Roxio’s Jam 3 to offer superior CD audio mastering
By Peter Cohen
With CD burning becoming more prevalent on the Mac, Toast 5 Titanium isn’t the only ace
has up sleeve this year. The company also plans a major overhaul to Jam, their CD mastering product specifically tailored to the needs of audiophiles and musicians. Roxio plans to release a major new upgrade to Jam later this year. And with the enormous popularity of Apple’s iTunes software already evident, the company hopes to attract a new audience to Jam.
Jam is already a popular tool with musicians and audiophiles who want to record music on CD. Everyone from garage bands to professional musicians use Jam to master demos or record jam sessions — the software offers varied audio-related tools that its sibling Toast does not, according to product manager Victor Nemechek.
“Jam sports a lot of advanced features,” Nemechek told MacCentral. “For example, Jam users can insert crossfades between tracks, and normalize them, so they’re all at the same volume level.”
Jam also sports tools to enable users to edit music — with Jam and its included tools, it’s possible to manipulate multiple tracks of audio, essentially turning your Mac into a multi-track recording studio.
Not just another pretty face
Nemechek said that Roxio is planning to release a new version of Jam later this year — version 3 — that will sport an overhaul to its graphical interface. The new version of Jam will also sport new features and improvements. “We plan to beef up Jam a bit,” said Nemechek.
“Jam 3 will feature a new user interface that’s even cooler than what we’ve done with Toast 5 Titanium,” said Nemechek. “We’ve discovered these new artists that do really cool interface work. We really liked their work on other projects, so now we have them working on Jam.”
Under the hood, Jam uses the same burn engine as Toast, so Jam 3 will get many of the same improvements that Toast 5 Titanium did. Jam 3 will sport myriad improvements to Disc at Once support, for example, and will feature the same unflappable background burning functionality as Toast 5 Titanium, as well.
Jam currently includes Peak LE, a sound editing software package made by Berkeley Integrated Audio Software (BIAS). Nemechek confirmed that Jam 3 will include editing tools, but wasn’t specific on what they would be. “It’ll probably be Peak LE but we’re hoping to investigate other packages, too,” said Nemechek.
More opportunity than before
Apple now sells iMacs and Power Mac G4s with integrated CD-RW drives. Along with the new drives, is Apple-provided software — iTunes and Disc Burner — that lets users burn both data and audio to CDs. Although this software encroaches on the domain Roxio carved out with Toast and Jam, Nemechek said his company sees this as opportunity, not adversity. After all, it puts a lot more CD-RW-equipped systems into the Mac market than has ever been there before.
“There are a lot more people interested in downloading and ripping MP3s than there used to be,” said Nemechek. “And Jam makes it even easier for them to make cooler CDs than they can with iTunes. It lets them go a step further by adding effects and improving the way that audio is mastered to disc.”
“iTunes doesn’t do a lot of the things that Jam does, and I don’t think it ever will,” said Nemechek. “It’s a cool program, but it’s suitable only for making basic audio CDs.”
Jam carries a fairly steep price tag — the package costs US$199. Nemechek said that Jam is already a price leader in its field. “It’s less expensive and considerably more easy to use than other products that cater to musicians,” said Nemechek.
Nemechek conceded that Roxio is considering alternatives that could make the price more attractive to cash-strapped musicians and consumers, however. “We’re going to explore different ways of pricing Jam,” said Nemechek.
A slick new interface and a hopefully reduced price tag doesn’t mean that Jam won’t continue to cater to professionals. Nemechek said that Roxio’s engineers are going to “improve some of the math” in Jam — the calculations used to manage Jam’s crossfading, dithering and noise-shaping characteristics.
“Customers have been asking us to provide 24-bit support,” said Nemechek — many professional audio systems record 24-bit digital audio. Until now, Jam users have had to use other software to reduce the audio to a 16-bit format suitable for CD recording.
“Now you’ll be able to take 24-bit songs and dither them to 16-bit in Jam,” said Nemechek — thus saving users the time and expense of buying and using other software.
Nemechek said that Jam 3 will debut at Macworld Expo in New York this July, and should ship later — probably September.
When Nemechek came on board with Roxio a year ago, he said that there was a common misconception on the street that Jam was a discontinued product. The company has produced a few updates since then to let people know that the product is still actively supported, and Nemechek expresses great enthusiasm for the future.
“Jam 3 is gonna be cool,” said Nemechek,” … really cool.”
MacCentral is currently checking into Jam’s Mac OS X compatibility.
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