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Audio Editing On The PC: Steinberg Wavelab, Sonic Foundry Sound Forge, SEK-D Samplitude Studio

Exploration By Janet Harniman-Cook
Published March 1997

With the advance of new technology, PC audio editors have finally reached the point where they can give Macintosh systems a run for their money. Janet Harniman‑Cook investigates the possibilities...

Studio‑quality audio recording on the new faster Pentium PC processors equipped with professional‑quality audio cards is now at the level where it can compete with mid‑range Macintosh systems. The high‑end Power Mac/Digidesign Pro Tools multitrack environment, with multiple TDM plug‑in support, still seems a long way off for the PC, but if your aims are more modest, PC applications have much to offer. The three applications under the spotlight in this article — Steinberg WaveLab 1.5, Sonic Foundry Sound Forge 4.0a and SEK‑D Samplitude Studio — are not only well‑specified stereo recorders and editors but can also be used to supplement the often limited audio‑editing facilities of MIDI + Audio sequencers, budget hard‑disk audio recorders or ADAT and open‑reel audio tape recorders.

These editors are invaluable for editing tracks prior to mixdown; for adding the final edit tweaks to stereo mixes before mastering for CD, tape, multimedia, soundtrack and broadcast; for the audio archiving and salvage of old recordings during vinyl and shellac transfer; and for audio production for games and multimedia developers. With a good soundcard it is possible to do top‑quality work on any of these applications; the final choice will be dependent on your individual production needs and budget requirements. Common file formats (WAV, AIFF) make it easy to transfer audio between these applications — and, after all, for the cost of a mid‑range budget hardware processor you could buy all three!

Choosing A Package

WaveLab is brought to you by Steinberg, the German MIDI recording magicians who developed Cubase, Europe's most widely used sequencer. The release of WaveLab 1.0 in February 1996 brought fast, user‑friendly, stereo audio editing to the PC, and the package included a tasty selection of off‑line (that is, non‑real‑time) processors, as well as batch processing, frequency analysis, and a handy soundfile librarian and database. Steinberg WaveLab 1.5 (£399) adds proprietary real‑time plug‑in processing architecture that enables a maximum of six dazzling effects modules to be used simultaneously and edited on the fly. More plug‑ins from Steinberg and third‑party developers are expected to follow, and the next upgrade, WaveLab 1.6, will support Microsoft's ActiveMovie audio plug‑in (see 'Microsoft ActiveMovie Plug‑in Support' box). For soundtrack post‑production, program creation and CD mastering, the only real shortcoming of WaveLab is a lack of EDL — Edit Decision List — functions.

Sonic Foundry Sound Forge (£299) is an incredibly versatile, well‑featured editor that includes a huge range of audio effect processors, extensive audio‑file format‑conversion utilities, EDL functions and sampler support via MIDI Sample Dump and SCSI MIDI Device Interface standards. This all adds up to excellent value for money and should appeal to both audio professionals and serious hobbyists. Sound Forge is the leading PC audio editor in the USA and the latest version, 4.0a, is the first audio application to support Microsoft's ActiveMovie plug‑in.

Samplitude Studio (£399), from innovative German software house SEK‑D, is more of a mixed bag. Now up to version 2.5, Samplitude was first to offer advanced features such as real‑time processing of dynamics and multiband EQ, multiple soundcard support and multitrack playback and recording. But despite this it's beginning to look rather dated compared with its two rivals, and is let down by unattractive graphics, quirky selection techniques and non‑standard keyboard commands. It is still a competent editor, though — once you get used to the Samplitude way of doing things.

The editors are evaluated here according to what features they offer; how easy the application is to learn; how friendly it is to use; the quality of global control, such as navigation and selection; editing power; the quality and scope of DSP functions and effects; the availability of sampler support; and, finally, other special features such as synchronisation and AVI support.

Steinberg Wavelab 1.5

    WaveLab 1.5 is a true 32‑bit Windows 95/ Windows NT application and complements stereo recording, editing and multi‑effects processing facilities with Audio Access Database, an advanced librarian for soundfiles stored on hard drive and CD‑ROM. All internal processing is 24‑bit and, with an appropriate soundcard, WaveLab will play and record 8, 16, 20 and 24‑bit soundfiles and is compatible with Windows WAV, Mac AIFF, Sun/NeXT AU, RAW and dual‑mono Digidesign Session 8 formats. Advanced dithering options are provided to minimise the re‑quantisation distortion introduced during processing and resampling.

WaveLab 1.5 features the Realtime Engine, which allows non‑destructive simultaneous real‑time processing using up to six plug‑in effects modules — depending on the demands of the individual plug‑ins and the power of the PC. Soundfiles can also be processed off‑line (with time out for processing) and saved to disk using the Realtime Engine, which allows users with PCs too slow to run this kind of processing in real time to take advantage of the plug‑in modules.

WaveLab copy protection is one of the fairest and most user‑considerate I know of, consisting of occasional requests to insert the CD‑ROM; protection for the optional Steinberg plug‑ins uses the dreaded dongle, which connects to the PC parallel port.

    The WaveLab package consists of three floppy disks, a strange monitor‑shaped CD‑ROM, and the manuals. The main manual is a 230‑page soft‑covered book with version 1.5 features included in a short addendum booklet. Both are clearly presented with comprehensive indices and well‑explained tutorials to help you get started. If you get stuck, there is Windows help, on‑line contextual help and tips. It's a pity that the CD‑ROM does not include a multimedia tutorial, but fortunately WaveLab is easy to learn and pleasing to use, and additional excellent technical support is available by phone, fax or email from UK distributors Harman Audio.
    WaveLab has the best‑looking graphics of our three applications, with a clear, easy‑on‑the‑eye, colourful design throughout all its windows; it features extensive customisation options for screen object colours, text and layout. To suit different user work styles, WaveLab also has a wide range of icon, menu and keyboard commands. Multiple wave files can be open at the same time, and saved with zoom and layout details as WaveLab project files. The Status bar displays cursor position, zoom factor, selection or soundfile length and sample parameters. The five user‑sizable toolbars may be floating, docked, showing or hidden and there are toolbars for Transport, Snapshots (Waveview memory slots), Control Bar (shortcuts for the most frequently used menu functions), Toolbox, and — new in version 1.5 — the Windows Controller (shortcuts to the other Toolbars, the Status bar, Markers view, Master section and Live input function).
    The focus of activity in WaveLab is the twin‑element Waveview pane: the Overview displays the entire waveform and is used for navigation and to define the area shown in the lower main Waveform graphic window. Click‑dragging on the waveform selects the area to be edited, and the whole stereo audio file or either channel may be edited independently. Audio can be viewed down to single‑sample accuracy, redraws are usually instantaneous and up to eight waveviews with zoom and range information can be stored as Snapshots. Markers are used as navigation aids or section labels and appear as inverted yellow triangular icons on the Waveview measure ruler; although they may be individually named in the markers list, marker names are only visible on the measure ruler when the mouse pointer is positioned beneath the marker icon. Additional locator functions are available from the numeric pad.
    Editing in WaveLab is fast, fun and virtual — most edit changes are non‑destructive and do not affect the original recording unless you decide to overwrite the file on disk. Selected sections of audio can be repositioned or copied using simple drag‑and‑drop techniques, and WaveLab has a range of excellent‑sounding off‑line level‑processing tools for DC offset correction, normalisation, gain adjustment, fades and cross‑fades and sophisticated dynamics processing — compression, expansion, gating and limiting. The only omission is multiband dynamics processing for de‑essing.

WaveLab 1.5 does not provide an Edit Decision List (EDL) function containing the track or region names, start and end times and duration information needed to create soundfile play lists for mastering. It cannot yet, therefore, be considered as a viable replacement mastering system for beleaguered Mac Sound Tools II users, especially now that Digidesign have pulled the plug on product support. (For a DIY EDL fix, check out my review of Steinberg's WaveLab 1.01 in SOS August 1996.)

    WaveLab has two sets of utterly fab audiophile‑quality DSP audio processors. Those found in the Process menu — Reverse, Timestretch, Pitch correction, Harmoniser, Hi‑Fi Chorus and EQ — can only be used one at a time off‑line, but the WaveLab Realtime Engine plug‑ins will run up to six processors in real time. The eight plug‑ins that ship with WaveLab 1.5 resemble the effects modules from Cubase VST for the Mac, and are, er... very red: they're the Autopanner, Chorus, Echo, Resampler, Reverb, Leveller, EQ, Grungelizer and Tools1 — M+S microphone processing, channel phase invert and channel flip.

There is also a bonus plug‑in: the Grungelizer simulates the narrow bandwidth, AC mains hum and surface noise that characterise vintage discs. The four optional Realtime Engine plug‑ins available at the time of writing are Steinberg's Denoiser, Declicker, Spectraliser and Loudness Maximiser (see Paul White's review of WaveLab plug‑ins in SOS February 1997). In contrast to the often over‑optimistic PC minimum requirements figures used by some manufacturers, those in the version 1.5 addendum to the WaveLab manual appear to under‑estimate CPU performance and the Pentium 100/32Mb PC used for this article ran six onboard plug‑ins without dropout. Real‑time audio processing of this magnitude and quality is a tremendous achievement and the Steinberg development team deserve congratulations. Eagerly anticipated is version 1.6 which implements Microsoft ActiveMovie support and enables applications such as Waves Native Power Pack to run in the WaveLab environment. Yummy!

    WaveLab 1.5 does not support MIDI Sample Dump Standard (SDS) or SCSI MIDI Device Interface (SMDI) and so cannot directly transfer wavefiles to external samplers. Pity...
    WaveLab 1.5 supports background processing — enabling you to carry on working while off‑line processing functions take place — and batch processing, to allow off‑line multi‑stage processing of soundfiles. The Frequency Analysis function creates a 3D Fast Fourier graph with axes for time, amplitude and frequency, the audio resplendently represented as rainbow‑coloured spire‑like peaks and valleys. Although very attractive, the Frequency Analysis graph would be more useful with greater zoom and finer ruler calibration. The Audio Access database is very useful and is used to catalogue, locate, audition or transfer to the WaveLab editor WAV or AIFF soundfiles stored on hard, removable or floppy disks and CD‑ROM. WaveLab does not support AVI playback and cannot be synchronised to external devices via SMPTE, MIDI or MTC.

Steinberg WaveLab 1.5 £399; the upgrade from version 1.01 costs £49. Optional Steinberg plug‑ins, DeNoiser, DeClicker, Loudness Maximiser, £299 each. All prices include VAT.

Sonic Foundry Sound Forge 4.0A

    Sound Forge is a production powerhouse and includes a vast range of edit and record options. The Forge 4 CD‑ROM contains versions for true 32‑bit Windows 95/Windows NT4 and 16‑bit for Windows 3.1, but the 16‑bit version will not perform real‑time previews, which rely on 32‑bit processing. The default soundfile type is Microsoft WAV (including Digidesign Session 8 files) but you can load and convert between a wide range of other file types, including Macintosh AIFF and SND, Amiga SVX and IFF, and RAW. Sound Forge 4.0a will recognise sample rates from 2kHz to 96kHz and supports 8‑bit, 16‑bit, mono and stereo data formats, and the common Internet audio and video file formats RealAudio 3.0, ActiveX Streaming Format (ASF — used by Microsoft's NetShow On‑Demand) and the NeXT/Sun AU format for Java scripts. Unlike most editors, Sound Forge allows you to enter and edit the summary information text embedded in Microsoft WAV, and add comments and recording details such as title, engineer and date. There is the option to automatically re‑open the sound files as they were when you last quit Sound Forge and you can also save and load work spaces to disk. The only copy protection Sound Forge uses requires you to enter an activation code during installation, and the enlightened Sonic Foundry philosophy that's printed on page 3 of the manual is worth quoting: "We feel that it is in your best interest that Sound Forge does not come with heavy‑duty copy protection. We hope you will allow us to continue this policy by abiding by the licence agreement and giving your friend our phone number rather than a copy of the software."
    Top marks to Sonic Foundry for an exemplary tuition and reference package — the CD‑ROM contains a superb multimedia tutorial with excellent audio quality, and it comprehensively covers the functions and facilities in Sound Forge 4, including processing and effects. Complementing the CD‑ROM is a chunky, very informative, well‑laid‑out, 436‑page soft‑bound printed manual including a useful reference section, an index, a glossary, and sample transfer procedures. Completing the picture is extensive Windows on‑line help and tips.
    Sound Forge presents a clearly laid‑out, user‑friendly environment that makes working fast and enjoyable, with good use of colour and graphics and wide customisation options. Speed menus abound, toolbars proliferate and the huge range of keyboard commands permits a tremendous flexibility that should accommodate the needs of the most demanding user — as the on‑line Help says, "You want shortcuts? We got shortcuts!"
    Sound Forge and WaveLab have great similarities in soundfile display, selection routines and layout, and Sound Forge's Views toolbar and WaveLab's Snapshots are functionally identical: both recall up to eight different wave views with zoom ratio, selection points and cursor position. Forge has a good marker system for fast navigation and section identification — markers can be entered during record or playback by pressing keyboard M; they show up on the ruler as icons with name tags, and can be quickly repositioned if you drag them to a new position with the mouse. Markers appear as entries in the Regions list; clicking on a marker entry moves the current position cursor to that point. Regions defining areas of audio within a soundfile can be created by dragging a selected area from the soundfile window to the Regions list; dragging the Region entry into the Playlist builds a playback sequence. Unfortunately, each Play and Regions list is specific to an individual soundfile, and it is not possible to mix and match between several soundfiles and build a composite Playlist.
    Editing is quick and efficient. Multiple wave files can be open on the desktop at the same time and selected areas can be dragged and dropped between soundfiles. Edits are usually non‑destructive and can be undone if unsatisfactory, but alternatively you can perform edits directly to the original soundfile using Direct Mode. Non‑destructive edits can be reversed via the Undo/Redo History window — you can even audition most undo and redo operations. For non‑destructive cut and paste you can also use the Playlist or the Cut List. The Cut List may be used to quickly and non‑destructively remove pauses and bad starts, for example when you're editing voice‑over takes, and it works like a negative image of the Playlist: Regions in the Cut List are excluded from playback. Cuts may also be auditioned using the Preview Cuts command. Sound Forge is no slouch but I found WaveLab marginally faster for simple cut and paste edits.
    Sound Forge 4.0a provides a phenomenal choice of studio‑quality audio processors and effects, including reverb, chorus, DDL and flangers; a 4‑band dynamic compressor/limiter for de‑essing and de‑popping; graphic, paragraphic and parametric EQ; synthesis options; pitch shift and time stretch; and a great wah‑wah. (See the 'Processors and Effects' box for a full list.) As all the processors have real‑time preview, you can adjust parameters in real time and there are pre‑roll and post‑roll options.

Sound Forge 3 was the first application to offer third‑party audio plug‑ins on the PC, including top‑flight processors ported across from the Mac, such as Q‑Tools spatial synthesis and, my own favourite, the Waves L1 Ultramaximizer mastering limiter (now available only in the Waves Native Power Pack). Of Sonic Foundry's own optional plug‑ins, the Noise Reduction/Vinyl Restoration tool is outstanding value. Sound Forge 4.0a CD‑ROM includes setup files for Microsoft ActiveMovie, enabling the new generation of cross‑application ActiveMovie plug‑ins to be used.

    Sound Forge Sampler Tool supports SDS and the much faster SMDI. The Sampling section in the Sound Forge manual includes clear and comprehensive guidelines on loop generation, individual sampler configurations, and how to audition from the Sound Forge MIDI keyboard; the appendix has a section on transfer procedures for Akai's S1000, Digidesign's SampleCell II, the Kurzweil K2000 and Peavey's SP samplers. The E‑mu ESI32, Kurzweil K2500, and Peavey SX are also supported.
    Sound Forge will let you open and save AVI files for multimedia use and Regions may be triggered from MIDI or SMPTE using the Virtual MIDI Router, a software driver that allows the transfer of MIDI data between ports. Soundfile triggering is monophonic — meaning that only one Region can be playing at any time and if a second Region is triggered it will override and cut short playback of the first.

Sonic Foundry Sound Forge 4.0a £299; optional Sound Forge plug‑ins, Noise reduction, Batch Converter, Spectrum Analyser, £199 each; Q‑Sound Labs Q‑Tools £199.

Sek‑D Samplitude Studio 2.5

    Samplitude Studio 2.5 is the top of the Samplitude range and, although a 32‑bit application, is not Windows 95 native. It includes a wide variety of editing and processing tools, allows playback of up to 16 tracks, and will — in theory — give eight physical outputs using four stereo soundcards. Multitrack systems are without doubt the future for PC audio recording, and will become commonplace when 4‑ and 8‑channel cards become available. Multiple card support is tricky, as each card demands a slice of precious, limited PC system resources, and a maximum of three matched soundcards would seem to be the limit; this said, the two Turtle Beach Multisound cards on the review system worked well.

Depending on the capabilities of your soundcard, Samplitude Studio will record and play back at sample rates of 11, 16, 22, 32, 44 and 48kHz, but all files in a project must share a single rate and it is not possible to use mono and stereo files in the same project. Windows WAV is the only audio file type recognised by Samplitude Studio, although audio can be downloaded to samplers via MIDI Sample Dump (SDS). The Samplitude Studio installation disk is copy protected and cannot be used to create a backup, and if the installation disk becomes unusable through file corruption or disk damage, the legitimate user will be unable to run the software and may be forced to cancel sessions and lose business, while a replacement disk is sent by post from SEK‑D in Germany! This is totally unsatisfactory and grossly unfair, and calls into question the suitability of Samplitude Studio for professional use.

    Samplitude Studio is a large application and it is hard to avoid the conclusion that some of the more advanced features were achieved at the cost of a better‑looking, friendlier user interface; consequently, newcomers should be prepared for slow progress initially until they become familiar with the Samplitude way of doing things. The Samplitude Studio package consists of a single floppy disk containing the program installation files and an 141‑page spiral‑bound printed manual which is comprehensive and contains a basic tutorial and a detailed contents list, but omits an alphabetical index. The manual is hard to read due to the small type size, and this is made worse by poor translation from the original German. To take two examples from page 5, a note concerning soundcard DACs reads: "Important: Samplitude supports only soundcards with 16‑bit transformers (CD quality)", and when drawing an analogy between different audio sample rates and different video resolutions the text says "This is comparable to how a computer graphic looks in 256 colours versus one in 16 million colours. Recognisable are both." In a technical reference guide this is unacceptable, and is guaranteed to confuse the novice user. Windows on‑line help is slightly better, despite the Help Index's containing a measly 17 entries! As a consolation, perhaps, there are Tool Tips and Contextual Help.
    Loading wavefiles, processing and redrawing the screen are generally very fast, and the menu structure is easy to understand if you're familiar with hard‑disk editing techniques, but Samplitude Studio unhelpfully implements non‑standard Windows keyboard commands and its unattractive graphic design owes more to DOS 5 than to Windows 95! If you spend long periods of time gazing at a monitor, well‑designed graphics reduce fatigue and delay the burnout of your creative energies. I found it impossible to make Samplitude Studio look good, despite its colour and font customisation options, and the two main views — the VIP Virtual Project (Multitrack) and HDP (Wavefile) windows — are especially stark. The two toolbars contain shortcut icons for Range, Cursor, Zoom, Group, File, Transport and basic edit functions.
    Virtual Projects are the principal way of working in Samplitude, allowing non‑destructive recording and editing with automated level mixing — including fades and crossfades — across a maximum of 16 mono or eight stereo tracks. Powerful stuff, and a bit like finding a BMW engine in a Trabant! You are limited by being unable to run mono and stereo soundfiles in the same VIP multitrack, and you cannot mix files with different bit rates and sample rates. Multiple projects can be open at the same time and the work space — with its constituent projects, windows and layout — can be saved as a Session file. Selection routines are somewhat quirky and navigation is cumbersome despite cursor and range store. Samplitude's Cursor Positions act as markers, appear along the time/measure ruler, and can be named, repositioned by dragging, and inserted on the fly during playback or recording.
    Soundfiles, when dragged and dropped onto a track in the VIP window, become Samplitude Objects, which may be non‑destructively edited with options for cut, paste, trim, discard, position, cross‑fade, lock and snap to time or meter. Objects can be arranged in sequence and linked together to form a Group that is treated as a whole when repositioned or processed; the Object box handles can be used to create overall playback level offsets and fades. As Samplitude Studio has multiple tracks, you can edit in context between two or more audio parts — a facility that would greatly enhance Sound Forge and WaveLab. For example, when processing vocal or solo instrumental parts in a stereo editor, you are forced to make your edit decisions 'blind' — that is, you must program your edit changes without being able to hear how the edited material sits with the backing track. But with Samplitude you may place the audio parts onto adjacent tracks, perform your edit, and then play back the two parts together, enabling greater accuracy when you're processing and saving considerable time. Most other types of editing are performed destructively to the soundfile data on the hard drive and include loop optimisation, resampling, timestretch, normalise, remove DC offset, convolution, echo, filter, and reverb — all of which are off‑line processors and do not include a preview function.
    Samplitude Studio includes superb real‑time previews of dynamics and EQ functions.
    Once edited, audio may be exported to your sampler via mono‑only MIDI Sample Dump Standard (SDS); the faster stereo‑compatible SCSI SMDI is not supported.
    Recording can be triggered externally via MIDI from a sequencer; the AVI link is very basic and no match for the Windows Video facilities of Sound Forge.

SEK‑D Samplitude Studio £399; optional Sound Forge plug‑ins, Noise Reduction, Batch Converter, Spectrum Analyser, £199 each; Q‑Sound Labs Q‑Tools £199.

PC Requirements And Reference System

Real‑time processing requires a powerful computer, and hard drives must be in pristine condition. The reference PC produced remarkably good results overall but the Pentium 100 CPU stuttered, spluttered, staggered and glitched when attempting the more demanding real‑time functions, such as stereo noise reduction using the Steinberg DeNoiser plug‑in, and reverb using the Waves Native Power Pack TrueVerb. To run WaveLab, Steinberg recommend a Pentium 133 with 32Mb RAM for entry‑level or a Pentium Pro 200 with 64Mb for professional systems; for non‑real‑time editing and processing functions a Pentium 90 with 16Mb RAM should suffice. The reference PC used for this article consisted of a genuine Intel Pentium 100 CPU; a PCI motherboard with Intel Triton 82430 VX version 3 chip set (dated 04‑15‑96) and 256K pipeline burst cache; 32Mb RAM; 2.3Gb hard drive; 2Mb PCI video card; 17" SVGA monitor running 1024 x 768 x 64k (Hi‑Color); MQX32‑m SMPTE/MIDI card. The soundcards were Turtle Beach's Multisound Classic and Multisound Pinnacle with digital option. In Windows 95, all settings including Virtual Memory were standard default Windows 95 with the following line added to the SYSTEM.INI file:



Processors And Effects


Off‑line: Reverse, Timestretch, Pitch Correction, Harmoniser, Hi‑Fi Chorus and EQ, Normalise, Change gain, Invert Phase, Eliminate DCO, Fade In, Fade Out, Crossfade, Dynamics (Compressor, Limiter, Expander, Gate), Batch Processor

Realtime: Autopanner, Chorus, Echo, Resampler, Reverb, Leveller, EQ, Grungelizer, and Tools1 (M+S microphone processing, channel phase invert and channel flip)


Process: Auto Trim/Crop, Channel Converter, Crossfade Loop, Convert to 8‑Bit , DC Offset, Graphic EQ, Paragraphic EQ, Parametric EQ, Fade Graphic, Fade In, Fade Out, Insert Silence, Invert/Flip, Mute, Normalize, Pan/Expand, Resample, Reverse, Smooth/Enhance, Time Compress/Expand, Volume Effects: ACM Filter, Amplitude Modulation, Chorus, Delay/Echo (Simple), Delay/Echo (Multi‑Tap), Distortion, Dynamics (Graphic), Dynamics (Multi‑Band), Envelope, Flange, Gapper/Snipper, Noise Gate, Pitch Bend, Pitch Shift, Reverb, Vibrato</font></p>


Invert, Fade In/out, Normalise, Sample Rate Conversion, Resample, Convolution, Echo, Reverb, Filter, Graphic EQ, Parametric EQ, Build Loop

Microsoft Activemovie Plug‑In Support

ActiveMovie audio plug‑ins are derived from the Microsoft ActiveMovie (formally known as Quartz) specification, which provides a 32‑bit open standard for audio and video‑related plug‑ins for Windows 95 applications. ActiveMovie will revolutionise the way we use music applications, as it not only enables real‑time preview but can also be used with different host programs. The first of these is the Waves Native Power Pack plug‑ins bundle — containing the L1 Ultramaximizer, TrueVerb, C1 Compressor and Gate, Q10 ParaGraphic EQ. S1 Stereo Imager and WaveConvert — and can be run in Sonic Foundry Sound Forge v4.0a (32‑bit version only) and in the next versions of Cakewalk Music Software's Cakewalk Pro Audio (version 6) and Steinberg WaveLab (version 1.6).

Waves Native Power Pack £499.

Related SOS Reviews & Articles

Steinberg WaveLab 1.01 — August 1996

Steinberg WaveLab plug‑ins — February 1997

Sonic Foundry Sound Forge 3 — May 1996

SEK‑D Samplitude Studio 2.5 — November 1995

For general advice on configuring and running PC hard disk recording systems, check out the previous articles in the SOS 'PC Musician' series (from November 1996).

Table Of Comparative Features

Each application features the following in addition to basic cut‑and‑paste editing features...
Minimum processor requirementIntel Pentium 90486DX 2‑66Intel Pentium 90
Operating systemWindows 95/NTWindows 3.1/95Windows 3.1/95/NT
Realtime preview/processing?Yes — from plug‑ins onlyYes (EQ and dynamics)Yes — 32‑bit version only
Stand‑alone processing?YesNoNo
Real‑time preview?YesYesYes
Simultaneous processing?Up to six effectsNoNo
ActiveMovie third‑party plug‑in support?Not until v1.6NoYes
CD‑ROM tutorial?NoNoYes
Bit rates8, 16, 20, 248, 168, 16
Sample rates (soundcard‑dependent)11, 22, 44, 48kHz11, 16, 22, 32, 44, 48kHz2‑96kHz
EQ3‑band parametric with Q, Lo and Hi Shelf5‑band graphic, 3‑band parametric, Hi, Lo & Band Pass Filters10‑band graphic, Hi, Lo & Band Pass, Notch Filter
Frequency analysis?YesYesOptional plug‑in
Harmoniser?Yes: 16 voicesNoNo
Chorus?Yes: 100 voicesNoYes: 3 voices
Auto panner?YesNoYes
User presets?YesNoYes
Dynamics processing?YesYesYes
Time stretch?YesYesYes
Pitch shift?YesYesYes
Sample rate/file format conversion?Yes????Yes
DC offset correction?YesYesYes
Batch process?YesNoOptional plug‑in
Noise reduction?Optional plug‑inNoOptional plug‑in (includes De‑clicker)
De‑clicker?Optional plug‑inNoOptional plug‑in (includes Denoiser)
Background processing?YesNoYes
EDL?NoGraphic playlist in MultitrackRegions, Play & Cuts lists
Build loop?NoYesYes
Discrete output channels using multiple soundcards?NoYes (up to four soundcards)No
Sample dump?NoYesSDS (MIDI) & SMDI (SCSI)
External triggers?No SMPTE, MTCMIDI note & controllers, SMPTE, MTC
AVI video?NoYesYes
Other featuresAudio Access Database, Grungelizer, stand‑alone FX processingConvolution (room acoustics sampling)See sidebar