Table of Contents
There are no two ways about it. If you’re producing your own podcast, you’ll need a DAW. If you’re new to podcasting or audio capture in general, a DAW is a Digital Audio Workstation, and simply put, it is the program that captures the sound from your microphone onto your computer where you can then edit, arrange and mix it.
This all might sound intimidating, especially for a beginner or somebody in the beginning stages of creating their podcast, but it doesn’t need to be, and now more than ever there is a multitude of different DAW’s available for every budget.
When exploring your options, if you’re on a budget, two of the best options are, in my opinion, Audacity, and Garageband. In this article, I’m going to be comparing both of these options so you can find out which one will work best for you.
Why it’s Important To Pick The Right DAW
Picking your DAW is important for a 2 main reasons, and these are:
Your Computer Limitations
There are a lot of different DAW’s on the market, ranging from simple and free such as Audacity and Garageband to the industry standard, like Logic Pro or Protools. What you don’t want to do is spend a lot of money on software that is too powerful for your computer or even not compatible.
The higher range programs are huge in scope and ability, which means they are big. If you’re working on a budget or on an older computer these programs may bring your computer to a halt and will become incredibly frustrating when trying to also get to grips with a whole new world of editing and mixing. Which handily ties in nicely with our next point…
What are You Wanting To Achieve?
Podcasting and Voice Over work are broad in scope so knowing exactly what you want to achieve is incredibly important when choosing your DAW. Is your podcast a radio show? Does it have multiple hosts and guests? Is it a serialized drama? Whatever it is, you need to figure out how much editing and mixing you want to do and what extras you’re expecting to include in your podcast.
Just like almost everything, the simpler the podcast concept, the less you’re likely to need in terms of bells and whistles. Often different DAW’s are better are suited to different things, so figure out what your thing is and go from there.
Must Have Features
- Ability to Record Live Sound
- Multitrack Recording
- Ability to mix and edit various types of sound files
Nice to Have Features
- Inbuilt Loops and Presets
- Easy Access to Support
AUDACITY – Overview
Audacity is probably the biggest name in free music creation. It has been around for 20+ years and is open-source, meaning that not only is it completely free to use but its source code is also freely available to study, use and tweak if that’s something you want to do (and have the ability to do!). It is available on practically every operating system and is regularly updated to fix bugs and to keep up with computer development.
Audacity was created and is run by a team of volunteers, so it’s free to use, but not free to run. You can donate to them here. Their website lists the main features as this…
- Record live audio.
- Record computer playback on any Windows Vista or later machine.
- Convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs.
- Edit WAV, AIFF, FLAC, MP2, MP3, Ogg Vorbis sound files.
- AC3, M4A/M4R (AAC), WMA, Opus, and other formats supported using optional libraries.
- Cut, copy, splice, or mix sounds together.
- Numerous effects including change the speed, pitch, or tempo of a recording.
- Write your own plug-in effects with Nyquist.
- And more! See the complete list of features.
For a completely free to use piece of software it is incredibly in-depth and has a wide range of features. Compared to other similar software, Audacity describes itself as a Digital Audio Editor instead of a workspace. This mostly means that Audacity is focused more on the manipulation of the sound files as opposed to multitrack recording. Despite this, it is still more than capable of achieving multitrack recording.
In Audacity’s 20-year existence it hasn’t changed much in the design, and although this doesn’t have an effect on its performance, it does mean that its learning curve is a little steeper than Garageband’s classic Apple ease-of-use approach. Audacity is as professional as you’ll get for a free program.
- Easy to use Online Manual
- A vast amount of online help and tutorials
- Works on almost every operating system
- Won’t go away any time soon
- Lack of inbuilt pre-sets (though plenty of third-party presets available)
- No loops
- Dated design
- Less user friendly
GARAGEBAND – Overview
Garageband is made by Apple and was introduced in 2004, it has since its inception evolved into a sort of Logic-Lite program. This is great for a few reasons, mostly because if you ever want to upgrade to a top tier DAW, the jump from Garageband to Logic Pro will be much smoother.
It also benefits greatly from having a solid range of effects presets and an extensive loop library; which although may not be relevant for voice-over work could be a lifesaver when creating jingles or intros for podcasting. It even has an incredibly good virtual drummer with a variety of different styles and sounds.
Garageband is a simple, easy to use program. This means that compared to Audacity it is far less intimidating for a beginner to start using, and with the range of presets available to you, it’s very easy to create a good sounding podcast very quickly.
The downside to this simplicity is that it can actually do an awful lot more than it seems at first glance and because of that, can actually make it more difficult to find and use some of the more advanced features. So, if you’re already well acquainted with mixing and editing this may feel frustrating and occasionally limiting.
A few of the main features that Garageband boasts are…
- Record Live Vocals and Music
- Multi-Track Recording
- Edit, Mix and Transpose Music
- A Royalty-Free Loop Library
- Amp and Pedal Modelers
- Effects and Presets
Garageband is, as the name suggests much more focused on the musical side of recording. This however doesn’t limit you in any way when recording for your podcast, and in fact, just adds an extra string to your bow if you do choose to use the features or explore a different approach.
- Simple and user-friendly
- Loop Library
- Great selection of Presets
- Only available on Mac (without complex workarounds)
- Perhaps too simple
- Sometimes frustrating to find achieve certain tools
Which One is Right for You?
First of all, and importantly, are you working on Windows or a Mac? If you’re on windows, your choice is made for you. Luckily this isn’t a bad thing at all. Audacity is a feature-rich, widely used, and adaptable program.
If you’re not planning on creating music for your project or somebody else is taking on the producer role, it is simple to use and because of the nature of its creation (open-source) means that it has an incredible community of users forever pushing it’s boundaries and creating how-to’s and YouTube tutorials.
However, if you’re on Mac you have the option of either and the likelihood is, Garageband will already be installed on your device. Garageband is simpler to get your head around as a beginner than Audacity, where Audacity allows for more in-depth tinkering, Garageband’s scope is broader, with its presets for compression and EQ it means that you’ll likely get a nicer sound much quicker and out of the box. Although it is only available for Mac, Apple still has a large customer base of creative users and therfore a vast community of users online for the program, so you won’t be left alone if you’re stuck on how to achieve something.
In reality, you can’t go wrong. Both products go over and above what is expected for a program you can get for free. But, because of Garageband’s sleeker look, the array of in-built extras, and the fact it can be used as a way to ease into using Logic Pro X, personally, I think for beginner to intermediate level, it just about edges it.
Once you get further into audio manipulation, Audacity does give you an almost limitless amount of options, and 20 years down the line, it’s unlikely to go away any time soon.
|In built loop library
|Available on Mac, Windows, Linux +
|Multitrack Live Recording
|Mix and Edit Sound files