DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation. It is meant to be used for audio editing and you will need one for your voice over needs. The more complicated question is whether you should stick with the free version or seek for more premium paid options. In this article, I will overview some reasoning behind choosing free and paid software as well.
Also, the short answer is YES ABSOLUTELY, but it is much more nuanced than just that and really depends on what are your needs.
Stick to Audacity if you are new
Now, let’s get to why you shouldn’t buy it. I will warn you to not spend any money on premium DAW If you are not sure about your voice over career and if you are just trying out.
Why waste money on something you are not sure you are going to stick to. There is a free option for that and it is more capable than you would expect from something you don’t pay for.
So, no, don’t spend money if you are new. It is just not worth it yet. Just go get Audacity, you will find it in this link.
But what if you are not new or what if you are a few months in. Then it is time to consider some other options! I am not saying you should totally skip on Audacity, but take some time to think about it and then decide.
Audacity is an amazing software. The best thing about it as I mentioned – it is free. But it is not like you get some wacky software because you skimp on it.
You honestly get a decent software that is capable of everything that you could want as a starting VO artist and even for more advanced users Audacity is good. It is available on Windows, Mac and even Linux OS. The main drawback is, it is just not the best at what it does.
You can read a more in-depth Audacity review in this article.
When Audacity is not enough
As a voice-over artist, you don’t need much from your DAW. Just the basics, that is why Audacity is an amazing choice and can easily be your DAW forever. I wouldn’t be saying the same for musicians, however. But that’s whole another topic in itself.
As a VO artist, you are going to be using a few basic effects. These are Compression, Noise gate, Equalizer, Normalizer, Click remover, Noise reduction, Hiss reduction, DeHummer. Maybe we can throw in some sort of Pitch and Reverb effects, but that is stretching an already stretched list.
Audacity has all of it. (Although you need to install Noise Gate plugin and you will often find yourself looking for some sort of plugins with Audacity). I personally only use the first five. And Normalizer is essentially just a fancy Amplifier.
So why would you even consider anything else than Audacity if it has all you need? Because it is limited within these basic effects. Let’s look at one of the key effects: Compression. Notice how Audacity limits Attack time to a minimum 0.1s and Release time to a minimum 1s.
Now take Adobe Audition for example. Minimum Attack time is 0s and minimum Release time is 100ms.
It’s these minor differences that make Audacity a bit of a hassle for advanced users. And that’s beside a fact that it already has fewer tools than other DAWs even if you don’t need them. But let’s be honest, we all like to have options.
Another reason to pay for a DAW is industry standards. Consider the fact that Audacity is not an industry-standard software. For that you would need to consider Pro Tools which is considered an industry standard.
If you ever plan to work as a professional audio engineer, maybe it is best to learn the software that most professionals use. Also, in case you get in a project with other professionals, chances are they are using Pro Tools and if you are not, it is going to be a hassle to co-operate.
Hence, if you are really, I mean REALLY serious about getting into VO industry, consider using industry-standard software.
Pro Tools currently cost $30 for a monthly plan and $25 per month with a one-year commitment. But I would also consider a $599 one-time payment option. It might look expensive, but if you plan on using Pro Tools for the years to come, it will save you some money.
On the other hand, if you are doing cat videos and you need to tweak some meows, don’t stress about not using industry-standard software and save $30 you would spend monthly on Pro Tools.
Another reason to choose different software is that it is not that much more expensive. I am talking about Reaper here. For $60 one-time payment you are getting a professional audio editing software.
Consider that is the amount you would spend in two months if you were to choose Pro Tools and it becomes clear $60 single purchase Reaper is an amazing option.
Reaper is probably the best option for freelancers. It is amazing software on a cheap. Some established VO artists swear by it (check out Booth Junkie Youtube channel) and I can see why.
If you are doing some video editing, maybe occasionally use Photoshop and toy with motion graphics there is another good deal for you.
It is Adobe Creative Cloud Suite. For $53 monthly plan you can get everything Adobe has to offer. For someone that does Youtube, it is a no brainer.
You get a full package for a bit more than you would pay for Pro Tools alone. That includes video editing, photography, audio editing, motion graphics, animation, illustration, graphic design software and more.
Pro tip: wait for some kind promotional deal, $53 monthly payment is nothing to sneeze at, but you can get it for far less if you are patient.
Adobe often offers a discounted price for Adobe Creative Cloud. Try checking for it during the holiday season as I am sure there was a discount during the last Christmas. Also, there is a significant discount for students, so exploit it if you can.
Adobe Creative Cloud includes Adobe Audition software which is super nice if you are using video editing industry-standard Adobe Premiere Pro. When using Premiere Pro you can send projects to Audition for more in-depth audio editing.
I use both and find it very helpful. Seamlessly switching between Premiere Pro and Audition made my life so much easier. Hence, it is probably the best deal to get Adobe Creative Cloud Suite if you are into more than just audio editing.
You can read a more in-depth Adobe Audition review in this article.
Try free trial versions
All aforementioned premium DAWs offer a free trial version. I urge you to try them before making your final decision. In reality, you may find you don’t like one or another DAW for some reason I couldn’t think of.
Maybe it has an unattractive design or you find it difficult to use. Maybe it is something else. They all do pretty much the same and I only mentioned 3 of them, you may wanna look into other options not mentioned here, most of them also offer free trial versions.
You may also be familiar with some sort of DAW and that is enough to choose it over the other. Learning anew could be a struggle, so why waste time if you already own something that works well for you.
Let’s sum it all up.
If you plan to do some occasional voice-over without any interest in video editing, photography, etc, and don’t plan to become professional, you should stick with free software and Audacity is an option for you.
On the other hand, if you take it more seriously and maybe plan to become a freelance voice over artist still without any interest in video editing, photography, etc. In your place, I would take advantage of a low one time fee and get Reaper.
If you are taking it extremely seriously and seek a professional career in VO industry and want your audio editing skills to be transferable in audio engineering jobs I would choose Pro Tools.
Finally, if you are more than just a voice over artist and do some video editing, photography, maybe some drawing or motion graphics then I would choose Adobe Audition which is included in the Creative Cloud. It gives amazing value for money for any creator.