You are here

Sony Creative Software SpectraLayers Pro Audio Editing Software Review

sony-spectra-layers-pro-software-box-interface

For the serious sound editor working on complex audio projects, this is the program to get! 

Sony has long been synonymous with quality audio and video products such as the compact disc (along with Phillips) and others such as the Walkman and PlayStation. In the professional world, their OXFORD line of products are still in use and quite remarkable.

SpectraLayers Pro does introduce a few innovations, notably the use of 3D graphics and, true to it's name, the ability to layer sub elements within a given waveform.

On the plus side, SpectraLayers Pro that recognizes that noise sources such as air conditioners, sirens, and feedback also generate harmonics, and it provides the tools to deal with them.

While you can most assuredly perform noise reduction tasks with this app as a beginner (watch the "how-to" video), even a basic knowledge of audio will help dramatically to make sense out of all those squiggly little lines and speed your learning curve.

First Look

SpectraLayers Pro at first look is deceptively plain. Simple tool bar, simple panels for history, layers, etc. However, that layers panel is the tip-off that this is a different animal. If you've had an occasion to use Adobe Photoshop, this aspect may be familiar, and even comforting. Much of the publicity makes big claims about how you can edit audio like it was in Photoshop, which is great if you are experienced with Photoshop. However, this may take some getting used to.

Layout and Choices

Upon opening SpectraLayers Pro, there is only one main screen: The top of the screen has the usual toolbars: File, Edit, View, etc. The File tab has provisions for creating, opening and saving a project, a button for recovering a session, and provisions for importing and rendering layers, as well as rendering the mix. The Edit tab features Undo and Redo, Snap to grid, Delete, Cut, Copy and Paste controls, each represented by icons in the tool bar, and provisions for inserting and deleting time. There are options for setting the selection, mouse cursor and time cursor positions and resampling the whole project. The View tab has provisions for choosing what toolbars and panels are displayed, as well as saving custom layouts. The Advanced settings allow you to assign paths for your sessions and logs, the depth of the history, and the color of your mix, layers and clipboard.

The Layer tab allows you to view the properties of a given layer and duplicate or delete a layer. The Process tab has provisions for generating a specific frequency or white noise, as well as a simple channel mixer and ports to your regular audio editing program and VST plug-ins, amongst other things.

The Options tab lets you set the time base, as well as display parameters for the timeline, it also utilizes a zebra pattern for loudness, a level multiplier to control the depth of the 3D display, and gamma to control brightness of the timeline. Manipulating the controls gives you command over the brightness of the timeline and how frequency, amplitude and phase are displayed in the Units sub-tab.

Underneath the first row are the tools and icons relevant to the app, such as Select, Move, Delete, etc., with playback transport and display parameter controls rounding out the row. To the right of the record controls, are controls for adjusting the size and sampling resolution of the display. There are sliders to adjust the brightness of the display, based on their amplitude. To the right of that, selectors enabling the cursor to pan, zoom or utilize the 3D displacement tool.

It's easy to get lost in the waveform display, despite comprehensive controls, fortunately the last button is labeled Reset View, and does just that.

To the left of the waveform display, tools for editing, and to the right, history, channel and layer panels. At the bottom and the right of the waveform display, you find X/Y controls for panning and scrolling the display. The very bottom of the layers panel has buttons for adding or deleting layers.

So how do you fly this thing?

Upon first opening a file, one might immediately feel thrown off by the, er, spectral display. It's quite different from the typical waveform display, and when you move the cursor around, you are reminded of the guy in The Hunt for Red October who did all the sound analysis.

Once you work your way through a couple of noise edits, you should be editing at a respectable pace in a reasonable amount of time, depending on how comfortable you are with audio in the first place. The provided instruction video and webinar clearly show you the process involved and are found in support and training.

Another note of caution, check the technical specifications, if you have an older machine that "sort of" skates on the specs, you may experience hang-ups. Likewise, the graphics are very intensive, so make sure you have a video card that's up to the job.

Even though some of us begrudgingly refuse to believe that software such as this can really "unmix" an audio file, SpectraLayers Pro comes exceptionally close, and leaps and bounds over it's nearest competitor.

SpectraLayers Pro is like one of those exotic bicycles they use in a velodrome - no brakes, intimidating, difficult to learn, but once you get a few laps under your belt, look out!

Tech Specs
Platform: Windows 8/7/Vista, Mac OS X 10.6/10.7/10.8 - 2GB of free hard disk space (for temporary files) - 1280x720 display resolution
Supported File Formats
Read: AAC, AIFF, Apple Core Audio Format (.caf), Apple Lossless (.alac), FLAC, MP3, RAW/PCM, Real Media (.rm), Sun (.au, .snd), Video (AVI, MXF, MP1, MP2, MP4, MKV, Quicktime, .vob, .wmv), Ogg Vorbis, Wave, WMA
Write: AAC - 256kbps, AIFF - 24-bit PCM, .caf, .alac, FLAC, MP3 - 320kbps, Wave - 24-bit, Wave - 32-bit, RAW/PCM 32-bit, Ogg Vorbis - 320kbps, WMA

System requirements:
Microsoft Windows:
Windows 8 32-bit/64-bit, Windows Vista 32-bit/64-bit SP2 or Windows 7 32-bit/64-bit SP1
Dual-core processor (quad-core processor recommended) 2GB RAM
Supported NVIDIA or AMD/ATI GPU with 512MB or more RAM: NVIDIA: GeForce GTX 2xx Series or higher with driver 285.62 or later. Quadro 400 or higher (or Quadro FX x700 or higher) with driver 285.62 or later. AMD/ATI: Radeon HD 47xx or higher GPU with Catalyst driver 11.7 or later. If using a FirePro GPU, FirePro unified driver 8.85 or later is required.
Windows-compatible audio hardware
Internet Explorer 8 or later, Firefox 10 or later, or Google Chrome 13 or later (for viewing help).

Mac OS:
Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard), 10.7 (Lion), 10.8 (Mountain Lion)
Intel dual-core processor (quad-core processor recommended) 2GB RAM
OpenGL 2.1 compatible graphics card with 256MB
CoreAudio-compatible audio hardware

Strengths

  • Record directly in SpectraLayers Pro
  • Able to use VST plug-ins.
  • Innovative 3D view is a very effective tool for separating elements!
  • Comprehensive ability to manipulate audio waveforms previously unavailable.
  • Sets a new benchmark for noise reduction applications.

Weaknesses

  • Learning curve may be awkward.
  • Does not work and play well with all video cards or CPUs.
  • Essentially a stand-alone app - some editing programs will import/export to it, for others, you must create and import stand-alone audio-only files.

Summary

For the serious sound editor working on complex audio projects, this is the program to get!

Sony Creative Software, Inc.
www.sonycreativesoftware.com
$400

Mark Speer is a producer, director, editor and video educator.

Tags:  February 2013
Mark
Speer
Mon, 01/07/2013 - 8:53am

Comments