Due in part to the complexities of developing for a new operating system, software companies have been relatively slow to release audio applications for Mac OS X. With Jam 5, Roxio has not only brought its versa-tile audio-CDcreation software to OS X, but also integrated it with Toast 5 Titanium, the company’s flagship CD-burning program for the Mac. In fact, the package is called Toast with Jam because Jam is no longer a stand-alone product; it now requires Toast to burn the audio CDs you create. And although Jam is a professional-level application that can create CD masters for mass duplication, the new bundle is such a good value that overcoming the limits of iTunes, Discribe, and even Toast is well within reach, even for audio hobbyists.
All updates to Toast 5 Titanium (mmmmh; Reviews, July 2001), including the update that allows Toast Titanium to run natively in OS X, have been free downloads. Toast is now fully functional in OS X, with the exception of the Toast Audio Extractor application. As a part of the Toast with Jam release, Toast provides the support for burning your Jam-created audio to CD, as well as all of its previous functionality. We’ve been able to burn, without any problems, data CDs in various formats, data and video DVDs, audio CDs, and VCDs.
Spreading the Jam
The first thing you’ll notice about Jam 5–besides the fact that it runs in OS X–is its attractive interface, which sports a larger, more refined playback area that’s easier to view and control than that of previous versions.
Jam can import AIFF, WAV, MP3, Jam Image, and other QuickTime-compatible files, as well as Sound Designer II files and regions, making it suitable for all types of music production. Although all standard audio CDs must conform to the Red Book audio standard (44.1kHz, 16-bit, stereo files) when they are burned, the new version of Jam can import 32-bit audio, now common in professional and home recording.
To get the best possible sound from your audio, Jam also now engages in dithering, which reduces audio to 16-bit files more smoothly than would truncating the extra bits. And any sample rates higher than 44.1kHz are downsampled via QuickTime.
Working on the Tracks
Adding tracks to Jam is as simple as dragging and dropping them into the track window, through which you have control over almost every aspect of your audio tracks, such as gain, fades, and track lengths. Best of all, every adjustment you make is nondestructive–none permanently changes the actual audio files. If you want to make more-complicated, precise edits–such as adding effects with VST plug-ins or marking individual tracks within a larger recording–before you bring the files into Jam, you can do so using the included Peak LE VST 3.0, from BIAS.
One area that has been improved in this version of Jam is cross-fading. Previous versions had several presets for overlapping tracks and fading them into one another (also included in this release), but the new cross-fade tool gives you the ability to make custom cross-fades. And the new waveform display gives you a visual representation of where your fades start and stop and how long they last, for example.
Among the many features you benefit from by using Toast with Jam instead of Toast alone are volume adjustments. In Jam you can adjust the gain for each track individually, either one channel (left or right) at a time or as a whole. You can also normalize an entire CD or individual track to raise the volume to a safe level without fear of clipping, which causes ugly distortions and can occur with digital audio whose gain has been set too high.
Jamming with Toast
After you’ve set up your disc in Jam, it’s time to burn–and here Jam 5 makes a major break from the previous version. Unlike earlier versions of Jam, this one doesn’t have its own burn engine; it must use Toast to burn your CDs.
To preserve the more advanced features in your Jam project when importing into Toast (cross-fades, index points, and trims, for example), Jam creates a temporary disc image. Although this is a clever way to make the two programs work together, it also makes the burning process more time-consuming than it was in previous versions of Jam. On a 450MHz Power Mac G4, Jam took more than 90 seconds to create an average-length CD’s image. That image is deleted after you burn a disc, but if you don’t want to have to create an image for each copy of a CD you want to burn, you can manually save your project as a disc image and keep it until you no longer need it.
Because Jam itself doesn’t allow you to choose which drive you’d like to use for burning (there’s no indication from Jam that any drive is recognized), we had a problem burning CDs on our test machine, which had both an internal DVD-R (SuperDrive mechanism) and a faster, external FireWire CD-RW. To specify the drive you want to use, you must first open Toast and choose from the list of drives under Recorder Info–it will then save your drive preference when you burn via Jam as well.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
Although forcing Jam to rely on Toast makes audio mastering somewhat less convenient, this solid version of Jam brings the program’s powerful features to OS X. And this bundle is a great deal, given that you get both programs for the price Roxio used to charge for Jam alone.
Jam is an easy-to-use program fit for novices, hobbyists, and audio professionals, and it offers audio-mastering features that other apps can’t touch. And with the full version of Toast Titanium, you can burn in every CD, DVD, or VCD format you’re likely to need.