Working with sound on the Mac is excellent. At the lowest level you have a microphone on all the models of computer from Apple and so you don’t have to go looking for one if you need to record something quick and dirty. Apple do this now to promote FaceTime which is a video chat service. If you want to edit sound, all Macs come with Garageband which is a super audio editing software that can be used for making music as well as for recording podcasts. It allows you to do what you need to do to make it sound better for your audience.
Four sound editing softwares for the Mac
All Macs come with this pre installed and that makes this more or less free. It has a lovely looking interface that supports drag and drop extensively. You can grab music from your iTunes or sound files from elsewhere on your hard drive. It is geared towards making the music, but is great for podcasting too. You can have a number of tracks for example one for each speaking person and one for intros and outros. You could also have another for holding all the bumpers, jingles and fancy radio sound effects.
You can see visually where the sounds are on a time line so that you can have sound coming in over the top of another if you want to. Manually adjust the levels in each track to get the audibility right for the listener, or there is a way to set tracks to automatically be louder than the background tracks. It is called ducking where tracks are set to lower automatically when someone is talking for example.
When you are making enhanced podcasts you can easily include artwork and notes to be shown on iTunes, in the iPhone or iPod. Make chapters if you want, so that listeners can skip a section or jump to a part of the podcast that they want to find. Those podcasts will go out as AAC format podcasts or m4a. A normal un-enhanced podcast will most likely be an MP3 format.
If you are going to publish you podcasts on the internet then you should not use music that should have a royalty paid on it. With Garageband you can easily create music of your own design using the Apple Loops that you will be able to publish without the worry of being chased after by the RIAA.
Not going to say much about this as it is a free open source option that is popular with some people. I am not so keen on the interface really, which is always a drawback on open source software. If you want free, then it is better to use Garageband. If you can get used to the interface then it does do an awful lot and is quite capable. I prefer to use a software called AmadeusPro which is much better looking and is inexpensive.
While it doesn’t have the complete ease of use that you get with garageband, it is simple to arrange tracks and to adjust volume of tracks individually. One track has to start at the beginning of the sound but other tracks can be moved along the time line to start where you want them too. Very easy to record sound by hitting the button for record or using Command R. There is a view of the whole sound, you can have at the top of the working window, and in the working area you can zoom in much more closely than you would ever need to.
The reason I like to edit podcasts in AmadeusPro rather than in Garageband is because when I chop a section out of a track, Garageband splits the track and I have to move the sound back together again, whereas with AmadeusPro I get a proper delete and no splitting of the track into parts. It is easier for me to use the effects in Amadeus, from the effects menu so I can apply normalise, amplify, fading, de-noising and also generate silence as required.
Lose the hiss
De-noising is useful if you have a bit of a hiss that you want to lose. You can either sample a section where there is just the hiss, then select the area where you want to remove the hiss and apply Suppress Noise. Sometimes it is easier to choose Suppress White Noise, a dialogue comes up and you use a preview of the sound and a slider to decide how much to suppress, then click OK when it is right. If you suppress too much, it damages the sound you want to hear, but with the preview you can do it so that the noise is gone and the track is still good.
Audio Units are filters that you can mould the sound with, such a the MultibandCompressor, the Dynamics processor and the Graphic EQ. All the AU Filters that are available in Garageband are also in AmadeusPro and you can find more on the internet too if you want something specific. Such as the filters from Camel Audio like CamelCrusher and CamelPhat. You can also use VST effects on your sounds too. If you want to get really fancy with it then you can set up a rack of filters and the order that the filers are stacked up will affect the overall sound.
Normalising the sound
Sometimes I will do the levelling and the normalisation of the audio file I am working on in AmadeusPro on my Apple MacBook Pro 13.3-Inch Laptop
You can split tracks, merge with previous track, add mono or stereo tracks, flatten it all into one track, record to a track that is already there and record to a new track. The versatility of AmadeusPro is amazing and I really recommend it as a multitrack audio recorder. There are even things in there that I have never used, like the Analyse menu with stuff like the Real-Time Spectrum.
When it comes right down to it though an important feature is stability of the application. I have been using it a lot for at least three years and it has only ever crashed once on me. The developer is called Martin Hairer and he does a great job of looking after the AmadeusPro software.
I have used this a couple of times and it is a part of the Final Cut Studio suite, so it is more for working with sound to go with video. It is a high level audio editing tool, that I have not needed to really get into using. Another software that would be similar in professional level would be Logic Pro. If you have Final Cut then certainly give it a try to see if it does what you want.