An artist needs a paintbrush to create a masterpiece. A voice-actor needs a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). DAWs give voice-actors the kind of control over their recordings that's almost imperative these days; the online voice over marketplace has grown to such an extent it's shaping the future of the industry. The better DAWs support plug-ins which remove audio problems like hums and hisses, crackles and clicks. Users can then distribute pristine recordings to their clients. Of course, there are numerous DAWs on the market, and while most of them offer the same fundamental features, some offer greater versatility and features that are particularly useful to voice-actors. Here are four of the most popular DAWs — from the most expensive to absolutely free.
1. Pro Tools
Avid's Pro Tools isn't the newest DAW on the block — it was first released way back in 1989 — but it still seduces voiceover artists who want a professional studio-style editing suite. It's also pretty much set the standard by which all others are judged. Now in its 12th incarnation — Pro Tools 12 hit the market in 2015 — this founding father of DAWs boasts a multitude of separate tracks, audio manipulation features, sound engineering tools, comp recording, and cloud integration. Then there's the dashboard, which makes editing simple. The rather impressive time-stretching algorithm lets users slow down and speed up recordings without compromising quality.
Pro Tools 12 packages can get a little complicated, however. There's a free version — which lets users edit up to 16 tracks and work on just three projects at the same time — and a paid-for version, which costs a hefty $699 (or $30 a month on a rolling subscription). Still, many voice over artists will find Pro Tools 12 worth the investment. It might not have the snazziest of interfaces or the most bells-and-whistles, but this software delivers when it comes to usability, compatibility, format, and performance.
- Simple and easy to use on Windows and OS X.
- Accessible dashboard.
- Expensive (though there is a free version).
- Lacks the more specific voice-acting features of other DAWs on the market.
Pro Tools came out first, but Apple's Logic is just as iconic. First released in the early '90s, Logic is now Logic Pro X and is bursting at the seams with features. Users will love the single-window customizable interface — it's pretty similar to Final Cut Pro X — which makes editing tracks so much more logical. Other features include Drummer, which automatically plays songs alongside different drumming techniques. For voice-over artists, Flex Pitch is a useful feature that adjusts pitch fluctuations. The result? Much better recordings that comply with quality control requirements. Some features suit more technologically advanced artists — recording engineers and producers also use Logic Pro X — but there's plenty here for voice-actors to sink their teeth into.
Like most Apple products, Logic's performance is solid and stable. Users will love the price, too. Pro X retails at $199 — much more budget-friendly than Pro Tools 12. However, there's no free version for users to play with before they take the financial plunge.
- Lots of features, including Flex Pitch and Drummer.
- Relatively cheap, and there is no monthly subscription.
- Voice-over artists might struggle with the advanced features.
- No free version or trial, unlike Pro Tools 12.
3. Adobe Audition
Audio effects, pitch and time manipulation, automatic loudness correction — Adobe Audition has it all. Adobe released the most recent version of their DAW, Adobe Audition CC 2017, in Nov. 2016, and it works on both Windows and OS X. Now, users can switch between interface styles — there are classic and contemporary layouts — and record more than one audio source at any given time. Voice-over artists can also play around with delays and reverb (if needed) and remove hisses, hums, clicks, and pops. While all DAWs have something of a learning curve, many users find Adobe's Audition very intuitive.
When it comes to cost, Audition sits somewhere between Pro Tools 12 and Logic X. Prices start at $19.99 per month — or $239.88 per year — for individual users. Both of these packages come with 20 GB of cloud storage, which lets voice-over artists access their recordings wherever they may be. For those who are new to DAWs, Audition offers an extensive library of free video tutorials with tips on how to record, edit, and mix audio. Users can also edit various file formats, including MOV, MP4, M4V, MPG, and WMV.
- Users can switch interface layouts.
- Audition's Essential Sound panel is stable and easy-to-use.
- Not the cheapest DAW out there (though not the most expensive, either).
- Voice-over artists will find some features are better suited to music producers and sound engineers.
Audacity is completely free. This open-source software was first released in 1999 and is available on Windows, OS X, Linux and several other operating systems. Audacity might lack some of the premium features of the paid-for DAWs, but it does boast a suite of tools that voice-over artists will find useful, including Virtual Studio Technology (VST) plugin support.
While Audacity's interface isn't as funky and fashionable as Audition's or Logic's, it's really easy to use. Pretty much everything's on one screen, so there's no need to switch back and forth between screens and layouts. Users can import various file formats into the software, too. Audacity may be the best place to start for voice-actors who are just starting out and still learning the ropes.
- Did we say free?
- VST plug-in support lets voice-over artists tweak and tinker with their favorite plugins.
- Not as many features as premium paid-for audio programs.
- Basic interface.
In the final analysis, it's the end-product that counts: that outstanding voice over your client loves. Each one of these four DAWs will allow you to do that. Some have the latest and greatest features, others don't.
Do you use a different DAW when you record your voice-overs? If so, why? Drop us a message below and share your thoughts with the rest of our community —oh, and don't forget to share this article on your social media pages!
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