I'm primarily interested in converting vinyl to digital and recording and editing FM audio, though lately I've begun to record live music. The colorful, gaudy, comparably-priced Toast/Spin Doctor program may be slightly handier for converting vinyl LPs, but its wave patterns are unreadable and its editing functions too imprecise to be practical for editing a large file. Sound Studio requires a bit more study than Spin Doctor, at least for the uninitiated, but the wave patterns are readable, offering the user more than the merely decorative squiggly lines of the Roxio product. Moreover, it has a reliable and easy-to-set timer for automatic recording, a very useful feature that's missing in Spin Doctor. Finally, it comes packaged with a handy little hard-copy manual--perhaps the reason Roxio's Toast is once again including printed instructions.
As for the recent, heavily promoted Wiretap Studio, it's definitely the program of choice for recording audio files off the internet (I mostly use it to record files from NPR Jazz). And it enables you to preview about a dozen different compression ratios in real time, a unique feature. Moreover, you can record in any compression ratio rather than convert after the fact, which helps insure against exceeding storage capacity while recording. Still I feel more comfortable recording and editing non-internet sound with Sound Studio. The latter offers a bigger display, more accessible wave patterns, better level indicators, more protection against distortion, and makes the saving of a single part of a large unedited file a simple, straightforward operation.
Later: Sound Studio 3 has updated to Sound Studio 3.5, which lists dozens of additional features and add-ons. It's no problem downloading an upgrade from the Freeverse site. The new version does nothing that's different from my old Sound Studio 2, which was practically free as I recall (the price of the present one seems a bit high when compared to the burning and video features of the comparably priced Toast). But the current program has been, for the most part, stable and dependable.
The other program in this price range worth considering is Fission, which appears to have all of the features of Sound Studio plus more reader-friendly instructions and user-friendly icons. The problem with the program is that it requires a separate recording program (Audio Hijack Pro).
Apple, which is always popular with musicians and artists, doesn't appear to offer any programs comparable to the PC favorite, Cool Edit, but Sound Studio may well be the closest for the reasons given. Although the instruction manual is relatively short and accessible, a few more recommendations and tutorials for the neophyte would be welcome. Otherwise, the plethora of settings and effects can soon become overwhelming. For example, is Normalization preferable to the Compressor setting? Is it advisable to use both? When Normalizing, is it better to use the Peak or Average Power (RMS) option? After hours of experimentation, my advice comes down to this: 1. boost the volume a tad if the signal seems to require it; 2. use the wave patterns to cut out the dead spaces, coughs and clams. Trust a decent mic and recorder to do the rest.