The best audio editors offer powerful tools to deliver high-quality results in a more efficient workflow.
And to produce crisp, professional-grade audio, you’ll need top music production software and digital audio workstations (DAW).
Some newcomers may find the complex music software interfaces a bit intimidating at first. That initial learning curve, however, isn’t usually as steep as it first appears. It’s offset by the capabilities and what these audio editors allow you to achieve.
To identify the best audio editors for you, start by figuring out how you’ll use the software. Creatives seeking professional music production software will absolutely have different requirements to those recording A/V marketing assets or joining the podcast revolution.
Mac owners already get the free audio editor GarageBand - and, as one of Apple’s best music production software tools, it may hit all your basic needs. In our guide to the best music-making software, we called it “the perfect gateway into music production, and a clear path to Logic Pro (Apple’s fully-functional professional DAW).” For content creators in Adobe's ecosphere, there's the excellent Audition.
For everyone else looking for alternatives to Adobe Audition and Apple GarageBand, we’ve tested the best audio editors and music production software on Windows and Mac.
Today's best audio editor deals
The best audio editor overall is Adobe Audition
Adobe Audition (opens in new tab) is a comprehensive toolkit for music production and audio editing, allowing for multi-track, waveform, and spectral display for the mixing, editing, and restoring of audio. It's not free like the options below, but the result is the ability to polish the finishing for standalone audio as well as video. This powerful audio app is available either as a standalone or as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud (opens in new tab).
The best music software for audio editing
Audacity is a powerful free audio editor that rivals many premium paid-for programs. Frequently topping lists for best audio editors, the tool is often the first, last, and only stop for anyone looking for a capable audio editing program - whether you’re a beginner or a pro. Better still, it’s multi-platform, available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and can import and export in WAV, AIFF, MP3, and OGG formats.
It’s a reputation that’s well-founded. Audacity packs a ton of effects and features, and with support from a huge developer community, the best free audio editor just keeps getting better. It especially excels at two-track editing. A colossal library of plugins add even more functionality, so you can precisely create the sounds you want.
With Audacity 3.,2, the updated software lets you edit non-destructively, including lengthening and shortening clips that, when pasted, still contain the hidden ends, making it way more flexible than before. It also introduces audio.com, a sound-sharing platform for sharing audio and reaching new audiences.
If you’re used to the convenience and immediacy of multi-device communication software, you may struggle with the interface, and to some extent the changes put Audacity into a halfway house, trying to compete in a new market with apps and platforms which have by and large had these functions for years.
If the open-source audio editor has a downside, it’s the skill-barrier. It’s not really as complicated as it all looks, but beginners should take a few minutes learning the ropes to get the most out of it. Intermediates and those familiar with more complex DAWs will have no problem mastering Audacity.
Read our full Audacity review
Apple Logic Pro is a full-featured DAW, making it one of the best audio editors for professionals. You can upgrade to it from the free Apple GarageBand, which is essentially a stripped-down version - this makes it easy to transition, as you’ll instantly recognise all your favorite elements from the latter.
Apple’s emphasis on cramming it with as many features as it can while still managing to make it tidy, means Logic Pro (formerly known as Logic Pro X) becomes ever more streamlined, good looking, and easy to use. The latest version offers so much for so many elements of music production and as usual, if you already own it, this update is completely free. New users will need to pay $199.99 / £174.99.
With Sampler update, Ableton Live connectivity, 32-bit float support, new loops and packs, a new ‘free tempo’ tool, and recordable Pedal Board stomp boxes, your inspiration to create original sounds will be unfettered.
Apple’s engagement with visuals in Spatial Audio continues in its interface with changes to the look, hierarchs of stacks, light and dark mode, and more accessible choices. It pays off big time and makes it even easier to personalize your Logic Pro digital audio workstation, so you’ll never want to look away from it again.
Read our full Apple Logic Pro review
Proving to be one of the best audio editors for beginners and veterans, Cyberlink AudioDirector is packed with all the recording, editing, mixing, and clean-up tools you need to produce professional-level sounds.
The learning curve can feel steep with this PC-only audio software, but operation swiftly becomes clear - helped by a number of tutorial-style instructions (although we’d like to see more of these for newcomers). Expect to spend some time with the preview/original button, handily provided on all the editing panes, so you can get to know exactly what the tools can do.
As with many in the creative apps space - notably Adobe - artificial intelligence and machine-learning tools run through AudioDirector. And they’re brilliantly implemented. When we tested the post-production program, we were impressed with the design, making workflows more efficient and cutting down on imprecision manual controls. However, in some cases, we did find fine-tuning by hand yielded better results than relying on AI.
CyberLink’s audio editing software also integrates with top video editor PowerDirector, ColorDirector, and image editor PhotoDirector, making full spectrum content creation even easier.
The audio app comes as a standalone product, or bundled in the Director Suite with the above tools - both for a monthly or yearly subscription. Lifetime licenses are available. There’s also AudioDirector Online, a free online audio editor that features many of the key tools found in the full program.
Read our full CyberLink AudioDirector review
Since its release in 2004, Apple GarageBand has earned a world class reputation for its multi-featured yet accessible audio editing software. With MIDI capability and powerful presets, it lets anyone create original music from composition to post-production.
GarageBand is free for iPhone and iPad and comes bundled with every new Mac. That gives it serious utility and flexibility for cross-platform content creators in the Apple ecosystem. An added app, Logic Remote, allows you to control GarageBand on your Mac from a remote device.
The latest version gives users two great new packs of music loops as well as also fixing issues with the DAW’s controls, improving MIDI functionality and allowing Intel Audio Unit plug-ins to load and function more seamlessly. Recordings from Voice Memos can now be dragged straight to a new track in GarageBand, providing even more versatility to one of the best audio editors out there. .
GarageBand for Mac goes from strength to strength and the similarities with Logic Pro mean that if or when you want to upgrade, it will already feel familiar.
Read our full Apple GarageBand review
Ocenaudio offers an accessible entry-point for beginners. It’s the ideal tool for editing audio if you find Audacity a bit overwhelming, but don’t want to compromise on any features in your music production software.
Performance is grand, feeling responsive and lightweight in use. Like Audacity, there’s also (admittedly more limited) plugin support. But Ocenaudio is just so simple to use, it’s easy to forgive its minor faults.
The real-time preview is a particular highlight. Even some of the best audio editors force users to edit ‘destructively’ - that is, modify the original track. With Ocenaudio, you can directly adjust your playback parameters. As a result, changing effects like reverb can be immediately heard.
As a free, open-source audio editor, it’s available across Windows, macOS, and Linux - although the trade-off is a slower deployment rate for software updates. If you plan to edit frequently, memorize Ocenaudio’s in-built keyboard shortcuts. It’ll significantly speed up your workflow.
Read our full Ocenaudio review.
Ashampoo Music Studio is more than just a top music editor. It does that incredibly well, of course. The simple interface, with its large waveform preview window and user-friendly buttons below, make it welcoming for beginners and veterans alike.
As the name suggests, one of the best audio editors is bundled with some of the best music production software extras. You can use this Windows-only freeware tool to design CD labels, edit file metadata tags, convert between different audio formats, and rip or burn discs. Effectively, Ashampoo Music Studio is a one-stop shop for basic audio trimming, organizing, and producing.
However, calling this a ‘studio’ may be somewhat hyperbolic. For all those bells and whistles, Ashampoo Music Studio falls short of greatness. Without multi-track support - essential for professional audio editors - it’s best-suited to rearranging simple audio clips.
Audiotool unlocks audio editing right in your browser (so long as that browser is Chrome - officially, at least, as it reportedly works in Firefox and Edge). That means you have access to your audio clips wherever you are. No waiting to download and install from a new computer. A Chrome extension is also available.
Sharing more of its DNA Apple’s GarageBand program than most of the best audio editors on the list, the online DAW lets you record 30-second segments of sound to use as samples. You’re then free to mix with digital instruments, tools, and drum machines built into the audio editing system.
Modify your tracks with Audiotool by adding filters from a selection of 14 different effects. You can also create a MIDI controller within the program or use a splitter tool to attenuate and modify your audio signal.
The site, which places an emphasis on community and collaboration, features user-made music uploads created in Audiotool, giving you a taste of the possibilities with this software for editing audio.
Acoustica packs a professional experience comparable to Audacity. As free software for audio editing goes, it gives you a higher level of control over your edits, with some compromises.
One of the best audio editing suites out there, the latest version of Acoustica is a premium subscription product, which features native support for the new MacBook’s Apple Silicon processors - the device of choice for the creative industry.
If you want to get the audio editor for free, you’ll need to download the older version - Acoustica 6 Basic Edition. You can still try or buy the Standard and Premium kits, too.
The tool’s interface has a professional look to it that wouldn’t feel out of place in a top-end recording studio. Thanks to sensible design choices, you’ll be up and running in no time - no matter how many times you’ve edited audio before.
Power-users can also expand the toolset by installing VST or DirectX plugins. These deliver a wider range of sound effects for fine-tuning your tracks.
Acoustica’s unique Effect Chain area is worth experimenting, as you can layer up different audio filters, then apply the combination to multiple tracks. This is ideal for creating distinctive mixes or keeping sounds consistent throughout an album. When you're done, the audio editing software makes it simple to rip to CD.
Read our full Acoustica review.
Audio editor buying advice
How to choose the best audio editor for you
Why you can trust TechRadar Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
To choose which audio editor is best for you, start by assessing your skill-level. If you’re an intermediate or experienced music production professional, a program like Acoustica will be no trouble. On the other hand, an audio editor for beginners, such as Ocenaudio, offers a very simple user experience and a gentle introduction to the art.
Choose which device you'll cut clips. You’ll find plenty of the best music production software for Windows and Mac, as well as easy-to-use, but less powerful audio editor apps on Android and iOS. Decide whether you’re happy editing in the browser, or demand professional software that gives you more control.
Determine your budget. Pro-grade audio editing software like Adobe Audition comes with that on-going subscription, while others, like music software Ashampoo Music Studio have a one-off fee. Making edits to your audio can easily be done on a budget with a music editor like Audacity delivering powerful audio editing capabilities for free.
Finally, choose your audio editor or music production software based on what best unlocks your creativity, gets you in the zone, and offers the best workflow for you.
How we test the best audio editors
When testing out the best music production software and audio editors, we’ve dived into the areas that matter to you: user interface & experience, price, performance, platform availability, and tools & capabilities.
We’ve laid down tracks and cut clips with all the audio editors on our list. We want to make sure the music software works exactly as you’d expect, and determine who will get the most from each tool.
Find out more about how we test, review, and rate products on TechRadar.