We tested and selected the best free audio recording software for Windows and Mac. For more audio software, return to free VST plugins.
We picked the ten best tools to let you record audio for free using your computer. Whether you want to mix audio content or record voice for a podcast, there’s no need to spend money on expensive audio recording software like Sound Forge, Adobe Audition, or Ableton Live.
You only need a sound card, a microphone, and a free sound recorder application to get a high-quality recording.
Of course, the choice of the app will depend on your specific needs. Most beginner users are looking for a simple voice recorder with an intuitive user interface and various effects that can be applied to the vocal recordings.
On the other hand, intermediate users like music producers and sound engineers typically require a multi-track audio editor that can handle more complex audio projects.
Reference our list of the best audio recording software below and learn more about each tool in our mini-reviews. We mentioned each app’s pros and cons so that you can decide which one is the best fit for your audio recording workflow.
10 Best Free Audio Recording Software for Windows and Mac
Discover the best audio recording software for 2024:
- Studio One Prime
- Pro Tools First
- Cakewalk by BandLab
- Waveform Free
The software programs are ordered by complexity, from simple to advanced. Scroll below to learn more about each audio recording app.
Audacity – start recording now!
Audacity is probably the most widely recommended audio recording application that’s free to use. It is a popular audio recording tool that lets you restore audio, create audio recordings, capture system audio, apply background noise reduction, and use audio effects.
Despite its unassuming looks, it offers plenty of audio recording and editing features, as well as some advanced functionality that you won’t find in other recording software.
In Audacity, the audio recording workflow is as easy as it gets. Launch the software, select the input device, and start recording. That’s all there is to it. Connect any audio source to the audio input on your PC, and Audacity will do the rest.
Once the audio is captured, you can edit the recording, cut the waveform, or apply effects like EQ and compression. The app supports VST plugins, too, so you can use any number of third-party effects.
Basic multitracking functionality is available, but don’t expect too much from Audacity in this regard. You can record, say, a guitar part, then record your vocals on a separate track. For anything more advanced than that, we recommend using a proper digital audio workstation.
Capturing internal audio is another one of Audacity’s strong points. Sometimes, you “simply” want to capture the audio that’s coming out of your speakers, but this is surprisingly hard to do with most other recording apps.
In Audacity, recording internal audio is an easy task.
Choose the “Windows WASAPI” audio drive, and select the desired output device (this could be your speakers or your headphones). Hit the record button, et voilà! Everything you hear on your PC is being recorded.
The only unfortunate thing about Audacity is that its interface can be confusing for beginners. If you’ve never used audio recording software in the past, it can look a bit daunting.
Again, the recording workflow is pretty straightforward, but the UI design is somewhat lacking. That said, there are plenty of tutorials online that will help you get started.
Wavosaur – a decent free recording tool for advanced users
Wavosaur is one of the more intuitive audio recording software options for beginners. On the other hand, it only works on Windows and lacks some of the advanced features available in Audacity.
For the past ten years, I have used Wavosaur as my main audio editing tool for recording and editing sound effects. It lets you record sound, edit sound, apply effects, and export your work in various audio formats.
Wavosaur sports a somewhat archaic but intuitive interface with a handful of advanced features useful for professional musicians and sound designers.
I often use its batch editor to convert the sample rate of multiple audio files. I also appreciate the VST plugin support, allowing me to use my favorite third-party effects while editing audio.
To start editing sounds in Wavosaur, you can either record or import an audio file. After that, you can use the tools within the software to apply edits, split your recorded audio, or save it as a new audio clip.
Unfortunately, Mac users cannot access Wavosaur since it is a Windows exclusive.
Ocenaudio – a lightweight sound recording tool
Ocenaudio is primarily a freeware audio editor, but it also works as a powerful tool for recording audio using your computer.
If you’re looking for software with a simple interface that allows you to apply edits to existing recordings quickly, Ocenaudio is a top choice. Its main advantage over Wavosaur and Audacity is the user-friendly interface.
The UI is optimized for a fast workflow, and the clean control layouts help users find the most crucial audio editing tools instantly. You can cut and edit audio recordings, change the volume, apply effects, and save your work as a new audio file.
Ocenaudio also lets you record audio files using your microphone or audio input. I often use it to record new guitar riffs and other musical ideas before exporting them into my main DAW.
You can also use Ocenaudio to capture streaming audio and other online audio sources for later editing.
Due to its highly optimized workflow and efficiency, Ocenaudio stands out as a high-quality audio recorder, editor, and converter for Windows, macOS, and Linux.
Wavepad is one of the best audio recorders you can download for free. However, the free version is available for non-commercial home use only.
You can use Wavepad to capture quality audio from your microphone or other audio sources. It includes a wide selection of editing tools, including the ability to split audio files, trim, merge, and merge your recordings.
GarageBand – record audio on your Mac
GarageBand is the free audio recording and mixing program that comes pre-installed on every Mac computer. Free software that comes with your computer is generally regarded as “not that great,” but this is not the case with GarageBand.
It is an excellent tool that makes it easy to capture a professional-grade audio recording with Apple devices.
Apple’s free recording software can capture audio and handle basic mixing tasks. For absolute beginners, Apple GarageBand is a lot more intuitive than something like Audacity. The interface design is user-friendly, and you’ll probably feel right at home after launching the program for the first time.
Most importantly, the recording workflow is intuitive and straightforward while offering a wide range of features. There’s no menu diving or messing around with advanced settings here. Hook up any audio source to your Macbook and start recording.
To be fair, Garageband can actually do a lot more than record audio.
Apple’s free recording software has many effects, virtual instruments, and audio loops to help new users get started. If you’re interested in making music on a computer, Garageband is a great place to begin your adventure.
Once you figure out the basics of recording and mixing, move to something more advanced like Logic Pro X, Cubase, Studio One, or Pro Tools.
If you need a simple, budget-friendly audio recording program for your MacBook, look no further than Apple’s own GarageBand. It’s gratis, well-designed, and easy to use. However, if GarageBand is too simple to handle your audio recording needs, the next two entries in the list will be a much better fit.
Studio One Prime – a free music recording program
Studio One Prime is the free version of the Studio One digital audio workstation developed by PreSonus. It is the best free recording software for working with multiple audio tracks.
You can use Studio One Prime as your voice recording software for podcasts or an audio mixing platform for music production.
With Studio One Prime, you can even record multiple audio sources simultaneously. The technique is known as multitrack recording or multi-tracking.
Of course, you will need an audio interface with multiple audio inputs for this to work.
But why would you want to record multiple audio tracks?
Let’s say you’re recording an interview for a podcast. In such a scenario, it’s always better to use two microphones, one for each person. That way, you can adjust the volume, EQ, and compression for each microphone in the mixing stage, resulting in a more balanced-sounding podcast.
Another typical example would be a singer/songwriter who is recording their voice and a guitar track. If the two are recorded separately, it is much easier to make the final result sound more polished with a bit of post-processing.
Studio One Prime lets you enhance the recorded audio with a compressor, EQ, chorus, distortion, reverb, and more.
It also includes a guitar amp simulator called Ampire, although it is just a basic edition of the plugin with only a few virtual amplifiers and cabinets. Still, this is an excellent addition for users who need a piece of recording software to capture and mix electric guitars.
Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to use third-party VST plugins in Studio One Prime. This is one of the limitations of the Prime edition compared to the full version of the software. For more flexibility, you would need to purchase Studio One Artist or Studio One Professional.
Studio One Prime offers excellent recording quality and supports all main audio formats, including WAV, AIFF, MP3, FLAC, and AAC. This free audio recorder can capture audio in 64-bit floating-point WAV format, supporting up to 64-bit/384 kHz audio processing.
Pro Tools – Intro
Pro Tools – Intro is another free program for recording audio. It is the free edition of Pro Tools, the industry-standard software for multitrack recording, mixing, and mastering.
Just like Studio One Prime, the free version of Pro Tools comes with some limitations, but it isn’t a free trial. It’s a high quality audio recording tool that lets you capture live audio, edit music, and export audio as a mix or separate tracks.
You can only record up to sixteen audio tracks and use up to four audio inputs simultaneously. The free edition includes 23 audio effects, compared to the 115 in the flagship version of Pro Tools.
Still, Pro Tools – Intro is more than capable of handling various audio recording tasks. It is an excellent free recording software for podcasts, multimedia projects, interviews, music demos, and more.
The maximum supported audio quality is slightly lower than what you get with Studio One Prime. Pro Tools can handle up to 32-bit/96 kHz audio. Of course, this will also depend on the recording capabilities of your audio hardware.
To summarize, if you want a taste of recording software used by the pros, Pro Tools – Intro is an excellent place to try. Check out the free version and decide if the upgrade is worth your hard-earned cash.
Cakewalk by BandLab – free sound recording software for professionals
Cakewalk by BandLab is the most advanced recording software on this list. It does everything you would expect from a modern digital audio workstation. You can use Cakewalk by Bandcamp to record, edit, mix, and even master your audio.
Due to its complexity, Cakewalk by BandLab is not an audio recording program we would recommend to an absolute beginner. On the other hand, if you want to develop your audio recording and production skills, it might be a good idea to start learning with a more capable piece of software.
Cakewalk by BandLab is based on the old Sonar Platinum DAW, which used to be a very popular audio production workstation. BandLab acquired the Cakewalk and Sonar brands from Gibson and re-released the program as free recording software back in 2018.
The result is Cakewalk by BandLab, a free audio recording program and music production tool that continues its famous predecessor’s legacy.
The software comes with a wide selection of effects, including some premium-quality compressors and reverbs. Cakewalk can also load VST plugins to expand the included FX collection with third-party audio effects from other developers.
The ability to load VST plugins is one of the main features that set Cakewalk by BandLab apart from other free DAWs like Studio One Prime and Pro Tools First. Another similar app to try is Waveform Free by Tracktion.
Waveform Free – free recording software with audio and video capabilities
Waveform Free is another advanced music production workstation. It is a competent free recording software, but you can do so much more with Waveform Free.
The program will let you record an unlimited number of tracks. The recorded files can be edited, rearranged, and processed using digital effects.
Similar to Cakewalk by BandLab, Waveform Free can also load VST plugins. This means that you’ll have access to a virtually unlimited collection of third-party audio effects and instruments.
Waveform can also work with video files. This makes it an ideal choice for content creators who need to sync or edit the audio part of a recorded video.
Ardour – works with a variety of audio formats
Ardour is a professional audio recording software for Linux. It is a popular audio recording software that works on all desktop operating systems.
If you’re using Windows or Mac, there are many other great audio tools you could try. But Ardour is one of the best options for multi-track recording and editing on Linux.
What is the best audio recorder software for beginners?
Any audio recorder on this list will let you capture high-quality audio recordings. If you’re a beginner looking to easily record audio, I highly suggest Ocenaudio and Wavosaur.
For simple recording tasks like a quick voiceover or a guitar riff, we recommend using Audacity or GarageBand.
For recording multiple audio tracks, Studio One Prime would be a better choice. If you want the full power of a modern audio workstation when recording, use Cakewalk by BandLab or Waveform Free.
What is the best audio recording software for Mac?
There are multiple free applications you can use to record audio on Mac. Garageband is an obvious choice. It was developed by Apple and is highly optimized for use on Mac computers.
Ocenaudio is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a simple audio tool on Mac. It is one of the best free audio editors that also produces high-quality audio recordings.
I use both Garageband and Ocenaudio on my Macbook Air, one for quickly capturing song ideas and the other for editing existing audio files.
What makes a good audio recording software in 2024?
If you’re looking for audio recording software, make sure that it meets your audio recording and editing needs.
Generally speaking, your audio recording app should be compatible with the standard audio formats (WAV, AAC, MP3, FLAC, etc.), lets you customize the recording parameters to customize the quality of your recording (sampling rate, bit depth, compression, etc.), and supports your operating system.
If you are recording multiple audio sources for a song or podcast, you should choose recording software that allows multiple track recording and editing of audio files.
For audio restoration, choose an app that offers background noise removal and an equalizer that will let you adjust the frequency response.
More Free Audio Recording Software (Honorable Mentions)
Before you go, here are some additional recording apps that you could try.
- REAPER is really a digital audio workstation, but you can also use it for audio recording. The software is not freeware, but the developer offers a very generous 60-day trial period with unlimited functionality and no strings attached. Still, it isn’t open source software, and you need to purchase the software license.
- Quicktime is included with macOS, and it works well as a very basic audio editor. You can use it to split an audio file or quickly capture a new sound.
Would you like to suggest some other free recording software? Feel free to leave a comment and let us know.
Yes, there are several excellent free audio recording programs for all major operating systems. Audacity, Ocenadio, Garageband, and WavePad are the best recording software you can use for free.
The three best free recording software tools for PC are Audacity, Ocenaudio, and Wavosaur. These free applications let you record audio, edit audio files, apply effects, and remove background noise.
To record your computer audio, open your audio recording software and select the Windows WASAPI audio driver as the sound source. Play the sound and click the record button to capture your computer audio.
Audacity is completely free, open-source software. It is an excellent free audio recording app. However, there are several freeware alternatives that provide a better user experience for recording audio.
Yes, GarageBand is a free audio recorder developed by Apple. It is completely free to use and fully optimized for macOS. It is an excellent tool for recording and mixing audio for free on your Macbook or iPad.
For more freeware plugins and instruments, return to our Free VST Plugins page.