Which audio editing software should you use? Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) bring all the components of mixing consoles to software. How do you get the most out of your DAW to make the best impression on listeners in the three to five seconds you have to grab them? Anne and VO Tech Guru Tim Tippets talk about Twisted Wave, Adobe Audition, Pro Tools, and Audacity, and how not all DAWs are created equal. Everything from your microphone to your interface to your booth … and yes … your DAW can impact how “expensive” you sound. Get valuable tips on the importance of post-production capabilities and how to finish your audio like a #VOBOSS
Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode
Audio Recording Software is also known as a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
A DAW brings everything you’d otherwise have on a mixing console in a digital form
All DAWs record at the same level of quality
Most VO Talent only need to record and edit in mono in one track
Advanced programs like “Pro Tools” or “Audition” can be overwhelming for talent who aren’t audio engineers
Twisted Wave was created specifically for voiceover, so it’s very capable, though stripped down to the essentials
Adobe Audition is great for users who want to mix final audio with fewer steps
Audacity is open-source software, which means that a collective of users manipulates the software and puts it out there for the next version
If all you need to do is record your audio (which is unusual) and send it in raw, then you don’t need to pay for a DAW
A freeware DAW will not have the same capability and ease of use as something that you pay for
If you’re using a specific DAW, and you’re successful, do not switch your DAW
With DAWs you can both enhance and subtract from your audio
Most responsible audio editing is about subtracting and imitating mic control
Anything you can do to make your audio sound more expensive, then that’s a smart move
You have 3 to 5 seconds to make an impression on whoever is listening to you, use it to your advantage
Referenced in this Episode
Direct links to things we brought up ++
Check out Tim Tippet’s Recommended Software
Learn more about Adobe Audition
Check out Anne’s Favorite DAW: Twisted Wave
Find out more about Audacity
Recorded in ipDTL
Full Episode Transcript
>> It’s time to take your business to the next level, the BOSS level! These are the premiere Business Owner Strategies and Successes being utilized by the industry’s top talent today. Rock your business like a boss, a VO BOSS! Now let’s welcome your host, Anne Ganguzza.
Anne: Hey everyone, welcome to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with the one and only VO Tech Guru, audio engineer extraordinaire, Mr. Tim Tippets. Hey Tim!
Tim: Hello, how are you, Anne?
Anne: I’m doing good. So Tim, I got a question for ya.
Anne: [laughs] Well, I’m quite sure that you’re gonna be able to answer this, but —
Tim: Well, we’ll see.
Anne: — the other day, I had a student, and actually a lot, a lot of times I have students who are new to the industry. And they are always asking me about equipment, and I know people ask you about that, you know, all the time.
Anne: But this one specifically was asking me about what type of audio editing software do I use? And I know that there are tons of possibilities out there — I have my personal favorite — also known as the DAW. But I thought I would ask you to maybe have a conversation about, you know, what things do we need to know about our DAWs and what’s important?
Tim: Alright, well DAW, first of all, stands for Digital Audio Workstation. So that’s just essentially a way of saying you’re bringing in everything that you would otherwise have on a mixing console into a software version. Right? So for instance, what is it that you use?
Anne: Well, I have a love affair with Twisted Wave.
Tim: Ok, and why do you have a love affair —
Tim: Why do you have a love affair with Twisted Wave? What is it about it?
Anne: Well, for me, I started off a long time ago using ProTools, because that’s all there was kind of back in the — well, I shouldn’t say that. I’m sure there were other editing softwares, but in voiceover that was kind of what people were using, or what I was told to use. And so when I bought my equipment at the time, it came with a version of ProTools Lite. And I learned to use that, and I just, for me it was like complex [laughs]. And it seemed to be like a lot of stuff that I needed to know just to put out one track.
Anne: And it kind of made me a little bit crazy because it also had problems like agreeing to be on the particular — I bought a specific Windows laptop, and it didn’t work, right? The hardware-software combination didn’t work right. And then ultimately I ended up getting a Mac and graduated to Twisted Wave, which for me it was a complete just — it was lovely because it was just simple. And for me, because I didn’t want to become an audio engineer — I just wanted to know what I needed to know to get my audio out, you know, good quality, to my clients — that seemed to be the perfect solution for me.
Tim: Sure. Well, Twisted Wave is made specifically for Mac, right, and it’s also made speci — at least at this time. And they also have it on iPad and iPhone.
Tim: Right? For people who may not know that. You can’t get to all of the effects on the iPad and iPhone the way that you can on a desktop.
Tim: But regardless though, that is something that you’ve used in the past —
Anne: For years.
Tim: Yeah, migrating from ProTools, and ProTools is a multitrack DAW.
Tim: Ok, again Digital Audio Workstation, ok, or you know AKA recording software. So when you were using ProTools, you were only using one track out of a potential —
Tim: — gazillion. Right?
Anne: Correct. Well, once in a while, I used two, if I was doing any sort of like — I did some on-hold stuff, where I would put some music under. But it was not my — it was not something that I thought that I was going to be doing on a daily basis, that’s for sure.
Tim: Right, so you thought you’d be mixing the audio and then sending it in?
Anne: Well —
Tim: Or were you just doing it to practice, or what did that look like?
Anne: No, I just did it — I did do it for a couple of clients back in the day.
Tim: Oh, ok.
Anne: Now it’s, you know, and it’s not the sort of thing that I really offer. I kind of outsource it, just because it’s not like my forte. I would much rather give that sort of work to an audio editor, you know, and then just be done with my part, which would be recording the vocal.
Tim: Ok, well, a lot of it comes down to that, right, because if you are mixing in multitrack, and you are actually mixing music along with voiceover, then it makes sense to have a multitrack DAW.
Tim: Right? Or again recording software. But the thing is, is most of us as voiceover just need one track, you know, one mono track. That’s actually something I’d like to throw in right now.
Anne: That’s a really good point. [laughs]
Tim: Yeah, a lot of people are recording in stereo. You don’t need to do that. Mono’s fine. It’s going to be double the size and there are a lot of reasons behind that. We can go into it at some other time, but for right now, just record in mono, send your stuff in, you’re good to go. But typically as voiceovers, we’re not going to be sending in a music bed —
Tim: — with our voiceover. Ok? So Twisted Wave is software that was created specifically for voiceover, and that’s it. And so as a result of that, it’s very stripped down. It’s very capable, don’t get me wrong.
Tim: It’s one of my favorite DAWs out there. But Twisted Wave is just a very simple thing to use.
Tim: I find it kind of humorous that they have the word “twisted” in there, because it’s rather, it’s rather untwisted compared to some others, right?
Anne: Well, can I just make a quick point too though — the other reason was, honestly part of the reason why I wasn’t going to be doing any music underneath or providing that as a service was because I didn’t want to buy the library of music. Everything had to be, you know, legal copyright, that sort of thing. So that’s another big reason as to why I didn’t need that capability because that was not something I was going to be able to — number one, I wasn’t going to put my money into it, and I wasn’t going to provide it as a service.
Tim: Right. Well, some of us do, some of us don’t.
Anne: Well yeah! Absolutely.
Tim: Yeah, I certainly do myself when needed. But if you don’t have a need for that, then you really shouldn’t just — you shouldn’t be worried about multitrack DAWs. So.
Tim: My opinion is this. If you are looking for a one-time buy, and you have a Mac for instance, then you should just go ahead and get Twisted Wave.
Tim: That would be the answer that I would give most people. Unless you want more capabilities, and you want, you know, to be able to do a lot of things even easier, quicker. You know, I’m a big fan of efficiency, right? So the answer then would be Adobe Audition, but Adobe Audition at this time is a $21 a month subscription.
Anne: Right. But wait, Tim. People are going to say “what about Audacity? I love Audacity.” I have my own opinion on that. [laughs]
Tim: Well Audacity records the same quality, level of quality as any other DAW, right? Every DAW is going to record at the same level of quality, so that’s not an issue. It’s a matter of what kind of efficiencies —
Tim: — what kind of things are built in that are going to help you be able to process your audio, which is another conversation that we’re going to be having.
Tim: But the ease of use is super important, right?
Anne: Well, I’m going to tell you, for me, for Twisted Wave on a Mac with an Apple Magic Mouse, that compared to Audacity when I would have to just zoom in to get to a very critical part of the waveform —
Anne: — you know, it’s instantaneous versus having to do a couple of keystrokes to do the same thing in Audacity. So mine hands down was Twisted Wave because I could edit so much quicker.
Tim: Right, and not only that, but you have become loyal to it.
Tim: So if I tried to, if I tried to have a conversation with you along the lines of — and I have with many other people —
Anne: And you have.
Tim: — before. Yes. Come over to the dark side. We have cookies. You know? And I’m like, “hey, let’s get you into Adobe Audition, because I want to show you how it is that you can press one button. Everything will be processed, and then you know, you can just do some light editing and you’re done.” Well, you’re going to have a comfort level with Twisted Wave for instance —
Tim: — and we get the same thing with Audacity users, ProTools users, etc. where they just don’t want to move away from what it is that they’re used to, because they’re getting out of their comfort zone. But just to be, again to be clear, all of these DAWs record the same level of quality. So let’s say that you are always sending in your audio raw. Well, every DAW out there is, that I’m aware of, it’s going to be relatively easy to record your VO, your voiceover, and then simply export it along the timeline. You know, that’s not going to be very hard to figure out regardless of which DAW you’re using. And then save it as a .wav file or .mp3, whatever it is that’s required. Right? This is really a conversation about what it is that you are, number one, most comfortable with, ok? Because if you have been using Twisted Wave for years, there’s no real good reason that I can think of — because I’ve heard your audio obviously.
Tim: And you’re highly successful, which, you know, if it’s not broke —
Anne: Don’t fix it.
Tim: Don’t fix it, right? So why would I push you hard to go in that direction? But if you were a newcomer, then I would probably make a different recommendation based on what it is that I know about the built-in efficiencies —
Anne: Oh, and I agree. Yeah.
Tim: Yeah, ok. So you know, I would push you more towards Adobe Audition, and say “look, it is $21 a month, but I could easily pay $50 a month, and here’s why.” Right?
Tim: Just want to make sure everyone’s clear on that. It’s not a matter of the DAW being —
Tim: Better or worse at recording. That comes down to the microphone and the interface, and the space that you’re in, and all of that other stuff. Ok?
Anne: Excellent points.
Tim: Yeah, it’s really a matter of — let’s use Audacity as an example. Ok? If I want to use a noise gate — and now again I don’t want to give people the wrong impression here, because noise gate usually means that you’re going to be shutting off the signal quickly and suddenly. But there’s this other thing called downward expansion, which is kind — it’s akin to having a virtual engineer who will turn down your input gain when you’re not — when you stop speaking, they’ll turn it down real quick, and then right before you start speaking, turn it up again. So this keeps your noise floor low, right? And when you put that plug-in in place, it does it automatically, and it does a wonderful job of doing it. But at this time, as of this podcast, that is a plugin that you have to go and search for and then install inside of Audacity. And it’s not an easy thing to do. Right? They don’t make it real easy because this is open sourced software. So it’s not like someone is watching, you know, like the software overlord is constantly organizing and figuring out what will and will not be a thing inside Audacity.
Tim: It’s a collective of, you know, feedback that comes in, and then people who are capable of actually manipulating the software to create version 2.3.3 or whatever it is that we have right now, and then put it out there. So the difference between Audacity being freeware and something that you paid for, whether it’s a one-time or an ongoing subscription is that of course you are not going to have the capabilities and ease of use in freeware that you would in something that you paid for.
Tim: So that, that’s really the big difference. So from my perspective, if I had no money at all, and I wanted to get into voiceover, would I lean towards Audacity? Yeah, I probably would. Knowing what it is that I know now, for the longterm benefit for my career, would I start with Audacity? Probably not. Because I know what kind of a hassle I have in front of me in order to understand everything and get everything that I need. But if you were to ask me the question, “well Tim, all you ever need to do is record your voice and then send it in raw, which DAW are you going to use,” I’m probably going to say Audacity. Because why wouldn’t I? I just made the statement they all record at the same quality. And if they’re all going to export at the same level of quality, why would I pay for anything?
Anne: But how realistic is it? Well, maybe for some people, but I think very few, how realistic is it that they’re going to be sending in raw audio? Unless they completely have an engineer that works for them, or they’re being directed sessions all the time.
Tim: Well, right, yeah. Raw audio or this concept of broadcast quality, in quotes, is something that has been, you know, brought up quite a bit especially lately with the crisis. So expectations have gone way up. The reality is this. If you make an audio engineer’s job easier by having audio that has a high-pass filter on it — which these days we usually call it rolling off the low end. So what that does is that filters out a lot of the low-end rumble in the signal, ok? If you know where the boxiness is inside of your booth along the lines of frequency, and you’re able to make a cut there, and get rid of that kind of boxy sound, would the engineer want that? If you knew what you were doing, yes, they would want that, because these are things that they’re going to be doing anyway. So anything that you can do to make your sound better, or as I like to put it, sound more expensive, then that’s a smart move, right? And it’s usually done by subtraction. It really doesn’t matter what it is that we’re talking about. It could be subtraction of echo in your booth.
Anne: Yeah, or noise.
Tim: It could be — right, and the same could be said for performance. It could be subtraction of fear or nervousness, right?
Tim: Yeah breaths, right? So much of it is usually about subtraction. So with DAWs, there is a lot that you can subtract. Yes, there are things that you can enhance, but along the lines of subtraction again, if we’re talking about using responsible compression, which should be thought of as an automatic volume leveler, all you’re really doing is you’re mimicking better mic control, right? You’re not letting things get too loud, so that they — in comparison to the rest of the voiceover, they’re not that much more dynamic, unless they’re meant to be, of course, where you’re yelling and so on, right?
Anne: So, may I ask what you mean by “responsible?”
Tim: Well, ok, so that [laughs] yeah. That’s actually a really good question. I’m glad that you asked that. What ends up happening a lot of the times is people will go onto YouTube, and someone will tell them “here’s how you use compression for your voiceover.” And they’re just way off base. There’s just not — I’m not gonna try to sugarcoat it or try to dance around it. It’s just that they’ve gotten the idea —
Anne: They’re wrong.
Tim: Yeah. I mean, I don’t like making people wrong, but here’s the thing, is when you take a musical approach to vocals and try to apply it to voiceover, it doesn’t work out.
Anne: Oh ok. Yeah.
Tim: Yeah, because you’re going to be using way more compression, and you also know that the voice is going to need to stick out amongst many other instruments, and it needs to be at center stage, right? So you’re going to treat it a lot differently.
Anne: Right. Oh that makes a whole lot of sense.
Tim: Yeah. Well yeah, it would, right?
Tim: Also you’re not going to be nearly as concerned about acoustics —
Tim: — or any sort of noise that may be in the space. If you strip a lot of vocals down on their own, on their single track, and you just solo them, and you listen to them, you’ll hear the gate turning on and off. In other words, the signal will shut down when the person is not singing.
Tim: Then go up again.
Anne: Oh I’ve heard that, when they, when they have concerts and they take away. I’ve seen it on YouTube videos.
Tim: Yeah, right.
Anne: They’ll pull away all the music to just hear the singer to hear if they’re lip-synching or what’s happening, yeah, to see what they really sound like. Interesting.
Tim: Yep. But you can’t hear that in the mix.
Tim: But if you do listen to it by itself, you’ll hear the gate opening up, shutting down.
Tim: You’ll hear really strong compression to get the voice to punch through. But if you do that to VO, and you apply that kind of musical approach —
Tim: — to voiceover, then it ends up sounding way, way too processed.
Anne: Oh yeah, that’s such good advice, Tim. I never even thought of it that way.
Tim: Yeah, and you have about three to five seconds to make an impression on whoever it is that’s listening to you. Ok? So if you’re coming in with that really strong, heavy, you know, and also limiting is another thing which we can get into some other point in time — a lot of people are being told to limit their audio. No, don’t do that. Ok? You’re sucking the dynamics out of your VO. If you limit something, and you’re basically cutting off how loud you’ll allow the signal to be, by just chopping it off basically and saying, “look, you can’t go beyond level X” — well ,if I get louder, because I’m being emotional, or I get quieter, you in real life would hear not only the, let’s say it was, anger, you would hear that emotion of anger in my voice, but also as I get louder and I get angry, you are going to hear my voice get louder. And so when you don’t allow the voice to get louder during that emotional moment, then your brain is going to say, “hey, something’s wrong.”
Anne: Right, right.
Tim: Right? “Something’s not quite right. So anyway, getting back to DAWs, when people are getting into DAWs and doing their voiceover and then over-processing it at level X, whatever level X is, and they’re taking that information from YouTube or someone, you know, Uncle Joe used to work at the studio or whatever and set them up, right?
Tim: You often get something that is just, just too over-processed, ok?
Tim: And so the DAW that you’re using, really again, it doesn’t matter. It’s a matter of what capabilities it has in post to do what it is that you need to do to your signal to get it to sound the best that it can. And not all DAWs are created equal in that regard.
Anne: So I wanted to step back for just a minute, just for anybody who might be listening that is really new to the industry. I know that this was something that I actually had to learn, was that, you know, a lot of people just try, they just go ahead and try to process it. They just take a look at the menu, effects menu, and then they start to do it themselves. Well, guess what, people out there? There are [laughs] there are audio experts like Tim who create these effects stacks that you can run to use to process your files in an appropriate way, I should say, right, in a reasonable way.
Tim: Yes. Yes.
Anne: So these do exist, and they exist for just about every DAW that is out there. So don’t be afraid to ask about those, because they can really help you and really help save your editing time. I know when I got my filters, it cuts my editing time by, gosh, over 50%, if not like, you know, 70%.
Tim: Yeah. Yeah, you’re talking about — when you say filters, you’re talking about effects racks.
Anne: Effects stacks.
Tim: So that’s what you’re going to run — yeah, your effects stacks. That’s what you’re going to run after you do your actual voiceover, after you record. Right?
Anne: Record, yep.
Tim: So that’s what people really need to understand. If you’re using something like ProTools, which is more or less for voiceover is akin to putting a jet engine on a Volkswagen Bug, on a VW Bug. It’s just overkill. That’s just the reality of it. And when you have something like Audacity, but then you’re expected to do a video game, where you are processing, or you are putting the music bed on there, now you’re underserving, right, with something that’s free because it’s going to be a big hassle. And trust me, there are plenty of people out there who are very, very good with Audacity, who can accomplish a lot with Audacity. Reaper is another one. Reaper, some Reaper fans are absolutely rabid about using Reaper because you can dig in there really deep and you can just get a lot of custom stuff done. Well, ok that’s great, but not everyone wants to or can dig in deep and get behind everything and create all of these custom things. It’s a lot of work even for someone who’s in the know, to do something like that. So the answer is, if you are looking to process your audio, then you want to get something that is going to best serve that purpose. Can Audacity do it? Yes. Is it going to be more of a hassle to put something together like an effects rack for that? Yes, but again it can be done. The thing is though is that if you can run Twisted Wave, or if you can run something like Adobe Audition, it’s just going to be that much easier. So this is a “you get what you pay for” conversation. Ok?
Tim: Some people will use Cubase. Some people will use Studio One, and these are unusual. These are not your usual suspects when it comes to DAWs, you know, Studio One, Cubase type stuff. Usually it’s going to be Audition, Audacity you hear a lot, Twisted Wave clearly —
Anne: Twisted Wave.
Tim: Yeah clearly.
Anne: I think those are the big three, right/
Tim: Right, but Twisted Wave is not a multitrack editor, so —
Anne: Right, right, right.
Tim: — if you try to do multitrack stuff, you can’t, right, so it’s really a matter of what it is that you’re looking to do. But you can, quote/unquote, get by with free software or something more unusual like a Studio One, something like that. And for you Studio One operators out there, apologies. You know, you may be using Studio One and I know many other people that use it, but in the VO world, I run into it like once in 200 people.
Tim: One time for every 200 people.
Anne: I’ve heard some of my students, they’ve been having issues with it, so I don’t know how easy it is or…
Tim: And that can happen with just about any DAW, because people will head in, and they’ll start using a DAW, and not know, not have an idea of what buffer size they should have for latency for instance. Or should you be recording in stereo? That comes up a lot. People will be recording in stereo, and I ask them why. They don’t know. They don’t know why they are. That’s just how it comes, the you know default —
Anne: Configured. Yeah.
Tim: But these are DAWs that are intended for multi-purpose use.
Anne: Musicians maybe.
Tim: They could be used for anything. Right? But Twisted Wave, for instance, was built specifically for voiceover, so it’s very — at least that’s my understanding. Right? But you know you can go any direction with any one of these DAWs with their limitations. It’s just a matter of, “hey, how complicated do you want the process to be,” and you know ease of use versus price, for instance, right, would be one of the things that you might use to judge it. But my perspective is this. What I am looking for is I am looking for something that longterm is going to be the best solution that is easy to use, number one; and number two, how much time is it going to save me using this product? Because as I said before, they all record the same level of quality. But over the longterm, what am I looking at? That’s the view you should be taking when looking at DAWs. If you jump into a “well, I’ll use this now then jump to this later,” that’s not something I want to go through. That’s a transition from hell.
Anne: It is.
Tim: Right? Because you have to relearn everything, ok? So that’s how I look at DAWs for myself is longterm, what am I looking at? And then, you know, I can make a decision. It’s that simple.
Anne: Well, excellent, excellent advice. Thanks for — you actually cleared up so much, and I think — you know, I’ve been doing this for years and [laughs] you just cleared up so much for me right now about DAWs that I didn’t know.
Anne: Good advice for the BOSSes. Thank you so much, Tim, for that. And I would like to give a great big shout-out to our sponsor, ipDTL. You too can communicate with your network and talk like a BOSS. Find out more at ipdtl.com. You guys have a great week, and we’ll see you next week! Bye.
>> Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your host Anne Ganguzza. And take your business to the next level. Sign up for our mailing list at voboss.com and receive exclusive content, industry revolutionizing tips and strategies, and new ways to rock your business like a BOSS. Redistribution with permission. Coast to Coast connectivity via ipDTL.