Audacity and GarageBand are both free and effective audio production apps. They are somewhat simple in design and not typically used in professional recording sessions, but they can be a good option for beginners.
GarageBand is easier to use for most people without experience because it’s designed for beginners and has a very user-friendly interface. But Audacity is a bit more capable regarding editing and effects.
I’m Donovan, a longtime musician, and home studio enthusiast. I love to write, record, and produce in my home studio as often as possible, and I have experience working with GarageBand and Audacity.
This post will look at Audacity versus GarageBand to give you a better idea of how these two production tools stack up against one another. I’ll compare and contrast the two based on a few key parameters to help you decide which might be a good choice.
Let’s get rolling.
|Ease of Use||Not as intuitive to use for beginners and can have a steep learning curve||Very user-friendly interface that is easy to pick up and understand|
|Features/Functions||Good for editing and supports a pretty wide variety of plugins||Basic recording and editing DAW that doesn’t have many expansive features|
|Recording Capabilities||Capable of editing a fairly wide variety of projects with a nice mixer view. Editing process is easy.||Easy to set up basic recordings and comes with several software instruments to get started.|
|Workflow||Not a ton of custom workflow options, but you can tweak the views to your liking.||Simplistic workflow considerations not ideal for professional-level audio projects.|
|Limitations||Compatible with multiple operating systems but does not support MIDI recordings||Only available on Apple devices|
Here is a more detailed look at Audacity and GarageBand to help you understand which of these best suits your needs in the home studio.
1. Ease of Use
If you are new to using DAWs or recording music or other audio, it’s a good idea to start with an option that is easy to understand and figure out. That way, you can spend more time making music rather than navigating technical issues.
Audacity is not all that beginner-friendly and has a somewhat complicated user interface. If you have experience with audio recording or other DAWs, this might not be a big deal, but it can be quite a challenge if you are a beginner.
Audacity is a pretty capable DAW, especially for being free. But this doesn’t mean it’s easy to use or figure out. If ease of use is a big priority, then I wouldn’t choose this app because you can quickly be overwhelmed.
GarageBand, on the other hand, is one of the easiest and most straightforward audio production apps around. It has a very friendly user interface that allows you to dive into recording projects in minutes, even if you have no experience.
This makes GarageBand a great option for beginners because there isn’t much of a learning curve when you want to get started. You can launch the app and figure things out intuitively or take advantage of the Quick Help feature for more assistance.
Since both DAWs are somewhat geared toward beginners, it’s a good idea to choose the easier option if you don’t know what you are doing. GarageBand is the easy choice with that in mind.
Since Audacity and GarageBand are free apps, they are both somewhat limited in the features and functions they offer compared to other DAWs which cost money. You get what you pay for, and you can’t expect too much when you don’t pay anything.
That’s not to say these DAWs are worthless because that’s far from the truth. They just don’t have the full range of features you’d expect with more complex apps like Logic Pro X or Pro Tools 12.
Audacity is more expansive overall than GarageBand. There are many tools you can use within the app to work into your recording projects. And it also has a range of editing abilities that we’ll explore in the section below.
I like that Audacity has many built-in effects you can use in your projects. These are useful when you want to make a track sound different or just explore everything possible within the DAW.
GarageBand is pretty limited in its features and functions. It has everything you need to get started with basic recordings, but you can’t do much in terms of editing or mixing. This can hold you back if you want to make a complete album or something similar.
That said, GarageBand still comes with a number of tools you can use, and I particularly like the project templates. This will set up a new recording session for you, and you can get rolling right away, even if you don’t have much experience.
3. Recording Capabilities
GarageBand and Audacity will both allow you to record live music or build songs right within the app. These are not the most extensive DAWs out there, and they have definite limitations in scope and pro-level recording. But you can still make decent recordings with them.
Audacity has a pretty simple recording process that is easy to figure out when you launch the app. You can set up multiple tracks and decide which one you want to record on and then start editing things from there.
You also have the option to record in either 16-bit or 24-bit, depending on the scope or needs of your project. This is a nice feature that can dictate audio quality or format, and the flexibility of that increases what’s possible.
GarageBand also has the basic recording functions that you need to either record live music or make music within the app itself by using software instruments. It doesn’t have many software instruments, but enough to get you started and pointed in the right direction.
You also get a variety of built-in plugins which can help you shape the tracks you record however you see fit. This is nice because you get more options than just dry tracks after recording them, and it can help you figure out how to use a DAW.
All things considered, I wouldn’t choose either of these for a professional-level home studio setup. But if you are just starting and don’t want to pay any money for your software, they can work and allow you to do basic recordings easily.
Workflow considerations are also a concern whenever you choose a DAW. But similar to the limitations mentioned above with recording capabilities, you don’t get all that many workflow-aiding tools in either Audacity or GarageBand.
Audacity probably has more workflow possibilities, but they aren’t that easy to figure out if you don’t have experience with it. Because Audacity has more tools overall, you can set things up in a way that best meets your needs.
Audacity is a better option for editing tracks, which is a big part of the audio production process. That also increases its workflow potential, although you don’t have as many options as you would with more extensive DAWs that you’ll need to pay for.
GarageBand is really too simple to have many workflow considerations. But that simplicity can benefit beginners because there aren’t too many features or functions that will distract you from your project.
Because you can’t do all that many high-level recordings or techniques in GarageBand, that can actually simplify workflow. That might seem a bit counter-intuitive, but you are often more effective when you don’t have distractions.
I’ve already laid out a few limitations of both these DAWs in the sections above, but let’s explore them a bit more in-depth so you understand how they might hold you back or help you accomplish what you need with audio recording apps.
Neither Audacity or GarageBand are pro-level DAWs, so don’t get your hopes up if you have goals of running a professional recording studio or doing production work full-time. You’ll need something more expansive to reach those goals.
They don’t have the capabilities for you to create high-level recordings that will sound professional. They just aren’t designed for that, which is why you can get Audacity and GarageBand for free.
GarageBand is also only available on Apple devices. The app comes preinstalled on Macs and iPhones, so you don’t even need to download it. But you won’t be able to run GarageBand on Windows or any other system.
Audacity is available on any system, and you can use it with macOS, Windows, and Linux. That opens up what you can do with it and is a good feature if you don’t want to be limited in what type of setup you need.
If you are a beginner with home recording, these limitations might not be that big of a deal. But if you plan on spending a lot of time improving your skills or want a fully-functional studio, you might be better off with another more capable option.
The good news about Audacity and GarageBand is that they are both free. You don’t need to pay or sign up for anything to use either DAW. That makes them a solid option for just about anyone to explore if you don’t have a budget.
Free is always nice, but be sure to consider what you don’t get if you choose to use either of these. If you want full-scale audio production capabilities, you won’t be able to accomplish that without spending some money on more expansive apps.
But if you are just learning how to record music or just curious about audio production in general, free apps that help with this are great. So both Audacity and GarageBand are recommended with that in mind.
Audacity and GarageBand are not the best DAWs for professional-level music production, but they still make a solid choice for the beginner who is looking to learn the basics of recording and audio production.
Audacity has more tools and features but is more complex and has a steeper learning curve. GarageBand is very easy to navigate but not as expansive in what it offers. But the great thing about both is that they are free.
Have you used Audacity and GarageBand? Which one do you like better and why? Let me know in the comments below.