capsule review

Peak 4.1

At a Glance
  • BIAS Peak 4.1

    Macworld Rating

Peak 4.1, the new version of BIAS's two-track audio editor, takes greater advantage of OS X's power than its predecessor, Peak 3 (   ; July 2002), did. Harnessing the computing muscle of dual-processor Macs, the program now performs simultaneous actions more smoothly. And it allows you to burn files directly to CD -- there's no need for an intervening application. It also has improved performance and, most important, new effects and features sure to interest audio and video professionals.

Generous Plug-in Selection

This version of Peak supports Apple's Audio Units effects plug-ins. The program offers 12 Audio Units plug-ins, including Delay, Limiter, and Reverb, as well as more than 30 VST plug-ins. New to this collection of VST plug-ins is a compressor/limiter called BIAS Sqweez.

Peak also includes a new ImpulseVerb effect. Unlike traditional reverbs, ImpulseVerb is a collection of recordings of naturally reverberous environments (a cathedral and a tiled bathroom, for example) that you can apply to a file, making it sound as if it had been recorded in that environment. The program includes hundreds of these effects, which you can preview in real time. In our tests, we found many of these reverbs to be warm and realistic.

But ImpulseVerb is useful for more than simply applying reverb to a sound file.

You can also copy a piece of audio into the Mac's Clipboard (the whoosh of a jet engine, for example), invoke the ImpulseVerb command, and then apply the spec-tral characteristics of the copied audio to another selected audio file. This can produce some unique -- and occasionally usable -- sound effects. To create even more-bizarre sound effects, you might try Peak's new Harmonic Rotate effect, which produces files that sound as if they had been run through a ring modulator and then heavily filtered. As with Peak's other effects, you can preview the Harmonic Rotate effect before applying it to a sound.

With this release, BIAS has bundled copies of Roxio's professional CD-burning application, Jam. This is a nice perk for Peak users who need a mastering-quality disc-burning application. Peak 4.1 is a free upgrade for people who purchased Peak after January 1, 2004.

Interface Improvements

When we last looked at Peak 3, we noted that the program's first OS X–compatible version maintained the features that had always made Peak popular among audio and video professionals. Those features included batch processing of audio files, compatibility with VST plug-in effects, and the ability to edit QuickTime movie audio tracks. Yet Peak 3 had an unintuitive interface, and the earliest revisions of the program often crashed.

With Peak 4.1, BIAS has cleaned up many (though not all) of Peak 3's glaring interface problems and applied a more attractive, Aquafied theme to the program.

Interface Issues

Peak is now a better-looking and better-organized program than it once was. The black-and-white icons and long Preference menu are gone -- they've been replaced by brushed-aluminum buttons on a resizable toolbar and a less cluttered Preferences window. Peak also includes a new translucent cursor overlay that displays location and selection coordinates -- helpful when you want to precisely select a portion of an audio file.

Yet work remains to be done. The toolbar button icons are as confusing as ever, despite the presence of tool tips (for example, Apple's Eject Disc symbol is used in Peak to invoke the Open dialog box). Peak now includes a drawer where you can view a list of markers, regions, and loops, but the drawer doesn't open wide enough to display all the information in it, and its resize control doesn't work. The program's Open Dialog After Launch setting, which is enabled by default, causes the program to pause for nearly a minute before presenting that Open dialog box. This option is better left disabled. And the program tends to litter your hard drive with temporary files that disappear only when you quit the application.

With version 4.1, BIAS has fixed the screen-redraw problems that caused the display of the timeline to stutter. The cursor now moves smoothly and the screen updates quickly when you've enabled the Scroll During Playback option.

Other Peaks

Like version 3, Peak 4.1 is available in different flavors -- the $199 Peak DV 4.1 and the $99 Peak LE 4.1. Peak DV 4.1, which is intended for video production, supports batch processing but lacks many of the effects, found in the core program, that are intended for sound designers (both ImpulseVerb and Harmonic Rotate, for example, are missing). Peak LE 4.1 doesn't support batch processing and offers even fewer effects but serves as a fine editor for users who want to clean up audio tracks in QuickTime movies or perform basic audio-editing chores. All three versions of Peak 4.1 include a copy of the last OS 9–compatible version of the program -- Peak 3.21.

Macworld's Buying Advice

Despite its interface irregularities, Peak 4.1 is a useful -- and powerful -- addition to any audio or video professional's toolbox.

At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Pros

    • Cool new effects
    • Better performance than previous versions
    • Somewhat improved interface

    Cons

    • Interface anomalies
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