Are the 16‑bit capabilities of your AV Macintosh languishing unused for want of a decent (and cheap) 16‑bit sample editor? SoundEdit 16 could be your salvation. Mike Collins checks it out...
The AV range of Macintosh and PowerMacintosh computers all feature 16‑bit, 44.1kHz sampling rate audio recording and replay capabilities, but Apple don't offer any editing software to take advantage of these features. However, you can now use the recently upgraded version of SoundEdit, the original 8‑bit audio editing software for the Macintosh — SoundEdit 16. The nearest competition to this combination on the Mac is Sound Designer II software, running on an AudioMedia II card — a bundle which would cost you more than twice the price of SoundEdit 16.
SoundEdit 16 includes many new features, and offers support for full 16‑bit audio, as featured on the latest AV Quadras and PowerMacs. You can choose from a wide variety of sampling rates and compression ratios to achieve the desired balance between file size and sound quality, and then save your files in a wide variety of popular formats, including SoundEdit 16, SoundEdit, Instrument, WAVE, AIFF, SDII, Macintosh Sound Resource, Macintosh System 7 sound, and QuickTime (audio‑only) Movie (of which more in a minute).
New effects include Fade In and Out, Normalise (amplify sound to its maximum value), and a single‑repeat Delay. There is also a Crop effect, which keeps the current selection and deletes the rest of the sound. This is great for 'topping and tailing' — removing extra stuff at the beginning and end of material which you don't want.
The Control palette can now be expanded to reveal nine buttons for frequently‑used effects and editing commands, such as EQ or Gate. When you click on the EQ button, you are presented with a simple 5‑band graphic equaliser. You can drag the vertical lines separating the frequency spectrum bands to change the filter frequencies. Each band has a slider control for EQ cut or boost.
Once you have recorded your audio, or imported an existing audio file into SoundEdit, you can use the excellent selection of effects to process your audio. You can adjust the pitch or the tempo, add an echo, or use any of the 16 effects to enhance a single track, a portion of a track, or any combination of tracks. The Tempo command changes the playing speed of a sound without changing its pitch, and works extremely well. It is particularly useful for getting the timing of a voice‑over or a piece of music to exactly match a visual sequence.
SoundEdit 16 can now handle as many tracks in a single soundfile as your computer memory and disk space will allow. You can play any or all of the tracks simultaneously, and edit each individually. Once you have finished your editing work, and have adjusted the relative levels of the tracks, you use the Mix command to combine your multiple tracks to a single mono or stereo file for playback (from within Director, for example).
You can do all your QuickTime audio recording and editing using SoundEdit, and even import a QuickTime movie containing video or animation and synchronise your audio directly to this (for more information on the latest version (2.0) of QuickTime, see this month's specially extended Apple Notes, starting on page 178). When you open a QuickTime movie into SoundEdit 16, a new type of window shows the movie with its associated controls for playback, and a list of any soundfiles contained within the movie. An Edit button is provided, and this opens an edit window with the movie frames displayed at the top and the audio tracks underneath. As with any sound file (not just those associated with QuickTime images), SoundEdit 16 allows you to insert text labels underneath the audio waveform, to help you find your way around the sound file. Furthermore, the Labels command in the Edit menu brings up a dialogue box which lists your labels, and lets you jump to the section of audio containing any label you pick. This is particularly useful in longer files, where the waveform display is too long to fit completely on your monitor when zoomed out to a comfortable viewing resolution — instead of scrolling, you just jump to the label, and this section of the audio is automatically selected for you. Another neat new feature is the provision of Cue Points. You use these to mark the beginnings of particular sections of your audio (so you can precisely align sounds in multiple tracks), or, when working with QuickTime movies, to mark particular QuickTime frames which you wish to synchronise your audio to. A Cue Point applies to all tracks, as it simply identifies a particular point in time. As with Labels, you can jump to any of the cues within your file using the Cue Points dialogue box (accessed from the Edit Menu). Unfortunately, with this dialogue box open, you cannot play back your file from the selected Cue Point — you have to close the dialogue box first! This is something MacroMedia should fix as soon as possible.
The nearest competition to this is Sound Designer II software running on an AudioMedia II card — which would cost you more than twice the price of SoundEdit 16.
You can display any waveform in several ways, either as lines or dots, and as a spectrum showing the relative strengths of the audio frequencies as a colourful display. You can also name tracks, and bring up these names along with other specific track information such as a channel pop‑up (for left, right or left/right volume levels), a gain control to adjust the volume of the track, and a play button to play just the selected track. A vertical ruler displays the amplitude for waveforms and the frequency for spectra. A horizontal ruler at the top of the track can display your choice of frames, SMPTE timecode, samples, or time in various formats. Overall, the waveform display is not as good as that of Digidesign's Sound Designer II, but then SoundEdit 16 does cost far less, and has lots more goodies to offer which are not available in Sound Designer II.
Even if you are already using Sound Designer II, there are many features in SoundEdit 16 that make it worth considering, such as the ability to edit the audio tracks within a QuickTime movie — indispensable for multimedia users! And you can use SoundEdit 16 with an AudioMedia card, as long as you have Sound Manager 3.0 and the latest Digidesign Sound Drivers installed. An advantage to this combination is that the AudioMedia card lets you bring in audio digitally from DAT or CD, and output your audio digitally to DAT or any other popular digital audio recorder, which is not possible on the AV Macs, or with cheaper audio cards.
Unfortunately, I have to say that SoundEdit 16 suffers from sluggish screen redraws, and the waveform display does not scroll to automatically keep the audio which is playing back visible on screen. Nevertheless, and despite the common (but much more expensive) professional combination of Sound Designer II with an AudioMedia card, for many users, the combination of SoundEdit 16 with an AV Macintosh may be all you'll ever need.
The original 8‑bit SoundEdit used to be bundled with Farallon's popular MacRecorder — a small piece of hardware with a microphone, a pair of mini‑jack sockets for external microphone or 'line' input, and an 8‑bit analogue‑to‑digital converter, which connects to one of the Mac's serial ports. MacroMedia now market this package, as it is ideal for use in conjunction with their Director software. Many multimedia users will opt to use 8‑bit audio files with Director or HyperCard, especially for CD‑ROM‑based interactive projects, where the audio file sizes need to be kept to a minimum, and where the lowest common denominator Macintosh computers the end products are aimed at are only equipped with 8‑bit audio replay capabilities. SoundEdit 16 still supports all the 8‑bit formats, so there's no problem if you wish to use your Mac in this way.
- Excellent value for a 16‑bit sample editor.
- QuickTime support great for multimedia users manipulating audio for interactive projects or computer games.
- Waveform display doesn't scroll to keep up with the audio playing.
- Sluggish screen redraws.
SoundEdit has come of age as SoundEdit 16. The new 16‑bit capabilities and the support for QuickTime and other useful file formats make SoundEdit 16 an ideal choice for multimedia work. For those with limited funds, the program provides a good budget alternative to Sound Designer II.