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Originally developed by Sonic Foundry for Windows computers, Acid Pro, Vegas Video and Sound Forge are long-established platforms for music production, video editing and audio editing respectively. In , Sony acquired the Sonic Foundry desktop product line and set up their Creative Software division; and over the next 13 years, the three programs enjoyed mixed fortunes.
The most recent major update to Acid Pro was back in ; considering it was a pioneering piece of software in its time, and laid the ground for products such as Ableton Live, this is a considerable shame. Sound Forge Pro Mac 1 , which I reviewed in SOS February , was a somewhat tentative introduction to the platform, lacking many of the features of the more mature Windows version, but some of these were added in version 2 a year later.
Then, in May , the former Sonic Foundry product line, along with spectral editor SpectraLayers, underwent another change of ownership, with German company Magix, well known both for professional tools such as Samplitude and for their consumer-level music, audio and video software products, taking over. Such a change of ownership is always an anxious time for long-term fans, who want to ensure that manufacturers invest in continuing development rather than asset-stripping the software to embed the technology in their own products.
So far, however, things are looking promising. Vegas underwent a well-received relaunch in a new version last year, and now Magix have unveiled their road map for the future of Sound Forge. A major new Windows version is promised for later this year, but the first update to reach the market is version 3 of Sound Forge Pro Mac. Freshly Forged Sound Forge Pro Mac 3 is built around a single-window concept, but offers plenty of options for the user to customise the layout.
Additional panels at either side and below the waveform display can be toggled on and off, and are used to display additional features such as meters, file browsers, plug-in chains, file properties and recording information. Plug-in windows float above this otherwise single-window interface. A full range of routine audio editing functions are included in both destructive and non-destructive editing modes.
Users of SpectraLayers Pro also get the option to open a Sound Forge file for editing within that environment. The bottom line here is that, for the majority of routine audio editing tasks and CD production, SFPM, while still not quite duplicating the feature set of the Windows version, is a very elegant, powerful and easy-to-use platform. As we will see in a minute, Magix have made worthwhile improvements without reinventing the Sound Forge wheel. For example, there are some new — if somewhat basic — own-brand audio plug-ins, including reverb, delay, noise gate and modulation effects.
These would be useful if SFPM3 is your first foray into audio work on your Mac but, otherwise, I suspect most users will already have plug-ins that cover these sorts of routine tasks and that perhaps offer more sophisticated options. The new Loudness Meters will be welcomed by those preparing audio for broadcast or streaming. Perhaps more interesting to the professional audio editor are the new Loudness Meters the standard Channel Meters displays are retained and the Automatic Loudness Levelling feature.
The Loudness Meter options include support for mono, stereo and, via the Advanced tab, surround-sound formats. If you need to demonstrate loudness compliance, the new Loudness Log feature allows you to do so for any audio file. The new Loudness Levelling function, available from the Tools menu, analyses the selected audio file and adjusts its loudness to conform to the standards chosen using the Mode selector.
If your client requires it, the Tools menu also offers the option to generate a Loudness Log for an audio file, which summarises its various loudness properties.
Options for previewing processing signal chains are now improved, as you can configure unique plug-in chains for each audio file, and these chains are saved with the Sound Forge project file. This makes it much easier to experiment with potential processing choices, and reduces the need to render multiple copies of audio files as you work. Having defined a series of regions within your project, you can even burn disc-at-once Red Book CDs through your plug-in chain without the need to render the effects first.
CD burning itself was wholly missing from version 1 of Sound Forge Mac Pro, but was added later as an update to version 2. The Plug-In Chain panel lets you apply a unique series of plug-ins to any open audio file, and SFPM3 seemed happy to work with a range of third-party plug-ins as well as its own built-in ones. You simply drag and drop a video file onto SFPM3, and the audio will be automatically extracted and displayed in the waveform view. I had no problems with this process when I loaded a few test clips and then returned the audio back to either iMovie or Final Cut Pro on my iMac test system.
With one exception when Sound Forge booted me back to the Desktop, my time spent with the latest release was also a pretty smooth experience and I had no particular difficulties using a range of third-party plug-ins from Waves, Steinberg, Native Instruments, iZotope and Toontrack. You could argue that Magix have adopted something of a holding pattern for the core SFPM software with version 3. Magix have also added considerable value by partnering with iZotope, and Ozone Elements and RX Elements bring very useful audio editing, repair and mastering options to the bundle without Magix themselves having to reinvent the SF wheel.
Given that buying the two Elements versions separately would account for most of the purchase price, including them in Sound Forge makes it a pretty attractive package. Users of earlier versions who upgrade get an even better deal, effectively acquiring the two iZotope products as well as the new Sound Forge features for not much more than the full retail price of one of them.
The new ownership has certainly taken SFPM forwards with version 3. Perhaps a more obvious competitor for the more budget-conscious is provided by Wavelab Elements 9. Potential purchasers will therefore need to dig into the detailed specification of both packages in order to see which provides the best fit for their own needs.
I use the full version of Ozone 7 on a regular basis, and although Elements offers limited control in comparison, it still sounds rather good. As an easy-to-use mastering plug-in, it is perhaps going to appeal most to those who want results quickly and without the complexity of the full-fat version.
There is little to go wrong and you can easily add punch and level to your track with just a few mouse clicks. RX6 Elements is perhaps the more intriguing inclusion. De-Clip and De-Click cover similar duties to the default processing, but in what is perhaps a more controllable fashion.
De-Hum can be used to remove things like mains hum, while Voice De-Noise is designed to reduce background noise in vocal or dialogue recording. RX6 Voice De-noise. As this is a full copy of RX6, you also get to use it as an application in its own right — and, while the Elements version only provides a limited feature set, it provides an impressive introduction to the power that spectral editing can offer.
Editing options include time-based selection, frequency-based selection, lasso and brush tools, a magic wand and the option to add harmonics to a selection.
Zooming in and out of the spectral display is easy and you can also blend the standard waveform display with the spectral display, making it easier to understand the relationship between your Sound Forge waveform and the spectral details. The intriguing bit here is that Magix have chosen to bundle a product that overlaps considerably in terms of functionality with their own spectral editor SpectraLayers.
However, as Magix have already released their first update to SpectraLayers Pro — version 4 appeared earlier this year — one can only presume they are comfortable with the arrangement. Refined plug-in support is very welcome. Cons No video window. The OS X version retains its polish but now has a feature set to interest potential users at all levels.
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