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electronic MUSICIAN

ADOBE SYSTEMS, INC. AUDITION 1.5 (WIN)

By Allan Metts | January 1, 2005

Adobe Audition (once known as Syntrillium's Cool Edit Pro) has always been a solid contender in the world of Windows-based audio editors. Now at version 1.5, Audition has blossomed into much more than a simple editor. With enhanced CD-burning capabilities, a new video track, and unusual spectrum-editing features, Audition has become a full-blown digital audio workstation, capable of performing complex tasks in real-time and off-line environments.

FIG 1: Adobe Audition''s user interface is both attractive and efficient. You can move between tracking, editing, mixing, and CD-burning tasks with ease.

I reviewed Cool Edit Pro 2.0 in the December 2002 issue of EM, so I'll focus on only the new features in this review. If you want to check out the program for yourself, download the 30-day trial version at Adobe's Web site (www.adobe.com).

ON YOUR MARK

Audition installed without a hitch on my system, and I was up and running within minutes. On startup, you're presented with an attractive user interface that provides instantaneous access to the program's Edit and Multitrack views (see Fig. 1). The Edit view is for editing and applying offline effects to your audio files. The Multitrack view is where you assemble audio compositions and take advantage of real-time effects. The expected status indicators, buttons, meters, and transport controls are common to both views, as is the Organizer window, which gives you quick access to your project files and available effects.

All of Audition's views and windows are tightly integrated, allowing for efficient workflow as you develop the details of a project. For example, you can drag a file from the Organizer to its proper place in the Multitrack view, and then double-click on it there to open it in the Edit view for further refinement.

BURN BABY BURN

A CD Project view, which integrates well with the rest of the program (see Fig. 2), is new to this version of Audition. To assemble the tracks of a CD, drag them from the Organizer window into the CD Project view. Once there, you can change track titles, set the amount of silence between tracks, and reorder tracks. Indicators give you track start and end times, track lengths, and the total time and disk space that your project consumes.

FIG 2: To assemble tracks for CD burning, drag files or Cues from Audition''s Organizer window (left) to the CD Project view (right).

The CD Project view also allows portions of audio files to be used as CD tracks. Audition's Cue list, which is used to specify points and regions of interest within your audio files, now has a new type of Cue called Track. Track Cues appear beneath their associated file in the Organizer window and can be dragged to the CD Project view, just as if they were audio files.

The Cues-as-tracks feature was well suited for converting my vinyl LPs to CDs. Instead of saving each song as a separate audio file, I recorded an entire album side as one audio file and then created Cues for each song. Unfortunately, Cue names don't automatically translate to track titles — if you name your Cues with song titles as I did, you'll have to repeat the process in the CD Project view.

The CD-burning process worked flawlessly, and the professional settings, such as the copy protection and pre-emphasis flags, are an added bonus.

WHAT'S YOUR FREQUENCY?

Audition's new frequency-domain editing is by far my favorite addition to the program (see Fig. 3). In the past, Audition had the ability to display the spectrum of a sound, but now you can also edit the spectrum using Audition's audio-editing tools (cut, copy, paste, and so on). Furthermore, you can even process selected regions of the spectrum using effects.

I put the new editing feature to work on a seriously blemished acoustic-piano recording that I haven't been able to clean using other tools. The recording contains chair squeaks, a dog sneeze, and the sound of a sustain pedal moving the dampers. Audition's Frequency-Space editing tools did the job.

FIG 3: Audition''s Frequency Space editing feature is powerful and easy to use. You can select specific frequencies and apply editing and effects, just as you can in the more traditional Waveform view.

Working in Audition's Spectral view, I was easily able to recognize the noisy artifacts, which appeared as vertical bars spanning the entire frequency range. Once I selected the offending frequencies with the new Marquee tool, I removed them using the standard Cut command.

For some of the blemishes, I captured a noise print of the highlighted frequencies and then used Audition's Noise-reduction tool to eliminate the offending audio. For others, I used the Silence command on the highlighted frequencies and then corrected the audio by pasting in the frequencies that existed just before and after the noise. That feature alone makes Audition 1.5 worth the upgrade price.

MIND YOUR MULTITRACK

Several improvements have been made to the Multitrack view. Volume envelopes can be scaled directly with the mouse or the menu option. Using the mouse, you hold down the Alt key while dragging the envelope up or down. With the menu, choose how far (in decibels) you want to shift the envelope up or down.

Another rescaling function is invoked when you hold the Control key as you drag the envelope. That function shifts the points up or down proportional to the lowest points of the envelope. Scaling using the Control key allows volume changes to either flatten out or become more extreme. Scaling using the Alt key shifts the volume of your entire envelope up or down, keeping the relative differences between envelope points intact.

There's also a new feature called Clip Time Stretch that appears in the Multi-track view. When enabled, dragging the lower-right portion of a Clip automatically initiates time stretching or compression without affecting pitch. That is a remarkably intuitive way to perform this operation, since you can use the visual cues of other tracks to assist you in stretching a clip to just the right length.

Video support is also improved in the Multitrack view. Audition now opens any video file in a format supported by Microsoft DirectShow (AVI, MPEG-2, and WMV, for example). If you import an audio track from an AVI file along with the video, you can remix the audio or even substitute a new music track and save it back out as an AVI file. You can't, however, import a WMV movie and convert it to an AVI file.

Once imported, the video file appears in the Multitrack view, along with thumbnail images to help you keep your bearings (see Fig. 1). A separate video-preview window shows the images in real time (you can select high- or low-quality versions as needed). The bottom line is that you'll have no trouble doing audio-for-video work with Audition.

EFFECTIVE EFFECTS

Audition has always had an extensive suite of effects, and with Version 1.5 you get even more. Now you can use your favorite VST plug-ins, as VST support has been added alongside DirectX and Audition's built-in effects.

FIG 4: Audition''s Pitch Correction effect includes a manual mode, which lets you apply precise adjustments to specific pitches in your studio.

There are some great new built-in effects. Center Channel Extractor, for example, lets you boost or cut specific frequency ranges that span the stereo field. At first I assumed this effect was useful only for zapping the vocals from established recordings (karaoke, for example), but it is capable of much more. If you realize too late that the female vocalist needs to come out a little more in the mix, that effect can save you. Predefined frequency ranges such as Male Voice, Female Voice, Bass, and Full Spectrum will get you going quickly.

Audition's Pitch Correction effect lets you apply subtle or extreme pitch changes to a vocal or other performance. The effect has two modes of operation. In Automatic mode, pick a scale and key (major, minor, and chromatic scales are supported) and adjust the sliders for attack and sensitivity. It's easy to achieve natural-sounding correction in this mode. By maximizing the sensitivity- and attack-slider levels, I achieved that Kid Rock — like synthetic “overcorrected” effect.

I especially like Pitch Correction's Manual mode (see Fig. 4). In it, the waveform of your performance aligned with a graph of the pitches that Audition detects in that performance. Using the same types of envelope tools found in the Multitrack view, you can draw in exactly how much pitch correction you want (up to four semitones in either direction). Manual mode is great if your vocalist missed only one or two notes during the performance.

Rounding out the new effects is an enhanced Click/Pop eliminator and Studio Reverb. Audition already had a Click/Pop eliminator, but it had complex controls and lacked real-time preview capabilities. The new automatic version is much simpler to use, and it performed just fine on my vinyl LPs. The original eliminator is still available if you need more precise control.

Studio Reverb represents Audition's third reverb effect. One of the others, Full Reverb, is a bit too CPU intensive for real-time use, and the second, QuickVerb, is too simple, although it's less of a processor hog. Studio Reverb strikes a happy balance between the two and provides more control and quality than QuickVerb, but it remains nimble enough for real-time use.

CONNECT THE WIRES

Audition now supports Propellerhead's ReWire technology, which allows you to easily integrate ReWire-enabled soft synths into the program's Multitrack view. I tested this capability with Propellerhead's Reason and found that I could perfectly synchronize the transports of the two programs. In addition, I had multiple channels of Reason audio within the Multitrack view that could be mixed down in tandem with other Audition audio tracks.

Unfortunately, I couldn't get Audition's MIDI track to play Reason's soft synths directly, at least not without using a third-party MIDI patcher like Jamie O'Connell's MIDI Yoke (which isn't a terribly inconvenient workaround). Audition envelopes can't be applied to ReWire tracks, nor can you arm those tracks and record them. You can, however, solo a ReWire track and “mix” it down to audio, which is almost as convenient. Audition's ReWire capability is a welcome and useful addition to the program.

In addition to the new features, Adobe has included some usability improvements. Highly configurable PreRoll and PostRoll settings ensure that you've selected the right audio before you apply an edit or effect. You can also choose what to play when pressing the Play and Circle-Play buttons on the Transport bar. For instance, you can hear PreRoll and your selection when the Play button is pressed or hear just the PreRoll and PostRoll (without your selection) when Circle-Play is pressed.

GET ORGANIZED

The Organizer window has new preview features. You can have files play automatically as you click on them, and adjust the preview volume separately from the rest of the program.For looped audio, you can automatically change the preview tempo to that of your session. You can even start the preview playback while the main Audition transport is running, which allows you to hear what a new file might sound like in the context of your song.

Speaking of looped audio, Adobe now includes 500 additional new loops with the program, bringing the total to more than 5,000. If you regularly create music with audio loops, that represents a tremendous value.

Audition's online help is task based and complete. You also get a nicely printed manual. Twenty sample sessions serve as excellent examples to get you started. If you're heavily involved with video, you can purchase Audition as part of Adobe's Video Collection bundle — several of Audition's tools, menus, and keyboard shortcuts share common behavior with Premiere Pro and the other products in the bundle. You'll also find a demo of Minnetonka's DiscWelder Bronze to get you started in the DVD-A world.

It's worth noting that Audition doesn't have certain features that you'll find in some of its competitors. If you need significant MIDI support, advanced video editing, extensive DVD-A authoring and burning, or professional-grade surround editing, you might want to look elsewhere. But Audition costs a fraction of what you'd pay for programs like Steinberg WaveLab, Cakewalk Sonar, or Sony Vegas. And neither Sonar nor Vegas have the detailed audio-editing capabilities found in Audition's Edit view. As always, let your specific needs and your wallet be your guide.

All in all, Audition 1.5 represents a substantial upgrade. If you're an existing user, upgrading is a no-brainer. And if you are looking for a high-quality digital audio powerhouse, give Audition a whirl.


Allan Metts is an Atlanta-based musician, software/systems designer, and consultant.

Minimum System Requirements

Audition 1.5

Pentium 400 MHz; 64 MB RAM;
Windows 2000/XP

PRODUCT SUMMARY

Adobe Systems, Inc.

Audition 1.5
multitrack audio editor
$299
Upgrade from Cool Edit Pro: $169
Upgrade from Audition 1.0: $69

FEATURES 4.0
EASE OF USE 4.5
DOCUMENTATION 5.0
VALUE 4.5
RATING PRODUCTS FROM 1 TO 5

PROS: User interface supports efficient project workflow. Numerous effects (VST and DirectX). Integrated CD burning. ReWire support. Powerful frequency domain editing.

CONS: Cue names don't link to CD track titles. No envelope support on ReWire tracks.

Manufacturer

Adobe Systems, Inc.
Tel.: (800) 833-6687 or (408) 536-6000
Web: www.adobe.com

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