What family of video editing tools are you most comfortable with? There’s Avid, with its extensive legacy in broadcast and film. Or Adobe, with its ever-more-tightly integrated Creative Suite, from imaging to video to the web. And Apple, with its Final Cut Studio expanding from professional editing to digital cinema.
And then there’s Sony Creative Software, with a legacy based in audio from the acquisition of Sonic Foundry back in 2003. Instead of a collection of tools combined into an integrated suite, Sony has a small family of professional products that run on Windows, featuring Vegas Pro for video, plus two powerful audio tools that are suites in their own right: Sound Forge Pro for audio editing and mastering, and ACID Pro for music creation.
Sony Sound Forge Pro 10, released in September 2009, continues this legacy as a professional digital audio production suite, including audio recording, editing, processing, and mastering audio files – plus sound design, audio restoration, and CD creation for professional replication.
The new version 10 enhances the interface with a more customizable workspace combining floating, dockable, and tabbed windows, and adds interactive tutorials to help get started with editing tasks. It expands editing with event-based editing to work on blocks in a single window, support for musical instrument files, and extensive additional tools and effects. Sony also has integrated disc-at-once CD burning into Sound Forge Pro to directly generate Red Book audio premasters for professional replication.
Sound Forge Pro 10 is available for around $375. The product also includes Sony Noise Reduction 2 for restoring damaged clips, Sony CD Architect 5.2 for professional Red Book Audio CD mastering, and the iZotope Mastering Effects Bundle 2 plug-ins. A trial download is available to experience Sound Forge Pro for yourself.
Quality and Performance
Sound Forge Pro supports full-resolution 24-bit audio to capture the subtle nuances of sound, with 32-bit / 64-bit float 192 kHz files, and recording from 24-bit hardware.
Version 10 adds tools from iZotope for higher-quality processing, with MBIT+ Dither for bit-depth conversion (e.g., truncating from 24- to 16-bit), 64-Bit SRC for sample rate conversion (e.g., downsampling from 192 kHz to CD-quality 44.1 kHz), and the Mastering Effects Bundle 2 with six professional audio plug-ins at 64-bit precision, including EQ, reverb, compressor, limiter boost, imager and stereo width, and analog exciter.
For more efficient processing, Sound Forge Pro supports low-latency ASIO drivers for real-time monitoring while recording from sound cards, multitasking to continue editing while background rendering, and a new RAM cache option to reserve memory for media files.
Sound Forge Pro obviously opens and saves audio files in a wide variety of common file formats. It also can extract clips directly from audio CD, including looking up information using Gracenote MusicID.
And it fully supports working with multichannel audio, including editing down to the sample level.
For working with Vegas or other video editors, Sound Forge Pro supports editing audio with video, importing common video formats, playing audio in sync with video, and exporting with video rendering options.
Interface and Editing
The Sound Forge Pro interface is deceptively simple, until you dig in to the vast array of toolbars and processing options in the menus.
Each new audio file opens in its own data window, with extensive tools available to view and analyze the sound, including custom colors, channel meters, statistics, and a spectrum analysis window. It now also supports viewing and editing the metadata associated with audio files.
You can do basic cut and paste / drag and drop editing directly in the window, and more with the toolbars, and then turn to the menus to apply further processing: Insert synthesized sounds, Process clip formats (e.g., depth, EQ, normalize, resample), clean with Tools (noise reduction, click and crackle, restoration), and apply Effects (delay, reverb, pitch). The Plug-In Manager tool also organizes other non-Sony plug-ins under the FX Favorites menu.
Just as one example of the depth of the interface, you can now set the default fade types as a global option (wet/dry mix and fade in/out curves). You typically then apply fades to individual clips using a dialog that offers gradual and exponential presets or manually drawn curves – but each Process and Effect dialog also includes options to also apply various fades and gains.
Oh, and Sound Forge Pro also has built-in scripting to automate repetitive tasks, also with support for JScript, VBScript, and C# programming.
Processing and Effects
Sony provides a plethora of effects with Sound Forge Pro, with over 40 professional studio effects and processes, which include some 200 predesigned presets for common uses. You can automate effects including Volume, Delay, and Chorus, and use the Plug-In Chainer to link up to 32 DirectX and VST plug-ins into a single processing chain that can be previewed in real time – and saved as a preset.
In addition to the new iZotope tools, Sound Forge Pro 10 also adds the Zplane lastique Timestretch Pro plug-in for enhanced time stretch and pitch shifting tailored to the source audio characteristics. There’s also the new Resonant filter plug-in to create dramatic resonant and oscillating fades, sweeps and effects (“wah-wah on steroids”).
Suite Unto Itself
Sony, with its Sonic Foundry heritage, is focusing on creating powerful individual tools for specific types of professional needs, and particularly in audio. ACID Pro, then, is for music creation – composing, recording, mixing, and arranging audio and MIDI tracks.
Sound Forge Pro is for audio editing and mastering, including sound design, audio restoration, processing and effects, and even Red Book CD creation. Sound Forge Pro version 10 is a strong upgrade, with a more customizable interface, enhanced editing tools, and more included processing and effects plug-ins for higher quality audio editing.
Microsoft Windows XP (Service Pack 2 or later), Windows Vista (Service Pack 2 or later), or Windows 7, 1 GHz processor, 350 MB hard-disk space for program installation, 512 MB RAM, Windows-compatible sound card, DVD-ROM drive (for installation from a DVD only), Supported CD-Recordable drive (for CD burning only), Microsoft DirectX 9.0c or later, Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0
Supported Input file formats (*Supported multichannel format)
AA3*, AAC, AIF, ASF, AU, AVI*, CDA, DIG, DLS, DV, FRG, GIF, GIG, IVC, M2A, M2P, M2T, M4A, M4B, MMV, OGG, MOV, MP1, MP3, MP4, MPEG, MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 video, Sony MXF*, PCA, QT, RAW, SD, SFA, SF*, SND, TIF, VOB, VOX, W64*, WAV*, WMA*, WMV
Supported Output file formats (*Supported multichannel format)
AA3*, AC3*, AIF, ATRAC*, AU, AVI*, DIG, DLS, FRG, GIG, IVC, M1A, M1P, M2A, M2P, M2T, MMV, MOV, MP1, MP2, MP3, MP4, MPA, MPEG, MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 video, Sony MXF*, OGG, PCA, RAW, RM, SF2, VOX, W64*, WAV*, WMA*, WMV
- End-to-end audio editing: recording, editing, mastering
- Broad support for audio formats, multichannel, music instrument files
- Broad set of processing tools and effects for quality audio
- Deep presets and options in tool dialogs
- Could better describe purpose and target use of tools
- Pitch effects do not include autotune / pitch correction
- Spectrum Analysis window can view but not edit audio
- Limited integration with Vegas and ACID (edit source project)
Audio editing powerhouse – from raw audio to editing to mastering, including sound design, audio restoration, processing and effects, and even Red Book CD creation.
Sony Creative Software
1617 Sherman Ave.
Madison, WI 53704
Price: $375 download – $400 packaged
Doug Dixon covers digital media at Manifest-Tech.com.