is a simple tool to master and gets the job done quickly. It supports a number of different file types, including MP3, OGG, WAV and AIFF, and it can even record live audio for editing and exporting later. It's no DAW, but Audacity's flexible features and zero price tag make it perfect for home projects, such as digitising old cassettes or vinyl. You can read more about Audacity's features here.

Adobe Audition (Windows/Mac)

Formerly known as Cool Edit Pro, Adobe Audition is a powerful suite that makes audio editing, splicing, remixing and restoration easy. It's pricey on its own ($585 in Australia), but it can be purchased as part of Creative Suite. Adobe retained much of Cool Edit Pro's user-friendly interface — it's easy to pick up, but in-depth features can take time to master completely. You can use the tool's built-in effects to add flair to your recordings, set up frequent changes in an action, and batch process dozens of audio files. You can read more about Audition's features here.

Avid Pro Tools (Windows/Mac)

Avid Pro Tools is more of a DAW, although it can edit existing audio too. Professional musicians use Pro Tools for studio recordings and album mixes, DJs use it to correct mistakes in their mixes after the fact, and music producers can assemble entire albums in a fraction of the time required with other tools. That power will cost you — $769 for the base version — but for the money you get an industry-standard, studio-grade tool that supports anything you send its way. Pro Tools also has a wealth of plugins to extend its functionality, works seamlessly with studio equipment, and has its own music composition tools and instruments built-in. You can read more about Pro Tools' features here.


Reaper is another DAW praised for its flexible and deep feature set, customisation options, and the fact that it's a lightweight application — especially when compared with other DAWs with similar feature sets. It sports a number of plugins that can extend its functionality, and even non-professional users can pick it up and work with it fairly quickly. Reaper works just as well if you want to record music from professional gear or an amateur setup, or if you want to make music entirely with your computer. Reaper features hundreds of built-in effects and features to make your music really shine, and it has a huge and vibrant community of users. Oh, and the price tag is nice — it will only set you back $US60 for individual, non-profit or small business use. Even the full commercial licence is just $US225. That's a lot of power for relatively little cash. You can read more about Reaper's features here.

Ableton Live

Ableton Live draws a bright line between making music and editing audio files. It's a very powerful DAW and popular for its professional-grade features, specifically geared towards live recordings. It sports a huge number of features for the advanced user, and caters to both live musicians and DJs alike. If you want to edit existing files, you may have a hard time getting around Ableton's features, but it does support virtually any type of audio you try to import. You can read more about all of Ableton Live's features here.

Honourable mention this week goes out to Goldwave, which has been a killer application for a very, very long time and still gets the job done well. Also worth noting is Soundforge for its professional-grade features (and reasonable price tag).

Have something to say about one of the contenders? Make your case in the comments below.


    Um, Logic?

      Are you kidding?
      Have you heard of this little piece of software called Logic Pro?

    2x DAWs
    Ardour (Mac/Linux) - Mac pricing from $1, Linux pricing from $0
    Mixbus (Mac/Linux/Win) - From $76

    Another vote for Logic Pro.

    err Cubase? Wavelab?

    After owning and using both ProTools and Logic, I have deduced that Audacity and Adobe Audition are both annoying and horrible compared to them. ProTools is great for editing, Logic is good for general music production.

    theres heaps of well known better software than this..

    lifehacker should try harder or ask someone who knows something.. this was written by someone who is either paid by their apps or has never ever ever looked it up on line

    cooledit pro .. seriously? for 800$ wtf?

      audition is an awesome audio editor. i stuck with version 3 tho because they pulled an Apple and removed features from it's CS5 64-bit version. features that i used a lot.

      Spot on

    Not to mention GoldWave for $50. Been my mainstay for many years now. I like the ability to set the start of the selection with the left mouse button, and the end of the selection with the right mouse button.

    No Wavelab?

    logic? pro tools? cubase? wow, just wow

      If you actually read the article, Pro Tools was on the list. Also, the article was titled "5 Best Audio-Editing Programs" - NOT "The TOP 5 Audio-Editing Programs" or "ALL the Best Audio-Editing Programs" or "The Never ending List Every Piece of Audio-Editing Software Created". If you have extra to add, thats great!

    Yeah Logic Pro, Cubase, Studio One, Reason there are a heap of pro audio applications and editors that didn't get a mention.

    In the true sense of the story title Soundforge and Wavelab are" Audio" editors. Im not sure what this list is based on, a top 5 from what data?
    go here to an audio website with readers input to see more.
    *****Just a note Ableton is combo "performance based app" and not generally used for Live recordings as mentioned. Its a capable DAW on its own and it used by a heap of top flight DJ producers in studios world wide

    After experiencing al of the suggested programs (even the ones in the comments) I must say the best I've used by far is NCH Wavepad for it's simplicity, ease of use and power. although it isn't a multi-track editor, it is still the best editor imo.

    the most advanced and state of the art daw is indeed "Reaper".
    its lightyears ahead of protools, actually it combines all thge cool features of all the "classic" daw's.
    of course don't forget logic with its powerfull mainstage ( nin used it live on stage )

    I'm supporting following daw's:
    Reaper, ProTools, Logic Studio, Ableton Live, Digital Performer, PreSonus Studio One, Samplitude, Nuendo, Cubase, ...

    Logic is great at everything EXCEPT audio editing, which seems straight out of the frikking stone age.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now