capsule review

Sound Studio 3.5

At a Glance
  • Freeverse Sound Studio 3.5

    Macworld Rating

The Mac has more than its share of capable sound editors, but until now, not one has stood out to me as a go-to tool for everyday tasks. The free Audacity can be buggy and feels unintuitive, while Bias’s Peak ( ) and Apple’s Soundtrack ( ) are powerful, but with steep learning curves and hefty price tags.

Falling squarely in between those products, Sound Studio 3.5.5 finally fills the role of the long abandoned and much loved Macromedia SoundEdit 16 (which never made it to OS X). Sound Studio is an easy-to-use program for recording, editing, and applying effects to digital audio that can be used for everything from podcasting to digitizing those old cassette tapes and vinyl records you have lying around in the basement.

Sound Studio 3 records audio in either stereo or mono and takes advantage of Apple’s Core Audio to provide low-latency recording. Sound Studio can start recording automatically based on timers or audio levels, or begin when you push the Record button.

The program is a two-channel (stereo) editor that presents a waveform along a timeline in a single window, which you can zoom into or out of, as needed. Equalizers and filters get their own Inspector windows for adjusting parameters. You can perform simple cut-and-paste edits or apply markers to split a file into multiple files.

A two-channel (stereo) editor presents a waveform along a timeline in a single window, which you can zoom into or out of.
Sound Studio has a long history, and it now contains all of the tools needed to create professional mixes. You can apply crossfades, adjust the equalization, and jazz up your productions with natural-sounding delay, chorus, flanger, echo, and reverb effects. You can also clean up old recordings and repair clicks and pops either by interpolating samples or silencing them completely. The backward/reverse audio function will even help you decode those satanic messages hidden on your heavy metal albums. It’s also possible to layer sounds to create multi-track recordings. I was less impressed, however, with the program’s pitch- and time-shifting tools, which left noticeable artifacts on the recordings.

You can open and save MP3, AAC, AIFF, and WAV files, but saving in MP3 format requires you to install additional free software. I’d prefer to see this capability included in the basic program. Sound Studio 3 supports the Apple Lossless format, along with AAC, NeXT/Sun audio, and the Ogg Vorbis format, among many others. Also new is support for ID3 tags and iTunes metadata editing.

Version 3’s marquee feature is its support for Audio Units (AU) plug-ins. AU plug-ins are filters that go far beyond what’s included in the box to provide higher quality versions of the same effects and other effects that take you into more musically expressive territory.

Sound Studio can also be extended with pre-built automated workflows that can provide batch processing capabilities, such as the ability to stitch together multiple audio files, automate the addition of intro and outro audio across multiple files, clean up unwanted noise, or apply equalizers, reverb, and band-pass filtering.

More established producers will bemoan Sound Studio’s lack of support for their arsenal of VST plug-ins. And musicians won’t be able to rely on the limited pitch- and time-shifting tools included in the program to correct their off-key singing or playing.

Macworld’s buying advice

Sound Studio 3.5.5 is an easy-to-use tool that fits smoothly into your daily workflow without requiring a degree in audio engineering. It’s a good tool to reach for when it comes time to produce a podcast, record the local garage band, or resurrect a noisy recording from the past.

[Lee Sherman is a San Francisco-based technology writer and musician.]

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At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Pros

    • Supports Audio Units plug-ins for access to powerful effects
    • Extremely easy to use
    • Allows automated workflows

    Cons

    • Poor time- and pitch-shifting tools
    • MP3 support requires additional software
    • No support for VST plug-ins
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