Low-priced CD recorders, and the proliferation of downloadable music files on the Web, have made it easier than ever for consumers to create their own audio CDs. Adaptec shows it has paid attention to this trend by adding impressive audio capabilities to Toast 4.0 Deluxe, the latest version of its already excellent general-purpose CD-recording program.
While previous versions of Toast let you create audio CDs, version 4 simplifies the process and provides features that make your CDs sound more professional. One such feature, also found in high-end music recording programs such as Adaptec’s Jam, is disc-at-once (DAO) mode, which lets you make CDs without audible gaps between tracks.
In earlier versions, Toast instructed the CD burner’s laser to turn off between tracks, producing a brief but noticeable silence. With DAO, you can select zero seconds of pause and actually get no pause. This is especially useful if you’re making a CD of songs that flow into one another, such as a dance mix or a recording of a live concert. (Check your CD recorder’s technical specifications to see if it supports DAO.)
Toast 4 lets you burn MP3 audio directly to CD with on-the-fly decoding. This lets you make an audio CD from MP3 files without having to convert them first to another audio-file format. This is particularly useful if you’re low on hard-drive space, as MP3 files are comparatively small. Unfortunately, the decoding feature does not support DAO. But if hard-drive space isn’t an issue, you can use QuickTime 4 or Rafael W. Luebbert’s free Mpecker Drop Decoder to expand MP3 files to AIFF on your desktop, and then use DAO mode when burning your CD.
Because burning MP3 files onto an audio CD can tax a processor, Adaptec recommends that you use a G3/300 with a 4x-speed CD recorder. However, if you burn at 1x or 2x, you can get away with less processor power.
Another great new feature is CD Spin Doctor, a utility that transfers analog LPs or tapes onto CD. You simply connect your turntable amplifier or tape deck to your audio-in port using the included cable. You can even pause CD Spin Doctor to flip over your cassette tape or vinyl LP. But be carefulif you accidentally hit Stop, the session closes and you cannot add to it. Also, because the Discard button is placed a little too close to the Save button in the Save dialog box, it’s all too easy to trash your recording unintentionally.
CD Spin Doctor saves a full LP transfer as one large file. The helpful Auto-Define Tracks feature then detects silence between tracks and creates individual files of your songs. You can also manually define tracks and set crossfades.
Toast makes it easy to clean up old recordings by providing simple filters that reduce static, hiss, and other noise. You can preview the filters in real time, but once you apply a filter, you can’t undo it.
Toast 4 supports USB-connected CD drives, and Adaptec promises FireWire support in Toast 4.0.1. Thanks to a new feature called Web Checkup, you can easily download upgrades from Adaptec’s Web site.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
Toast 4.0 Deluxe’s new features make it a particularly good choice if you have audio files you want to record on CD media. Unlike with other versions of Toast, you won’t find it bundled with any CD recorders, but $99 is a small price to pay for this feature-rich upgrade.