its name implies, BIAS's Deck is a multitrack audio editor based on the
paradigm of a tape-recorder/mixing-console combo. Version 3.5 makes
Deck available for Mac OS X, and the update adds features such as 5.1
surround mixing capabilities, the ability to import OMF files, and
fader linking in Deck's Mixer.
Deck does not require a particularly fast computer or a lot of RAM,
because it primarily plays audio files, which it streams from your hard
drive. It does support VST effects plug-ins, and if you use a lot of
them you will want a faster computer. On my Mac G4/800 PowerBook, I
easily ran 24 tracks, with effects, and the CPU meter stayed below 20
ONE BY ONE
All audio tracks and mixer channels in Deck are mono. That makes it
a good choice for live recording, mixing, and manipulating mono tracks.
Deck automatically converts stereo audio files into Sound Designer II
split-stereo format, and to use them you need to drag each channel to
its own mono track. If you use a lot of prerecorded stereo audio files
— from sample CDs, for example — Deck may not be well
suited to your needs: when you want to use an insert plug-in, you need
to use a separate insert for each channel in order to maintain the
stereo image. The two channels of a stereo file cannot be linked, so
it's easy to get them out of sync by moving or chopping one and not the
other. Deck does provide options to minimize that inconvenience. On the
other hand, you can do some interesting things with unsynchronized
channels, as the MP3 example Crisscross shows.
FIG. 1: Deck's Tracks window (top) can hold up to 64 playable tracks and 999 nonplaying Work tracks. The Mixer window's channel strips (bottom) provide a visual mixing surface. But aside from plug-in control, all of the Mixer's functions can be carried out in the Tracks window.
Most of Deck's action takes place in its Tracks and Mixer windows
(see Fig. 1). The Tracks window is for arranging regions of
audio data on horizontal tracks along a timeline. The Mixer window is
for controlling the playback volume, pan position, and effects on each
of those tracks. The left column of the Tracks window contains all the
Mixer window settings (except for effects), and you can change the
Mixer settings in either location. This allows you to fill the screen
with the Tracks window and still have control over the mix.
Deck distinguishes between two kinds of tracks: Playback tracks and
Work tracks. Only Playback tracks play audio, and they are always at
the top of the tracklist, followed by the Work tracks. The maximum
number of Playback tracks is 64, but you can set the actual number in
Deck's preferences. Playback tracks are indicated by a number in the
oval display to the left of the track name. You can have up to 999 Work
tracks, indicated by a W in the same oval display.
Work tracks, which can be created as needed, hold audio regions that
you may want to use in the future, such as alternate takes. Any track
can be instantly swapped with any other using a pop-up menu in the
Tracks or Mixer window. This allows you to swap various Work tracks to
test different arrangements, as well as reorder your Playback tracks.
All data, including mix automation, is swapped.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
Deck has two modes — Range and Object — for working with
audio regions in the Tracks window. The Range tool allows you to lasso
rectangular segments of audio data across multiple tracks. Once
selected, the segments can be dragged or nudged vertically and
horizontally, or simply sliced out to create new regions.
One very nice feature of Range mode is that the computer keyboard's
Arrow keys can be used to move the range around without moving the
actual data. That allows you to, for example, select a perfectly cut
drum loop, then move the range around as a cookie cutter to select the
same amount of time in another audio file. Having done that, you can
nudge the range back and forth to home in on a perfect loop in that
The Object tool allows you to select individual regions for resizing
and moving. Multiple, noncontiguous regions can be selected and altered
as a group. Resizing regions is possible because a region is simply a
pair of pointers in the audio file. Moving its end points just moves
the pointers, causing a different part of the audio file to be
Creating regions not only allows you to rearrange audio clips, but
also is the first step in creating crossfades. Deck's crossfade
strategy is powerful and simple. Once two regions are butted up against
each other, you simply use the Range tool to select the crossfade
range, then invoke a default crossfade shape or select a custom one.
The only thing you need to be aware of is whether there is data in the
audio files in the crossfade area beyond the region boundaries. You can
also set up a default crossfade time and use it to crossfade butted
regions without having to select the crossfade range. That technique
can be applied simultaneously to multiple regions and is great for
quickly smoothing out transitions between regions. The MP3 example
Crisscross processes a one-bar stereo guitar loop by changing the
length of one of the channels and crossfading all the butt splices.
In addition to crossfades, fade-ins, and fade-outs, you can create
volume and pan automation in real time or after the fact. Real-time
automation can be entered with a MIDI controller or using the onscreen
faders. After-the-fact automation is entered graphically, directly on
the tracks with the mouse. However entered, automation is part of the
track and is not anchored to audio regions.
BIAS has added extensive support for MIDI automation using the
Tascam US-428 USB control surface. While not offering full MIDI
integration, Deck does support synchronized MIDI file playback using
QuickTime or an external MIDI device.
With Deck, you can record audio input simultaneously on as many
tracks as your audio interface supports. Theoretically, you can
multitrack record your whole band in one pass, or you can overlay
individual parts. Because you are in the digital domain, you can bounce
tracks if need be without any loss in audio quality. You can record as
many takes as you want, moving earlier ones to Work tracks for later
FIG. 2: The Add Audio To Library dialog and associated Library window control Deck's audio file and region management. Only audio references are added to the Library: the audio files remain on your hard drive and do not take up RAM.
Alternatively, you can import audio files from your hard drive in
all the popular formats. As mentioned earlier, stereo files will
automatically be converted into SDII-format split-stereo files. Fig.
2 shows Deck's Audio Import window. The Finder section at the top
is for locating audio files. If the selected file has regions and loops
defined in a format that Deck understands, they can be imported
One major drawback to Deck's import feature is that files cannot be
auditioned — the Play button is permanently grayed out. According
to BIAS, that is due to changes in the way OS X handles audio, and Deck
may be modified to restore auditioning in the future.
When importing audio, you can choose whether to simply refer to the
original or to make a copy in another location. Files on nonvolatile
media such as CDs, as well as files that are not in Deck's audio
format, will be translated and copied automatically.
Deck's audio Library window, seen on the right in Fig. 2, shows all
the audio regions that have been recorded, imported, or created by
operations in the Tracks window. In short, all available audio regions
are there for dragging onto tracks. Audio regions can be deleted from
the Library window without affecting the actual audio data on your hard
drive. Deck also has a destructive Compacting process for automatically
getting rid of unused audio data. That, of course, should be used with
STACKING THE DECK
Deck is a simple but effective multitrack audio editor. It is best
suited to mono tracks, although stereo tracks can be handled with a
little extra effort and care.
If you work extensively with stereo tracks, need sophisticated
loop-management tools, or use MIDI instruments, a similarly priced
midlevel digital audio sequencer might be a better choice (although
those typically don't offer 5.1 surround mixing or OMF support). As an
audio editor, Deck is well designed, efficient, and reasonably
Len Sasso can be contacted through his Web site at www.swiftkick.com.
Minimum System Requirements
G3/266 MHz; 128 MB RAM; Mac OS 8.6
Deck 3.5 (Mac)
multitrack audio editor
upgrade from 3.0 $149
|EASE OF USE
RATING PRODUCTS FROM 1 TO 5
PROS: Simple user interface. Easy to learn and use. Easy on
CPU and RAM.
CONS: Can't audition audio before loading. Manual is
inaccurate and out-of-date. No key commands for horizontal zooming and
BIAS (Berkley Integrated Audio Software)
tel. (800) 775-BIAS or (707) 782-1866