Free audio production software that can do an excellent job of creating a professional finish is a rare find. And, unless you’ve got a lot of extra cash to spare on some of the more expensive software packages, you’ll find that your top two choices are Audacity and GarageBand.
However, in a battle akin to ‘The Clash of the Titans,’ the decision between whether Audacity or GarageBand is the better music production software is one that has podcast hosts and producers from all over the planet torn.
Both are free to use, and both have a lot of features that have helped podcasters and musicians create high-quality audio. But is it a case of personal preference? Or is one truly better than the other?
It is time to decide, once and for all, the superior choice.
Join us as we take a journey through all of the features each of this fantastic production software have to offer, before crowning one as reigning champion.
Let’s start by taking a look at Audacity. This digital audio editor launched back in the year 2000 and has remained free of charge ever since. Its primary purpose is to manipulate existing audio data rather than organizing lots of little pieces of audio into one whole piece. However, you can use it for that purpose if you wish.
There aren’t very many cases of users reporting issues with Audacity, either. It’s relatively simple to master and navigate your way around while you learn how it works. It does come with a little bit of a learning curve.
This comes from the massive amount of effects and settings that this powerful audio production tool hosts. A nicer problem to have, sure, but it can take a little bit of time to memorize all settings and icons, especially if you’re a little technophobic.
You won’t need a degree in audio engineering to find your way around. After a few days of playing with it, you’ll soon know enough to start using it to it’s fullest potential.
The fact Audacity has been around for so long comes with its peace of mind too. It’s got a large community of users and a long history behind it, so it’s unlikely to be sold or shut down any time soon. As such, you can rest assured that you’ll be able to continue using it for many years to come.
Audacity fits the bill when it comes to audio manipulation. Just take a look at some of the fantastic features on offer below:
- Level meters
- Multi-track recordings
- Sample rates up to 384KHz & 32-bit depth
- True export is lossless formats (AIFF and FLAC, for example)
- Unlimited ‘Undo’ and ‘Redo’
- Procedural audio generation
- Pitch and tempo adjustments
- Noise removal
As you can see, the list is relatively extensive, and that’s just a sample of the Audacity’s features. You can even use it to fine-tune specific regions of tracks rather than having to lay a filter over the entire piece.
Audacity is also cross-platform software. Cross-platform means that you can use it with Windows, Mac, and Linux. You’ll also be able to work collaboratively regardless of what computer system the person you’re working with uses.
So far, so good, right? But what about Audacity’s downsides?
Well, to begin with, it currently doesn’t support MIDI recordings. Missing this support is a bit of a problem for music production. However, if you’re using Audacity to edit a podcast, it’s not a huge issue.
Audacity also doesn’t come with any pre-recorded material. Again, this can be a problem for anybody new to music production, but if you’re only recording vocals, it’s another thing that won’t have much impact on the way you use the software.
Now let’s give GarageBand it’s time in the spotlight. We’ll start by saying that, unlike Audacity, GarageBand is a digital audio workstation, not a digital audio editor.
So, while it can record and edit whatever you decide to use it for, it’s primary purpose is to help your organize, arrange, and combine individual audio clips into one finished track. It can, of course, still be used for editing, but the design of it means that it doesn’t have as many editing features as Audacity.
One massive drawback of GarageBand is that Apple owns it and, as such, is only compatible with Mac computers. So, while it’s a free piece of software that is great for audio production, you’ll need to be prepared to purchase a Mac (if you don’t already have one) to be able to use it.
This restriction means that unlike Audacity (an open-source), Apple controls GarageBand. Updates can happen as rarely as 2-3 years apart, and if Apple decides to scrap GarageBand, you’ll need to find another music production software to use instead.
Being designed with one platform in mind does give GarageBand a slight edge, though. More thought goes into its coding, and its design is as sleek and stylish as Apple products themselves. It also has developers from one of the most successful tech companies in the world working behind it, so it rarely ever crashes.
GarageBand’s learning curve is smaller than Audacity’s too. This partly due to the fact it has fewer features, but mostly because the interface is a tricky beast to master at first. You’ll need a few hours to get to grips with it, especially if you’re a new Mac user, but after that, it’s pretty easy to navigate your way around.
There’s also a mobile version of GarageBand that allows you to produce music on your iPad, a useful feature. Bear in mind, though, that since it’s solely intended for Mac use, collaborative working maybe a little more complicated.
There are lots of pre-recorded sounds and loops, and it even has an automatic drummer that allows you to lay a beat behind a track without the need for any instruments. And, unlike Audacity, GarageBand does support MIDI files.
Here it is, the moment we’ve been working up to. But, in actuality, it’s hard to pick a clear cut winner between the two. Since both Audacity and GarageBand are essentially programmed to do different things, it’s not a fair fight.
Audacity is a digital audio editor, while GarageBand is a digital audio workstation. So, to pick your winner, the real question is, what do you need your audio production software to do for you?
If you’re solely podcasting and looking for a way to edit your show into a highly-polished finished piece, then Audacity is probably the best choice for you. If you need production software that can combine several separate recordings, such as vocals and instruments, into one track, then using GarageBand would be the way forward.
Let’s make it a little easier by looking at which software is better suited to certain types of audio production.
- Commentary work
- Narrative speaking
The reason Audacity suits these formats so well is because it offers a lot more power as far as single-track editing and audio manipulation are concerned.
It’s packed with powerful features that help take all the hard work out of the editing process and, while it doesn’t offer you the same performance in creating loops and stitching tracks together, it does a great job of helping you produce outstanding vocals. And that’s the name of the game when it comes to podcasting.
- Music producers
It’s a shorter list than Audacity’s, but GarageBand is essentially the best free production software you’ll find for music. It allows you to record each element of your track separately and then stitch them together into one finished piece. You can even lay beats behind your track without needing to record drums with the automatic drumming function.
The software that works best for you will also depend on what operating system you use. Audacity can be used across all platforms, including Windows, Mac, and Linux. This ability makes it perfect for working collaboratively, or if you have many different computers or tablets in your studio and prefer to work across other platforms.
On the other hand, GarageBand is created and owned by Apple, so it only works with Mac operating systems. This restriction makes working collaboratively a little more complicated. Still, it does mean it has a dedicated team of developers behind it to ensure it keeps running smoothly, and you can use your iPad to edit tracks when you’re on the move.
Regardless of which you choose, both Audacity and GarageBand are fantastic production tools that will help give a professional finish to whatever you’re recording. Both are free of charge, too, and only adds to their overall appeal.