For many of us, the music we listen to is the personal soundtrack for our lives; it speaks to us, and through its inspiration we allow that music to speak back to the world. People who create music need top-end recording software in order to get the job done, which is why many people are clamoring for a version of the popular, downloadable audio suite GarageBand for PCs running Windows 7, 8.1, or 10.
For the uninitiated, audio recording and mixing looks like technological magic, but it’s an immensely familiar process not only to those that play and record music, but also podcasters, lecturers, bloggers, and leaders of webinars. Truly, if you ever want to do anything remotely audio-related, whether it be with instruments or your own voice, a top-notch audio editing software suite cannot be recommended enough. If you’re thinking or producing anything of a professional quality, it’s practically required.
GarageBand originally got its start as a software program developed to compete with a competing program from Sony called Acid. While both are still in development and still widely in use, the landscape that they originated from has changed quite a lot. Eventually purchased by Apple, GarageBand is now a standard-fare audio recording and editing program that comes standard with Apple products. If you have a Mac computer–desktop or laptop, it doesn’t matter–then it very likely came with GarageBand preinstalled. If you have an iPad or an iPhone, GarageBand is very likely present as an application. For almost every Apple computing device that hits the market, GarageBand is present.
Let’s back up a few steps and take a look at Apple. It’s important to understand the way that the company treats its proprietary software before moving forward.
A question: when was the last time that you saw an Apple program running in a Windows environment? If you answered with anything except iTunes or QuickTime Player, then I know that you’re fibbin’. These software applications are virtually the only cross-platform offerings from Apple that aren’t otherwise limited exclusively to Apple devices. Your rebound question might be an immediate, “For the love of God, why?! Windows software runs on everything!”
You wouldn’t be wrong, either. Windows and its developers have a history of creating far more “open” software that’s flexible enough to run across a huge variety of hardware. If it runs on Windows, you can bet that there’s probably a version that works on Mac, too. The same cannot be said of Apple developed software since the company keeps an iron-tight, dominating grip on almost all software developed for its devices. This also extends to software and development projects that were purchased by Apple for Apple.
Despair is probably rising in your gut, and it suits the news that I have for you: there is no version of GarageBand for Windows. Though you might be promised otherwise after performing a cursory search online, the fact remains true; it’s Apple-developed, now, which means it’s highly unlikely that we’re going to see it on any version of the Windows operating system.
That fact isn’t going to stop us, though. After all, Mac users are still a slim market share of overall computer hardware in use today, so Windows users must be doing something to solve their audio editing and recording woes. Let’s explore some options, examine their costs and processes, and debunk some myths along the way.
Can I Emulate It?
If you’re a regular Appamatix reader, you’ve likely come across our many articles and guides on emulation, before. If you haven’t, here’s a basic rundown: an emulator sequesters away a portion of your computer’s resources in order to mimic another environment altogether. People do this extremely effectively with Google’s Android OS and Mac users do it fairly easily with the Windows operating system. These facts often lead people to suspect that the same thing might be possible with Apple’s Mac OS or the ever-popular iOS, but this simply isn’t the case.
Because of Apple’s unmovable stands on almost all of its software, emulation is something of a nightmare. Many coders and programmers have managed to untangle it enough to accomplish some decent emulations, but I can promise you, right now, that it’s not worth your time. On top of that, I’ve not been able to find any Apple emulation software that actually runs GarageBand.
If you’re a lucky double-dipper and you have Mac and Windows computers, it is possible to access your Mac remotely from your Windows machine. It’s actually a fairly simple process, available to you through the Chrome Remote feature in Google Chrome. Follow these short steps to get the process up and running:
- Install the Google Chrome web browser on your Mac and your Windows PC.
- Ensure that each installation also has the Chrome Remote Extension installed and enabled.
- When you open a new Chrome tab on your Mac, you’ll be given a remote access option. Authorize it and make note of the password given to you.
- From your Windows PC installation of Chrome, follow the same process, but this time, enter the code given to you from your Mac’s Chrome installation.
- After authorizing the remote access by clicking through several permissions requests, you’ll now have the ability to control your Mac remotely.
Once this is completed, all you have to do is open up GarageBand from your Windows PC, and you’re ready to rock and roll! Know that you have in no way installed GarageBand on your Windows machine and you’ll have to follow the remote access option each time that you want to do this, but it is a viable option for recording through Windows!
However, if you’re not the lucky owner of both a Mac and a Windows PC, you’re going to need a viable alternative that doesn’t include manipulating remote access across two computers. Even though Apple bundles GarageBand in as part of its preinstalled software package for new Mac computers and releases of the Mac OS, Windows doesn’t haven an equally muscular equivalent–you’ll have to do some shopping in the third-party market.
Thankfully, that market is rich with opportunity and choice, some of which is even more impressive than Apple’s GarageBand.
Given that GarageBand was developed in direct competition with Sony’s Acid, it’s only natural that this is the first direction we turn when looking for an alternative program. The only problem we’re going to encounter right away is the fact that Acid is a paid software suite while GarageBand is prepackaged with Mac computers. It’s still a fantastic software setup, but you’re going to have to pay for it.
Acid MusicStudio 10 will give you basic looping music recording and editing capabilities, as well as the necessary upload and export features to get your recordings out and about. It’s available for $59.95. If you want to go pro and invest in one of the best recording and editing suites you can get your hands on, Acid Pro 7 is available for $149.95. Recording, mixing, sequencing, looping, and more are all capable.
If you’re looking for a quick and dirty solution that doesn’t have the feature bloat of professional recording and editing software, give Audacity a try. It’s been around for quite a long time and is still completely free to download. It doesn’t have the fidelity of paid software, and it doesn’t manage to pull off the same quality as GarageBand, but if your needs are simple, it’s definitely worth a shot.
Did I mention it’s free? In truth, if you’re looking only for free alternatives, this is your best bet.
Users have been thrown for a bit of a loop ever since Adobe switched all of its software over to a renewable licensing platform. You don’t buy Adobe software anymore, so much as you pay for monthly access to that software with a variable subscription to the “Adobe Cloud.”
Regardless of how they’re now distributing their content, Adobe Audition remains a rock-solid recording and mixing solution for audiophiles, and is most definitely recommended as long as you’re willing to pay for it. I tend to like Adobe products as a rule, and Audition manages to fit into the same niche as other software of theirs. It’s accessible if you’re new, but rewards expertise and continued use with more creative uses of its many features.
The above three options will definitely give you the most bang for your buck (or lack of bucks, if you opt for Audacity.) Until we receive a Windows-friendly version of GarageBand, alternatives are going to remain the only option for we unlucky Windows users. However, after dipping your toes into a professional recording program like Acid or Audition, you might not be so quick to call yourself unlucky.
Windows 7, 8.1, and 10 are all still considered relatively “new” operating systems, and all will fully support the above three GarageBand alternative should you choose to give them a download. If you have any other software recommendations or questions about the above guide, post them in the comments below!