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Sound Forge 9.0 Addresses Two-Track Limit

In the 1990s, Sound Forge was one of the first PC-based digital audio editors. Like the once-ubiquitous tape recorder, it became a familiar and welcome part of our broadcast world.

In the 1990s, Sound Forge was one of the first PC-based digital audio editors. Like the once-ubiquitous tape recorder, it became a familiar and welcome part of our broadcast world.

From the beginning, SF has been a two-track audio editor. With SF 9.0, Sony has addressed the two-track limitation. However, instead of adding multi-track editing to SF, it has opted for something in between, which Sony calls “multi-channel” editing.

Multi-track and multi-channel are not the same.

(click thumbnail)SF 9 Multi-channel DisplaySony’s multi-channel editing has some of the features of multi-track editing but lacks some of the more crucial ones. The primary application is for surround sound recording and playback and for court recording and transcription services. That makes it a good candidate for radio stations looking to include surround sound in their HD Radio broadcasting.

SF’s record interface has been redesigned to permit recording of up to 32 channels.

Users can apply individual DirectX and VST plug-ins to any combination of multi-channels — with some notable exceptions. Some plug-ins can be applied to more than two channels while others cannot. About the only way of determining this is by trial and error.

However, it is not possible to access the individual volume or other automatable envelopes per individual channel in the multi-channel editing mode. For example, you can change the volume for an entire individual channel, but you cannot raise or lower it incrementally along the time line.

While this limits the usefulness of the multi-channel format, it is consistent with the intent of the program to provide a platform for surround sound applications. And it is possible to drag an individual channel to a single mono or stereo file, make changes there to the automation envelopes and then paste it back to its original track in the multi-channel editor.

Nor is it possible to “slide” the individual tracks along the time line in relation to each other. Each channel in the SF 9.0’s multi-track editor is fixed firmly in place. It cannot be moved.

The inability to alter the individual automation envelopes of each channel and the inability to individually slide channels around in relation to each other limit the use of this software in a traditional multi-track manner. Sony is open about this. Thus if you need true multi-track editing, you would be better served by choosing an editor that is designed specifically to support multi-track editing such as Sony’s Vegas or Adobe Audition 2.0.

Sony has modified the Channel Converter located in the Process Menu to accommodate the mix down from multi-channel to two-track stereo or mono.

Reverb plug-ins

One of the new features of SF 9.0 is the addition of a “wet/dry mix” option. This is an additional box that can be opened when using a DirectX or VST plug-in.

If you have used reverb plug-ins, you are probably familiar with the feature; most reverb software includes the ability to mix the original unprocessed sound with the sound after it has been processed by the reverb. Essentially Sony has applied this concept to virtually all of the plug-ins used by SF 9.0.

It allows for a much improved tweaking of the sound in ways that weren’t possible before. The feature is not available in the Plug-In Chainer and I hope that Sony will consider making the feature operational in that mode in the next version of SF.

SF 9.0 has added “hardware meters.” The hardware meters window includes not only traditional VU meters that can be adjusted in various ways, but also controls for adjusting the output level of the individual channels and a phase scope and mono compatibility meter.

Product CapsuleSony Creative Software Sound Forge 9.0a Digital Audio Editing Software

Thumbs Up

  • Multi-Channel Editing up to 32 channels
  • Includes Noise Reduction 2.0, CD Architect 5.0 and iZotope Mastering Plug-Ins
  • New Hardware meters include mono monitoring
  • Compatible with Windows Vista operating system

Thumbs Down

  • Multi-Channel editing not as flexible as true multi-tracking editing software
  • Lacks tools for editing in the frequency domain
  • Some occasional instability that causes the program to crash

Packaged: $319.96
Downloaded: $299.96
Upgrade From Previous Version: $149.95

Sony Creative Software | (608) 204-7680 | www.sonycreativesoftware.comThe phase scope can display the signal in one of four ways: 1. Lissajous-XY Plot; 2. Lissajous-Rotated; 3. Polar-Linear Plot; and 4. Polar-Circular Plot. The mono compatibility meter indicates whether or not phase cancellations between channels might cause phasing problems when down mixing to mono.

What I especially like is the totality of information that the Hardware Meter window provides when all three of the functions (VU meter, phase scope and mono compatibility meter) are selected. This provides an easy means of keeping track of important information when you are working with multi-channel material.

Sony has updated the SF 9.0 Spectrum Analysis window to include an individual display window for as many multi-channels as you are using. Spectrum analysis can be a valuable means of evaluating your sound and of locating problems that may need attention.

However, my opinion is that Sony lags behind in the area of spectrum analysis support. Adobe Audition added spectrum analysis editing tools as early as version 1.5 and improved them in version 2.0, which has been out for more than a year. SF 9.0 has no tools for editing in the spectrum analysis mode.

Restoration software

SF 9.0 includes a “Mastering Effects Bundle” licensed from iZotope Inc. The plug-ins are based on the iZotope Ozone 3 package and include Multiband Compressor; Mastering EQ; Mastering Reverb; and IRC Limiter.

iZotope has a reputation for producing quality software plug-ins that are easy to use with excellent sound quality based on 64 bit internal processing. The four plug-ins included in SF 9.0 continue that tradition. My personal favorite is the Multiband Compressor, which enables you to control the dynamic range of the audio over four user-selectable frequency bands. Because the plug-in includes plenty of presets, I found I could use it without a long learning curve

I like the iZotope mastering bundle and expect to use it in the digital audio work I do. The only downside is that because of licensing restrictions with iZotope, the bundle shows up only in SF 9.0. I would like to be able to use the plug-ins with other audio editors I use but can’t because of this limitation. Sony says that it plans to make the bundle accessible in its other Sony Creative Software products when new versions are released.

SF 9.0 includes CD Architect 5.0. Back in the ‘90s, Sonic Foundry introduced CD Architect to handle the tasks associated with producing and burning audio CDs from WAV files. From the beginning, CD Architect has been held in high regard by audio professionals.

CD Architect 5.0 remains unchanged from its initial release back in 2003, but so have audio CDs.

For the first time, Sony is including its Noise Reduction 2.0 digital audio restoration package with every purchase of SF 9.0. I have used NR 2.0 since it was released in 1999. At the time it provided remarkable quality in a package of plug-ins that removed both pops and clicks and broadband noise.

I still have a high regard for NR 2.0 and continue to use it in my work along with newer products. At the same time, eight years is a long time to continue a product without an update. Those of us who have been using NR 2.0 are waiting for Sony to come up with an update or a totally new noise reduction package.

If you don’t already have noise reduction software, the Sony NR 2.0 bundle is a good bargain: an excellent high-quality restoration package that can produce good-sounding results.

Sony has improved its ASIO sound card drivers in SF 9.0 to provide lower latency and better overall performance. The new driver performed well with my RME Hammerfall DSP 9632 sound card but locked up the program when set for my WaveTerminal 192X sound card. Sony indicates that a fix is coming.