Hardware And Software Reviews
Forges On With SF Version 8.0:
Sound Forge 8.0
A Software Review
Read G. Burgan
I first began using Sound Forge ten years ago. Back then it was the primary product of Sonic Foundry. There were very few other digital audio editors for the PC Windows platform.
From the beginning, SF has been a stereo/two track digital audio editor and has remained so as other products added multi-channel support. In response to the need for a multi-channel editor Sonic Foundry added the Vegas editing package that eventually evolved into a video editing program.
For many years SF has been the audio editor that I rely on. It is intuitively easy to use, very stable and Sonic Foundry regularly continued to improve both SF itself and the many tools bundled with it.
Two years ago Sonic Foundry sold SF and related software assets to Sony Pictures Digital. There is always apprehension when another company takes over an established product. Will the same quality and innovation continue? Or will the product stagnate as the new owner concentrates on other products?
With these concerns, I set out to test SF 8.0. What I found is encouraging. SF 8.0 continues the tradition of a high quality, stable digital audio editing package that adds sufficient new features to keep it competitive with other two channel, professional digital audio editing software. Here are some of the more significant new features.
Sound Forge traditionally separates the audio editing process from the CD burning functions. This has meant that to produce an audio CD, you needed two programs: SF to do the audio editing and CD Architect to produce and burn the final CD.
Sony continues this approach, but with SF 8.0 a full version of CD Architect 5.2 is included at no extra cost. With SF 8.0, you can export files directly from SF to CD Architect without having to first open CD Architect and then manually import the files.
Under the File menu in SF 8.0, select “Export to CD Architect.” CD Architect will start and the current open file in SF 8.0 will automatically be selected. If you have created regions in the file, they will be used to create the CD tracks.
I have found CD Architect to be one of the premier programs for burning CD's and welcome this feature. It saves time. I use it frequently and it works well. CD Architect continues to provide all of the power and resources that I need to burn various kinds of audio CD's.
SF 8.0 includes ASIO (Audio Stream Input/Output) support for sound cards with an ASIO driver. While ASIO was primarily developed to facilitate the use of sound cards in multi-track audio, it allows the audio editing software to communicate with the sound card hardware more directly and provides a lower latency.
In many cases, this will result in better performance and might prove the difference when recording and playing at higher resolutions and bit rates -- 192 KHz/24 bit, for example. The higher the resolution and bit rate, the greater the strain on a computer's resources and the more likely that there will be gapping and glitching.
I had some problems with SF 8.0's ASIO support using the initial release, but I have not had any problems since installing the latest upgrade. When using SF 8.0, I recommend that you check the Sony website to insure that you have the latest version installed.
SF 8.0 also provides the option of selecting the Microsoft Sound Mapper and the Windows Classic Wave Driver. This lets you decide the best means of addressing your sound card.
The ASIO driver relies on the sound card's interface for selecting the amount of buffers while the other drivers let you make that choice using SF's own preference menu. I found that sometimes when using the Plug-In chainer with a lot of plug-in's the traditional drivers provided better playback performance.
Most digital audio editors include some form of batch converter. SF has had a stand-alone batch converter for several years. A batch converter provides a means of automating routine processing tasks.
For example, I routinely use the SF Batch Converter 5.0 to restore files with similar noise characteristics. My batch files include a series of impulse filters, a normalize function and a noise reduction filter with a pre-set noise print. I can let the Batch Converter accomplish the basic digital restoration on a number of files while turning my attention to other matters.
With SF 8.0, Sony takes the Batch Converter from an independent stand-alone product to an integrated menu within Sound Forge itself. The advantage to Sony is that it no longer has to support a separate software package to provide a batch converter. The advantage to the user is that one no longer needs to open a separate program.
The disadvantage is that if you used the previous stand-alone Batch Converter, you will not be able to use the previous Batch Converter scripts as they are not compatible with the integrated Batch Converter. For someone like myself, that means that I will eventually have to create several dozen new batch scripts to replace the ones that I have been using under Batch Converter 5.0.
The good news is that one can continue using the old version as there is nothing inherent in SF 8.0 that renders it unuseable. Eventually changes in how processes like Direct-X plug-in's work may render the old version unuseable. By that time one should be able to create the new scripts required for the integrated Batch Converter.
Audio scrubbing has been added in SF 8.0. "Audio scrubbing" derives its name and function from the days of reel-to-reel recorders when we would locate a particular portion of audio by manually rocking the tape back and forth across the playback head by manipulating the supply and take-up reels.
In SF 8.0, audio scrubbing allows one to move the cursor across a file at varying speeds to quickly find a particular spot. The nice aspect about SF's audio scrubbing is that there are several ways to do it including the audio scrubbing icon at the bottom of the screen, three keyboard commands, the audio event locator above the file or manually dragging the cursor while pressing the Ctrl key.
I found that all of the methods work fine, but my personal preference is the use of the three keyboard commands. For those of us who are radio veterans, audio scrubbing is both a pleasant remnder of and a vast improvement over the many hours we spent editing on a tape recorder.
Sony has also added application scripting to SF 8.0. This makes it possible to automate reptitive tasks. To make use of the scripting feature, one has to be knowledgeable in a scripting language like JScript, VBScript or C#. I confess that I am not familiar with any of those scripting programs, so I am not able to provide an evaluation of how well this feature works.
On the plus side, scripting should provide the qualified user with the ability to greatly automate many of one's common editing tasks. For those who are familiar with one of the supported scripting languages, Sony provides sample scripts on their web site in a zip file that can be downloaded from: http://mediasoftware.sonypictures.com/download/step2.asp?DID=591
As one who is not familiar with a scripting program, I would like to see Sony also implement a scripting program based on key strokes so that one could accomplish much of the same advantages for those of us who haven't mastered a scripting language.
SF 8.0 also has added customizable keyboard mapping. As with most audio editors, SF has had numerous keyboard shortcuts that can speed up routine tasks. With the addition of keyboard mapping, the user can now create his own keyboard short cuts. If you want, you can even reassign the keyboard shortcuts that come with the program. This is one of those features that can appreciably reduce the time necessary to do repetitive tasks.
SF 8.0 includes support for VST plug-in's. With previous versions, if you wanted to use a VST plug-in you had to use a third party wrapper utility that would provide an interface that would let SF see the VST plug-in as a Direct-X plug-in. I have used a wide variety of third party VST plug-in's successfully in SF 8.0 and find the VST support a welcome addition.
In summary, Sound Forge 8.0 continues its decade long tradition of providing a high quality, two channel digital audio editing package for radio production and editing and for independent audio production studios while providing new features that should increase one’s productivity. There are other new features in SF 8.0 as well.
For a complete run down on the product features and minimum system requirements, go to http://www.sonymediasoftware.com/
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Sony Media Software
Sound Forge 8.0
Digital Audio Editing Software
Upgrade From Previous Version: $149.95
Integrated Batch Converter
ASIO Audio Driver Support
Direct Export to CD Architect
Integrated Batch Converter is not compatible with previous batch converter scripts
1-800-577-6642 Sony Media Software, 1617 Sherman Avenue, Madison, WI 53704
Read Burgan is a free lance writer and a former public radio station manager specializing in digital audio restoration who can be reached at (906) 296-0652 or through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org