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CD Architect Is Back, Improved

Aside from the support of current CD drives, what has changed? That is like asking what the difference is between a Model T Ford and a 2003 Lincoln Continental.

When Sonic Foundry introduced CD Architect in the late 1990s it quickly became the software of choice for burning audio CD-Rs. It was easy to use and powerful.

In 2000, Sonic Foundry quietly announced that it would no longer support CD Architect. While those of us who had come to rely on it could continue to use it, the program would not support new CD burners.
Product CapsuleThumbs Up

Back-compatible with previous versions

Standalone application

Time-Stretch feature lets you expand or compress time without altering pitch

Trimmer Window permits editing of individual events

The ability to automatically normalize individual tracks

Multiple takes can be previewed in the same track position

DirectX-Plug Ins can be applied to individual tracks and globally

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Processor overhead requirements for complex operations requires pre-rendering of file before burning

Significant learning curve to master all of the new features

For more information from Sonic Foundry contact the company in Wisconsin at (800) 577-6642 or visit
For the better part of two years, Sonic Foundry tried to put a good face on its decision by suggesting that users could get the same features in the company’s Vegas software. As good as Vegas is, it is not CD Architect, and many of us held on to our old copies of CD Architect and the host application Sound Forge 4.5 while using Vegas to import the CD Architect files so we could burn them on newer CD burners.

It was all fairly clumsy and anything but satisfying. Many of us felt betrayed by Sonic Foundry, whose product we had embraced into our work lives.

Welcome return

All that changed a few months ago with the introduction of CD Architect 5.0.

Aside from the support of current CD drives, what has changed? That is like asking what the difference is between a Model T Ford and a 2003 Lincoln Continental.

First, unlike the previous versions, CDA 5.0 is a standalone application. While the general screen appearance is similar to the earlier versions, all kinds of features have been added.

I do not have room to highlight all of them, so let me mention my favorites and those that have particular applications for broadcasting.

Like its predecessor, CDA 5.0 has the tools necessary for importing WAV files from your favorite audio editor or audio CDs. And you can import cdp files made by previous versions. CDA 5.0 provides several ways to produce the requisite tracks, including the ability to change or eliminate the gaps between tracks.

Time stretch

If you burn commercials or news actualities to CDs, you are going to love the time-stretch feature. Simply hold down your keyboard control button and use the mouse to drag the end of an event to stretch or compress its timing while leaving the original pitch intact. Nothing could be easier to use and it works great.

CDA 5.0 has added a trimmer window that allows you to do editing on individual events before you place them in the CD track list. This lets you do the kind of editing that would have required opening a separate audio editor in the past. It is convenient and saves time.

You can also audition multiple takes in a single track position. Let’s say you recorded three cuts of a particular commercial but are not sure which one you like best. You can stack them all in a single track position and then compare them until you decide which one you like.

One of my favorite new features is the ability to normalize each of the events in the track list individually. Just check the normalize box for each event and the tracks are immediately normalized. Talk about a time saver.

Perhaps the single most powerful feature of CDA 5.0 is the ability to apply virtually any DirectXplug-in effect either individually to any track or globally to all the tracks. Each event has its own event editor that allows you to chain as many DirectX compatible plug-ins as you want. You can add individual reverb, compression, noise reduction – whatever you want to each of the tracks.

Then you can do the same to the entire CD by applying another set of DirectX plug-in effects to all of the tracks. This makes CDA 5.0 one of the most powerful CD burning programs that I know.

There is a price to pay for this kind of flexibility. Once you begin to ask the software to perform a multitude of tasks, you are requiring the kind of processor overhead that cannot be applied in a “straight” burn. To compensate for this, CDA 5.0 has two features.

If you have set the software to perform number of complex processes, you almost certainly need to save the project as a CD Architect Image File. This is essentially a WAV file in which all of the operations that you have chosen are already performed.

If the number of processes to be performed on the WAV files is small to moderate, you can take the faster route of checking “Render To Temporary Image Before Burning.” In either case, expect the time for burning the first CD to be longer than you would normally expect at the requisite burn speed. But that is a small price to pay for the ability to perform almost endless operations on your CD files.

Steep learning curve

I have given only the highlights of CDA 5.0. There are many features. I recommend that you print out the manual’s 100-plus pages and keep them by you as you work your way through the program.

Expect a fairly significant learning curve to master the features. If you have used previous versions of CDA, you should be able to perform your former tasks in a matter of minutes.

CD Architect 5.0 is a worthy successor to the earlier versions and should be a welcome software tool for anyone who needs to burn audio CDs. I have used it for several months and can’t imagine my work life without it.

Minimum System Requirements: 400 MHz processor; Windows-compatible sound card; 128 MB RAM; Microsoft Windows 98SE, Me, 2000 or XP; Microsoft Direct X 8 or later; Internet Explorer 5.0 or later.