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Adobe Audition 3

February 25, 2008
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As a fully-functional trial download is available (Windows only), there’s little point in delving into pages of details; the question is whether you want to take the time to check out the software. While Audition 3 may just seem like version 2 with MIDI piano roll editing and VSTi support, look deeper. . . .

MIDI: ON A (PIANO) ROLL

Although Audition could import SMFs and handle ReWire, it couldn’t record or edit MIDI. V3’s piano roll editor changes that, but it’s different from the norm: Each MIDI track has its own “sequencer” (piano roll with other options), which pops up into a window with tabs for each sequencer. Another difference: If you want to undo a recording, there’s individual undo for each sequencer. MIDI guitarists, or those recording a MIDI band, rejoice—you can record into multiple tracks, yet undo recording for each track individually.

The piano roll has editing views for notes, velocity, and controllers, with the usual marquee/pencil/eraser tools. Again, though, things are a little different, as these tools are designed for precision editing, not freehand drawing or erasing. Clicking on a velocity “tail” colors the note being affected, which is handy if you’re working on chords or clusters of notes; you can also ctrl-click multiple lines to adjust them, with values changing linearly (not ratiometrically—it would be nice to have the option).

Of course, you can snap, quantize, and the like, as well as randomize velocity and “humanize” timing. There’s also a MIDI controller Learn function, and more interestingly, you can constrain to a scale, with a choice of key and mode (major, minor, and harmonic minor). This is cool, but a bit of a missed opportunity as there are certainly plenty of other scale options. Also, note that this happens on playback; you won’t hear the scale snap as you play.

While there’s no support for MIDI effect plug-ins, or sophisticated filtering/editing options like Cubase’s Logical Editor, the VSTi/MIDI support adds an important creative element. However, I found that Cakewalk’s instruments (Dimension, Rapture, z3ta+, etc.) opened into a window that didn’t show the entire GUI and couldn’t be resized; on the plus side for instruments, the program bundles in a basic poly synth, bass synth, and sound font player.

MIXING AND RECORDING TWEAKS

Several changes beef up Audition’s multitrack functionality: Clip handles make it easy to adjust fade curves (including grouped clips), auto-crossfades happen simply by overlapping clips, you can clone tracks, and do “ripple” edits that close the gap when you cut part of a clip. And while this feature isn’t new with Audition 3, it bears repeating: With two clicks, you can open multitrack audio in the edit view and apply sophisticated digital audio editing techniques. While other programs let you open up audio in other editors, Audition builds extremely sophisticated editing into the DAW itself.

Another interesting twist is that Audition can save multitrack sessions in XML format. I have a feeling this is more of a “future-proof” feature than something that will change your life today, but with OMF fading to some degree, XML support is welcome.

EFFECTIVE EFFECTS

Audition has always had a superb roster of processors, and version 3 builds on that with a tube-modeled compressor, iZotope’s Radius pitch shift algorithms, a couple new restoration processors (adaptive noise reduction and automatic phase correction), mastering section that looks like a lite version of Ozone 3, “guitar suite” (with compressor, filter, distortion, and cabinet modeling—fun stuff!), and convolution reverb.

Many people who habitually use other DAWs or editors purchased Audition for the restoration effects alone, and that won’t change. The noise reduction has always been outstanding; the frequency space editing introduced in version 2 deserves special mention. I’ve used it to do everything from excise the breathing noises of a classical guitarist to removing the kick drum from a loop so I could add my own kick—powerful stuff. The sample rate conversion is also high quality, and the price is less than that of many restoration suites alone.

Don’t let the “plain Jane” look of the effects interfaces fool you: Audition is a processing powerhouse.

FUN WITH SYNESTHESIA

While Audition didn’t introduce the concept of turning images into sound or exporting sounds as images, version 3 makes it mainstream. You can bring in a picture of, say, a flower or mountain and after Audition treats it as a spectral view, listen to what it “sounds” like. But there’s much more. I exported a drum loop in spectral view, and edited it in Paint by taking the part of the spectrum that had the kick, copying it, and pasting it off-beat at a higher frequency. I then painted in some squares at what seemed to be appropriate rhythmic intervals, and whaddya know—cool percussion hit overdubs. This is a sound designer’s dream.

The only damper was trying to use the frequency space editing features, like the “healing brush,” marquee, effects brush, or even the lasso, to cut or copy specific sections (or change gain): If I tried editing with anything other than the usual I-beam cursor, Audition would crash. It turns out that Adobe implemented support for up to eight CPU cores for multithreading, however a bug exists that only allocates memory for four. The company plans to address this soon, but using Task Manager to set processor affinity to four cores (I tested this on an eight-core PC Audio Labs computer) provides a workaround . . . and once again, I was a happy spectral camper.

CONCLUSIONS

I use Audition a lot for mastering work, particularly for restoration. While I haven’t found the multitrack implementation compelling enough to switch from other programs, version 3 gives DAW features that put its multitrack implementation in the big leagues. And when it comes to value—there’s even about 5GB of content included (loops, sessions, beds)—Audition 3 is very tough to beat.

As is typical these days for major updates, there are a couple “version X.0” issues that need to be addressed. But overall, Audition 3 will keep the faithful happy, gain new fans (including those who install Audition as a “Swiss Army knife” complement to their existing DAW), and most importantly, continue the tradition of being deep yet easy to use.

Product type: Digital audio/MIDI sequencer with advanced digital audio editing.
Target market: Windows-oriented recording studios, budget mastering suites.
Strengths: Adds MIDI recording and editing, with VSTi support. Outstanding mastering tools. Clean. and somewhat more customizable, interface. Benign copy protection (no dongle). Cost-effective. Bundles lots of content. Deep editing available for multitrack audio.
Limitations: MIDI not as sophisticated as many other DAWs. Some “version X.0” issues with soft synths and multicore support need attention.
List price: $349; upgrade from any version of Audition (including versions bought as part of a suite) $99
Contact: www.adobe.com

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