🔥 HOT! Black Friday 2021 deals & freebies (updated daily!)

Free Recording Software

21

This article features the best free audio recording software for PC and Mac. For more audio software, return to free VST plugins.

We selected six applications that will let you record audio for free using your laptop or desktop computer. Whether you want to quickly capture a musical idea, save an audio journal entry, or record a podcast, there’s no need to spend money on expensive software.

Check out the list of free audio recording apps below and learn more about them 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.

If you require more advanced audio editing or music production functionality, check out our lists of free audio editing software and digital audio workstations. We also have an in-depth collection of free music production software.

The Best Free Recording Software

This is the best free recording software:

  • Audacity
  • Garageband
  • Studio One Prime
  • Pro Tools First
  • Cakewalk by BandLab
  • Waveform Free

The entries are ordered by complexity, from simple to advanced. Scroll below to learn more about each audio recording app.


Audacity

Audacity (Free Recording Software)

Audacity is probably the most widely recommended audio recording application, at least when it comes to freeware. Despite its unassuming looks, Audacity 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 it gets. Launch the software, select the input device, 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. Audacity 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, Audacity 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.

More info: Audacity


GarageBand

Garageband by Apple

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.

Apple’s free recording software can capture audio and handle basic mixing tasks. For absolute beginners, GarageBand is a lot more intuitive than something like Audacity. The interface design is user-friendly, and chances are you’ll feel right at home after launching the program for the first time.

Most importantly, the recording workflow is intuitive and straightforward. 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 comes with 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.

More info: GarageBand


Studio One Prime

Studio One Prime by PreSonus

Studio One Prime is the free version of the Studio One 5 digital audio workstation developed by PreSonus. It is the best free recording software for working with multiple audio tracks.

With Studio One Prime, you can capture one audio recording at a time or even record multiple audio sources simultaneously. The latter technique is known as multitrack recording or multitracking. 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 includes a limited collection of tools from the full Native Effects suite developed by PreSonus. You can enhance the recorded audio with a compressor, EQ, chorus, distortion, reverb, and more.

Even a guitar amp simulator called Ampire is included, 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 is fully-featured when it comes to recording quality and supported audio formats. It can handle WAV, AIFF, MP3, FLAC, AAC, and many other popular audio formats. Studio One Prime can record in 64-bit floating-point WAV format, with support for up to 64-bit/384 kHz audio processing.

More info: Studio One Prime


Pro Tools First

Pro Tools | First by Avid

Pro Tools First 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.

Much like Studio One Prime, the free version of Pro Tools comes with some limitations. 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 First is more than capable of handling a variety of audio recording tasks. It shines as a free recording software for podcasts, multimedia projects, interviews, music demos, and more.

The maximum supported audio quality is a tiny bit lower than what you’re getting 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 First is an excellent place to try. Check out the free version and decide if the upgrade is worth your hard-earned cash.

More info: Pro Tools First


Cakewalk by BandLab

Cakewalk by BandLab

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 a 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, so you can 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.

More info: Cakewalk by BandLab


Waveform Free

Waveform Free

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.

More info: Waveform Free


More Free Recording Software (Honorable Mentions)

Before you go, here are some additional recording apps that you could try.

Wavosaur is very similar to Audacity, but it might be a bit more intuitive option for beginners. On the other hand, it only works on Windows and lacks some of the advanced features available in Audacity.

Ocenaudio is primarily a freeware audio editor. It also works great as audio recording software for Windows, macOS, and Linux.

Ardour is free audio recording software for Linux. It’s feature-packed and probably the best recording program out there for Linux users.

REAPER is really a digital audio workstation, but you can also use it for audio recording. The software is not free, but the developer offers a very generous 60-day trial period with unlimited functionality and no strings attached.

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 or Pro Tools First 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.

Would you like to suggest some other free recording software? Feel free to leave a comment and let us know.


For more freeware plugins and instruments, return to our Free VST Plugins page.

Share this article. ♥️

About Author

Tomislav is a content creator and sound designer from Belgrade, Serbia. He is also the founder and editor-in-chief here at Bedroom Producers Blog.

21 Comments

    • Jacques Boileau

      on

      Which is number 1 on my list of free DAW for Windows. But it’s Windows only. It is a really powerful and complete DAW. Not a scaled down lite version. And, although it is free, it is still maintained and new versions with new features come out every couple of months. Not to be overlooked if you are on Windows.

    • Tomislav Zlatic

      on

      My goal for this article was to provide a short list of recording software aimed at beginners. As in, users who need to record some audio without going too deep with mixing and production. In the fourth paragraph, there’s a link to our article about free DAWs where more demanding users can find Cakewalk, Waveform, and a few other advanced recording tools.

      All that said, I think you have a good point. Cakewalk is so well-made that I will add it to this article, too. It’s not something a beginner will use to record a quick voiceover, but it might inspire some users to learn more about audio processing and music production.

    • Tomislav Zlatic

      on

      I agree and it’s intuitive for me too. But I’ve heard from many beginners that Audacity isn’t very good if you’re just starting out. Interestingly, a more advanced recording software like Studio One Prime seems to be more intuitive for beginners.

      • Since my first dip into audio capture in 2013, I actually loved to record lots of computer audio directly into Audacity, it took no time to learn how to do a quick trim on each end and separate/merge regions, then export it; all any beginning recordist should need- Dead simple controls. Interested to know why it’s not very good for the untrained?
        Once I felt like expanding my sonic-editing world and boosting sw looping potential, got AbletonLiveLite free with Novation hardware. Then there was no looking back, ProTools for school and here we are lol

        • Tomislav Zlatic

          on

          Same here. I started with Audacity, then moved to two old recording apps called Kristal Audio Engine and MuLab. After that, I started using Studio One and never looked back.

    • Thanks for your suggestion! I tested Music Maker multiple times (several different versions of the software) and I wouldn’t recommend it for audio recording. It is oriented towards beginner music makers who want to experiment with audio loops and MIDI. Even so, it isn’t particularly good as a music making app. And its audio recording capabilities are definitely lacking.

    • Tomislav Zlatic

      on

      As previously mentioned, I’m well aware of Waveform Free but I wouldn’t classify it as audio recording software. I think its a far more capable program and thus a much better fit for our free DAW article. That said, it seems that many of our readers would expect to see DAWs like Cakewalk and Waveform Free listed in this article, too. So, with that in mind, I will add Waveform Free to the list of free recording software. Thanks for your suggestion!

      • Ok under this conditions you are right Tomi.
        Bythway the chowtape plugin got a massive overhaul since your last report.
        Thank you so much for this wonderfuls site

    • Tomislav Zlatic

      on

      Ocenaudio is listed in the “Honorable Mentions” section for now. Great little recording software, indeed. I will consider moving it to the main part of the article. Thanks for your suggestion!

  1. Kelvin Hulsebos

    on

    It would also be great to have a list of VST audio “export/recording” tools (that you can use to record “on the fly” what you’re doing in your DAW). I was actually expecting that when I read the headline :+)

    • Tomislav Zlatic

      on

      That’s a great suggestion! I remember using a couple of plugins that recorded internal audio back in the day. I also know that Ableton Live has this feature. Anyway, thanks for the suggestion. I’m adding this to my to-do list. :)

Leave A Reply