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Synclavier S Link 2.0

Audio File Format Conversion Software By Paul White
Published July 1995

Most new software arrives in a blaze of publicity, but Synclavier's incredibly useful Mac utility dropped unannounced onto the SOS desk. Paul White checks it out.

S Link is a very simple software concept — you feed it an audio file in any of the popular formats and ask it to convert it to any of the other popular formats. I suspect, however, that the programming that makes this possible is anything but simple. Not satisfied with handling any known sound file format, S Link also includes a facility for presenting any type of file as an audio file, and while there may be limited mileage in finding out what your latest article sounds like when played back as audio, the program does make it possible to open damaged audio files or files of an unrecognised type.

Up And Running

To run S Link, you'll need a Macintosh with a floating point processor (or at least a software emulation of one) and you must be running System 7.0 or later. You'll also need Sound Manager 3.0 (or later versions) and Apple's QuickTime for certain operations. The software is key disk protected and has two 'installs' available — which means that you have to use the master disk to install it, and you can only install it twice. The second install isn't provided so that you can install a copy on your pal's computer — it's intended as a safety backup, in case you accidentally trash your first install. If you need to format your hard drive for any reason, you must de‑install the software authorisation first. This is a widely used software protection method and most Mac users will be familiar with it.

After installing the software and firing it up, the first thing that happens is that the SCSI buss is scanned to show you what drives are connected to your Mac and what addresses they occupy. External SCSI systems, such as Synclavier hard disk recorders or Fostex Foundations, will also show up — or so the manual claims, as neither units were at my disposal to verify this.

Folders on the displayed drives can be opened in the usual way and any recognised audio file formats are tagged with a loudspeaker icon. At this point, the file may be played over the Mac's internal speaker by pressing the spacebar on the QWERTY keyboard. According to the manual, Macs with slow processor speeds (LC, IIcx etc) might play back in a somewhat glitchy way, but this won't affect the quality of the converted file at all.

File Identification

If the file format isn't immediately recognised, you can select a magnifying glass icon which scans the files at a deeper level and tries to determine their file type. Anything still not recognised as a sound file shows up with a document icon, and if these start to clutter your screen window, you can opt to have them hidden.

Once all the recognised sound files have been identified, their size, file type, sample rate, number of audio channels (stereo or mono), length, bit‑depth, format, and compression status are displayed after the filename. Two data formats are commonly used for audio files — 'offset' and 'twos‑compliment' — the latter being the most frequently used in professional applications. If this doesn't mean much to you, don't worry about it; the software knows what it's doing!

As already explained, S Link initially ignores any files it doesn't recognise as audio files and gives them all document icons. However, there's a separate function window available called Sound Doctor, and this allows almost any file to be played back as a sound file — and that includes spreadsheets, graphics files, and pretty much whatever else you can think of. Most non‑audio files just sound like a ghastly burst of noise, but if you have a damaged audio file that has lost its header information (ie. the data which tells the Mac what file type it is), you can force it to play back using Sound Doctor — very useful. You can select the number of bits, number of channels, sample rate, format and word order for the file you wish to be played, making it possible to modify the sample rate of a sound file in order to change its pitch. Sound Doctor is also able to import sound files that have an unusual or unrecognised format, such as Atari SND files.

Conversion Time

To convert a file, you first ask S Link to duplicate the selected file, whereupon you are confronted with a dialogue box in which you must specify the destination format for the file. File types currently supported are as follows:

  • AIFF
  • AIFF‑C
  • Amiga IFF‑8SVX
  • System 7 Sound File
  • OMF Interchange
  • QuickTime
  • Raw Sound File
  • Sound Designer I
  • Sound Designer II
  • Sun/
  • SND
  • Creative Labs Voc
  • Windows .WAV

A waveform display window can be called up if you just want to process a small part of a complete sound file, as might be the case if you're taking something from a CD (with copyright clearance, of course!).

Some file formats may only have fixed parameters, so there's no need for you to do anything except select the type and hit the button. In other cases, you can also opt to convert the sample rate, convert from 16 to 8 bits, or even impose some data compression. The three included compression types are designed for low quality speech, where file size is the prime concern. To date, no high quality compression types are included.

Processing Speeds

How long the file takes to process depends on how many stages of conversion you ask for, but as a guide, on my Centris 650, the conversion always took several times longer than the length of the sound file to do the job. For short extracts, this isn't a problem, but it could easily take several hours to process an entire album‑length sound file. S Link is 'Power Mac compatible', but the handbook doesn't actually say whether it runs in native or emulation mode, so I can't hazard a guess as to what (if any) speed increase would be likely.


For anyone involved in multimedia authoring or any other field which requires the handling and conversion of several different audio file formats, S Link is an absolute lifesaver. It could also save the day if you have a sound file which refuses to open normally, because the header is damaged or missing. Obviously I don't have enough equipment to check every type of file conversion thoroughly, but the ones I did try worked flawlessly, and the user interface is very intuitive. The bottom line is this: if you need the facility to convert audio file types, you really must get S Link — I don't know of anything else that does the same job!


  • Straightforward user interface.
  • Direct conversion between most common audio file types.
  • Can open unrecognised files and even non‑audio files.


  • Long duration sound files can take a long time to process.


An excellent, practical utility that the multimedia fraternity have been crying out for.