I’ve been writing and editing technology content for over five years, most recently as part of PCMag’s consumer electronics team, though I also spent several years on the software team. Before PCMag, I worked at Neowin.net, Tom’s Guide, and Laptop Mag. I spend too much of my free time reading forums and blogs about audio and photography.
Anchor is a free and highly accessible podcast creation platform with novel social features and great publishing options, though it lacks some mixing features more advanced users may need.
Recording a good podcast can seem like an overwhelming task, but dedicated podcast services can simplify the process. Take for example Anchor, a free, multiplatform service for recording and hosting your podcasts. This podcasting service prioritizes ease of use with straightforward tools that help you sail through every part of your podcasting voyage. Anchor is missing some capabilities you might want, however, such as robust editing and mixing options across all platforms. Its mobile app also has some stability issues, as shown in our testing. For beginners or even professionals who want to simplify their workflow, Anchor offers a good set of tools—and it’s free—but we recommend our Editors’ Choice, Cast, for its more complete set of features.
Anchor is, as mentioned, completely free. It does not offer any premium tiers nor does it limit the number of hours you can record and host on its servers. The company is backed by venture capital. Anchor recently launched a monetization tool for podcasters on its platform, called Listener Support. Similar to how Twitch subscriptions work, listeners can support creators at a monthly cost of $0.99, $4.99, or $9.99. The best part is that supporters do not need to have an Anchor account to subscribe to a channel.

Zencastr also offers a free account, which includes up to eight hours of recordings per month and two guests per episode. For $20 per month (or $18 per month if paid annually) Zencastr has a plan with no restrictions on total recording hours and number of guests. That tier also adds access to its Live Soundboard, 16-bit 44.1kHz WAV recordings, and 10 hours of automatic postproduction per month.
Cast, on the other hand, does not have a free tier. Cast’s entry-level account costs $10 per month and includes 10 hours of recording time per month, unlimited editing and mixing, podcast hosting, and analytics. With that plan, you also get a responsive site for your podcasts, and one RSS feed. Cast’s upgraded Pro Plan, which costs $30 per month, increases the recording limit to 100 hours per month while retaining the same unlimited editing, mixing, hosting, and RSS feeds.
Anchor is available for both Android and iOS devices as well as via a web browser. Recently, Anchor added audio-editing features to Android and iOS devices from its iPad app, but not all features are available on all platforms. The web interface currently does not have any such features.

Before signing up for a podcast service, you need to pick a topic and figure out how you are going to fill each episode. Stream of consciousness-style episodes are not typically what people want to hear, and listeners should have a clear idea of what to expect from your channel. If you need inspiration, check out PCMag’s roundup of the best podcasts.
From start to finish, creating a podcast involves five main steps: planning, recording, mixing, hosting, and publishing. For recording audio tracks, you can use audio editing software like Audacity or Adobe Audition, though a dedicated service such as Anchor makes this step easier by simplifying the interface and recording options.
However, Anchor lacks Cast’s and Zencastr’s robust audio-syncing capabilities. If, for example, a participant does not join at the start of a podcast or loses their connection mid-recording, Anchor can’t help. Mixing tracks is simply the process of combining them into one, final file for publishing. Post-processing helps take care of imperfections in the recording, such as background noises or inconsistent volume levels. Anchor does both of these things, but its post-processing happens under the hood. Cast and Zencastr give you more control over the final mix.
Hosting and publishing are the two last steps. To submit your podcast to an outside service, such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, or Castbox, you need to generate an RSS feed. Anchor’s one-click publishing option makes this simple.
Anchor is a bit different from the other podcasting services I tested, in that the first thing you do is create your podcast channel. During sign-up, you choose whether you want to create a new podcast or to link an existing one. To import your podcast, you just need to add its RSS feed and Anchor can sync everything over without affecting your current setup.
If you go the route of creating a podcast from scratch, Anchor walks you through the process of adding a name, cover image, description, relevant categories, as well as customizing your podcast’s URL. The last step is to create an Anchor account with your email and password.
I prefer Cast’s and Zencastr’s setup procedures, both of which let you record samples before making you input all the details. With Cast, you also have the option of creating multiple podcast channels, whereas Anchor locks you into the first one you specify.
Anchor’s web dashboard is clean and well organized. Anchor divides functionally across a few top-menu categories including Home, New Episode, Settings, and Help. From the Home dashboard, you can view general information and stats about your podcast. Your Podcast Profile page links to a standalone site that hosts your podcast, which you can share with your followers. I prefer Cast’s equivalent feature, called Castettes, since the pages look more professional, though both Castettes and Anchor’s Podcast Profile use responsive design.
Anchor’s podcast-creation interface is simple to use and includes most of the functionality you need. To get started, click on the New Episode button in the top menu. You compose episodes by adding a series of audio segments to a vertical timeline. For the most part, the desktop and app experience are comparable, though I explain some key differences below.
Segments live on the left-hand side of the screen. Your options on the desktop are Upload, Record, Messages, Library, and Transitions. Some options vary slightly on Anchor’s mobile apps; Anchor features Voice Messages, Record, Library, Transitions, and Music options on its Android app, as viewed on my Nexus 5X test device.
The Uploading option is useful in that you can add your fully mixed and production-ready files that you created elsewhere to take advantage of Anchor’s free publishing and social tools. Anchor also supports multiple import and export options on mobile devices.
The Recording interface is basic on the desktop. Simply select your input and hit the Start Recording button. One limitation of recording on the desktop is that you cannot add multiple people to a session, as you can with Cast or Zencastr. Instead, you either need to record everyone from the same input or use a splitter to record separate inputs into the one system. Both methods are only possible with participants in the same physical location.
Anchor’s mobile app is a different story. If you are only recording yourself, just hit the plus icon on the bottom of the screen and tap the Record button. If your podcast includes several contributors, hit the Add People button up top first. In the middle of the screen, Anchor generates an Invite Friends to Join link, which you can send to participants. Once everyone joins, you are ready to start recording. After the call ends, Anchor mixes the tracks. Unlike Zencastr, Anchor does not give the host the option to mute or kick participants off a recording. The app also lacks Cast’s Raise Your Hand feature, for getting everyone’s attention.
Anchor gives you two options for recording on mobile: Telephone Mode and Hands Free Recording. For the Telephone Mode, just hold the phone up to your ear as you would with a typical phone call. The Hands Free mode lets you put your phone down and record. Be sure to stay within a reasonable distance and make sure you are using the right mode, as failure to do either could result in unusable recordings. Keep in mind that Anchor does support compatible mobile mics, so serious podcasters should definitely make that investment. Make sure to check out Anchor’s recording tips(Opens in a new window) as well.
One last recording option on the mobile app is Anchor’s Cohost feature. Tap the Record > Find a Cohost button, select a topic, and Anchor will match you with someone with like-minded interests. Anchor gives you 30 seconds to get acquainted with your mystery partner before the app starts recording. I appreciate Anchor’s attempts to push the boundaries of podcasting with these types of social features, more of which I discuss later.
All recordings and uploads are saved in your Anchor library, which is accessible from either the web or mobile apps. Users can also download files directly from this repository or delete recordings entirely.
Podcast creators also have the option to add voice messages from listeners to their podcasts after publishing. I discuss this social feature in more detail later, but basically, subscribers can send voice messages to creators in response to a portion of the episode, which the original podcast author can choose to add in later (for example, if the listener comment adds value).
You can also add Transitions (short audio clips from Anchor’s built-in library) anywhere in your episode. Transitions are useful for when the topic switches or a new participant joins, for example. This is similar to Cast’s Wedges or Zencastr’s sound dashboard feature.
Cast goes one step further, with the ability to add custom audio files as layers. Anchor includes a similar feature on mobile. After you finish a recording, you can swipe to add one of Anchors built-in background tracks. You can also add music from Spotify or Apple Music ($9.99 Per Month at Apple Music)(Opens in a new window) if you link your account, but these tracks will only work on those podcasts published to Anchor’s directory. Cast offers greater flexibility here.
To create an episode with Anchor, all you need to do is add elements into the vertical timeline editor. Anchor does not impose any structures or limitations on how you build your episode, so feel free to experiment. The important thing is to make sure you arrange segments in the correct order.
Although Anchor falters a bit when it comes to mixing audio, it introduced new editing tools since I initially reviewed it. For example, you can now trim and split audio tracks from any iOS device. Other useful enhancements include the ability to rename any split segments and to pin Smart Flags at points in the recording that you want to revisit later. To get started, click the expand icon on any audio clip and tap the Edit audio option.
Note that at the time of publishing, only the split audio feature is available on Android and none of these capabilities are usable via the web interface. While these new tools are certainly welcome, mixing is still not as robust as what is offered by Cast or Zencastr. For example, you can’t manually or automatically set volume levels of individual tracks or add custom audio layers.
Once you arrange and edit everything for your episode, hit the Save Episode button in the upper-left corner. Before Anchor sends your podcast out to the world, you need to fill in a name and description for the episode and verify the Advanced Publishing settings. Anchor lets you choose, for example, to publish to All (a total of 11 platforms) or just to Anchor. The 11 platforms are Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts, PodBean, RadioPublic, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn. A recent update to the Anchor app adds a dedicated Distribution section with the same capabilities to your profile section. Creators need to designate the episode type (Full, Trailer, Bonus), whether it is family friendly or explicit, and episode and season info before publishing. Users can save, schedule, or immediately publish episodes.
To test podcast software’s audio quality, I set up two scenarios. For the first, I record a short vocal segment using my Chromebook’s built-in microphone to all the services at the same time to ensure identical conditions. I use the default post-processing tools for each service and download the final mix for listening. In this batch of tests, I had Anchor (as well as the Anchor mobile app), Cast, and Zencastr all running simultaneously.
Since Anchor does not allow you to host multiple people on recordings from the desktop, I could not run my test with dedicated mics (the Razer Seiren and Turtle Beach Streaming Mic connect via USB-A). For this test, a colleague and I simulate a podcast episode by reading alternating paragraphs from a script, while recording simultaneously on multiple platforms. For Anchor, we recorded the same content with separate phones via the Anchor mobile app.
Sound signatures vary by person, so it can be difficult to determine what sounds the best. From a technical standpoint, Anchor records a 127Kbps M4A File (69Kbps M4A from the mobile recording), Cast’s final mixes are in 128Kbps MP3 format, and Zencastr produces 112Kbps MP3 files. All of these are fairly equivalent, except for those taken with Anchor’s mobile app. Despite these similar specs, I noticed clear differences in the final mixes.
To evaluate audio quality, I consider a couple of factors: clarity, consistent volume levels, the absence of background noise, and if the vocal tones sounded natural. I listened to the recordings using industry standard Sony MDR 7506 over-the-ear headphones, which are known for their neutral sound signature.
For the first test (with the built-in mic on my Chromebook), Anchor sounded fine. The recording had very little distortion and sounded pretty clean. However, Zencastr’s audio sounded clearer and louder. Cast’s recordings had a noticeable background hum that was not present in any of the other recordings. The recording with Anchor I took from my phone sounded worse than Cast’s. All services produced mostly usable results, but this test underscores the importance of using high-quality recording equipment. You just need to make sure you have the correct inputs for all your devices.
The multi-person test worked fine; my colleague’s voice came in loud and clear. My own audio sounded muted, but I attribute that to not holding the phone close enough. Recording quality will obviously vary with equipment, but newer phones with more advanced internal mics should generally produce better results.
I appreciate Anchor’s built-in social features, Applause and Voice Messages. Both help creators actively engage with their audiences and incorporate feedback. Listeners can tap the applause button to commend any segment or moment in the podcast. Subscribers can also send creators Voice Messages (short audio messages up to one minute) with their thoughts. Keep all communication civil though; if a podcast owner adds your Voice Message to an episode, you can’t suddenly take it back.
One other neat feature is Anchor’s ability to create short transcriptions (under two minutes) from any of your recordings to share on social media platforms. Simply navigate to a segment of an episode and tap the Create Video option from the overflow menu. These videos scroll the transcript text on a background.
In my experience, automatic transcription services are highly variable in their accuracy and Anchor’s built-in capability is no different. On the short segment I fed through its processing, the final transcript wasn’t even close to perfect. Fortunately, you can edit each word and add any missing ones, though at a pace of only one word at a time. The next step is to choose one of nine color themes for your video. Once Anchor finishes working on this last part, you can share it with all your followers. However, I had major problems with this feature. The app crashed multiple times during various parts of the process and it took me three tries to generate a single video.
Anchor’s analytics section is great for tracking your podcast’s performance over time. Anchor provides general stats such as total podcast plays as well as downloads. If you click into an episode from the dashboard, you can view the same stats specifically for that episode.
If you want to take a break from the creative process or search for inspiration from other podcasts, head over to the Listen tab on the app, though Anchor’s library of podcasts is not nearly as complete as Castbox or Pocket Casts. Listeners can choose from a number of Podcast categories, such as News, Music, Sports, or Hear Something New. Additionally, Anchor includes its own set of podcasts, including rundowns of the day’s news, sports, and entertainment headlines. The playback interface looks modern, but I don’t foresee many people spending time listening to the Anchor-only podcasts when there are so many more (and better-produced ones) available from other sources.
Anchor is a good service for recording, hosting, and distributing your podcast. It is also the only podcast creation service we tested that offers a mobile experience and integrates novel social features. Best of all, Anchor is completely free. However, Anchor is somewhat limited by its mobile ambitions; you can’t, for example, record multiple people from the desktop or make edits to tracks across all platforms. For amateur podcasters or creative types who want a more casual podcasting platform, Anchor checks a lot of boxes. For everyone else, we recommend Editors’ Choice Cast.
Anchor is a free and highly accessible podcast creation platform with novel social features and great publishing options, though it lacks some mixing features more advanced users may need.
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I’ve been writing and editing technology content for over five years, most recently as part of PCMag’s consumer electronics team, though I also spent several years on the software team. Before PCMag, I worked at Neowin.net, Tom’s Guide, and Laptop Mag. I spend too much of my free time reading forums and blogs about audio and photography.
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