FIG 1: The Documents window is divided into bars that can be repositioned and resized. SmartEdits, shown with color borders in the Waveform bar, are movable clips of audio.
Minneapolis studio owners and self-proclaimed Mac zealots Matthew Foust and Evan Olcott set out to develop the audio editor of their dreams. Their goal was to incorporate the features they wanted in the studio while adhering strictly to Apple's Aqua GUI standard. The result is an application that screams OS X (and requires Tiger). If you're a seasoned Apple user, you'll feel right at home with Wave Editor.
Wave Editor concentrates on audio file analysis, editing, and effects processing. It draws heavily on the paradigm of graphics-editing software such as Adobe Photoshop and QuarkXPress. Instead of having multiple tracks for playing and mixing audio files, it lets you separate an audio file into layers, within which you can move audio around and apply individual processes. Wave Editor doesn't offer playlists, but you can use SmartEdits to accomplish the same thing with some interesting twists (see Fig. 1). It supports AU effects plug-ins but not virtual instruments. In short, Wave Editor won't replace your digital audio sequencer, but it does what it does very well.
Got It Covered
Wave Editor can open, save, and edit audio files in all the standard formats, like WAV, AIFF, and Sound Designer II. It can import any format supported by Core Audio and export the compressed formats MP3 and AAC. And it can edit files with any number of channels in either interleaved or Sound Designer II split format.
For slice-based Acid and Apple Loops files, Wave Editor allows you to edit the slices, and then save the results in the original format. It can also create files in those formats from scratch. The program can read files created by Propellerhead ReCycle (REX, RCY, and REX2), but because of Propellerhead's proprietary compression scheme, it can't save in those formats. You can, however, save ReCycle files in other slice-based formats, complete with their slice markers.
Wave Editor's user interface is completely customizable, and you can have as many window-setup templates as you'd like. You can even apply a template to an already open document. That means you can instantly change layouts to suit what you're doing.
The Document window is arranged in bars, Aqua-style. The Waveform bar, which is where all editing takes place, is always present. The remaining six bars — Information, Overview, Playback, Channels, Edit List, and Location — can be toggled on or off as well as rearranged and resized. Most bars have their own Options dialog boxes that allow you to customize their content. Labels and Layers drawers fold out on either side of the Document window.
Wave Editor has nine built-in processes and, as mentioned, supports AU effects plug-ins. It would be nice if VST plug-ins were also supported, but most commercial effects now come in both formats, so that isn't a big issue. The built-in processes are gain change, normalization, phase inversion, DC-offset removal, time-stretching and pitch-shifting, beat slicing, threshold trimming, reversing audio, and sampling-rate conversion. All processes are layer based, and most can be applied to the entire layer or the current selection.
You can pitch-shift in cents or musical intervals. You can time-stretch by percentage, by tempo, or in ruler increments, which are user selectable. When time-stretching, you can choose to either preserve the file's original pitch or use classic-style speedup, which changes time and pitch.
The beat-slicing process, called Thresholds, uses standard attack and delay decibel thresholds with a convenient Interval parameter that keeps the slices a minimum distance apart. The strategy when using Thresholds is to get as many automatic slices as possible, and then manually adjust them as needed.
You can think of SmartEdits as clips or snippets taken from the audio file. By default, each channel of the file is a single SmartEdit, but you can snip individual channels into more SmartEdits as desired. You can also use markers and regions as in other audio editors, and Wave Editor can convert those to SmartEdits.
SmartEdits can be moved, resized, faded in and out, and crossfaded with adjacent SmartEdits. They can also be dragged to other audio documents as real audio clips or as links to the audio in the source document. That's Wave Editor's answer to playlists: open any number of source documents, create SmartEdits of the portions you want in your playlist, and drag linked versions of those SmartEdits to a new document, which then functions as your playlist. You manage crossfades, spacing, and relative levels using the SmartEdits in the new document.
The optional Edit List bar gives you control of a variety of SmartEdit parameters. You can numerically set a SmartEdit's start, end, and fade times. You can choose from among five fade types. You can change gain, lock position, and temporarily deactivate a SmartEdit, which silences and hides it. The Edit List displays a single channel, but you can choose to have the edits apply to all channels.
You can also drag SmartEdits to, from, and within the Edit List, and that's often an easier way to move them around. For example, sliding an edit up and down in the list is the simplest way to swap SmartEdit positions, although care must be taken with overlapping SmartEdits. You can set an Edit List option so that SmartEdits dragged to it are linked by default, rather than copied.
Layers are Wave Editor's answer to multitracking, although they allow for some additional possibilities. The concept of layering is borrowed from the graphics software paradigm, and as with graphics software, layers are part of Wave Editor's internal document format and must be collapsed to produce standard audio files.
FIG 2: Layers with different channel counts can coexist within the same Wave Editor document. The drawer on the right shows each layer with its own effects plug-ins.
Layers are almost completely independent. They can have different numbers of channels, different sampling and bit rates, and different formats. For example, you could load a 5.1-surround AIFF file into one layer and a stereo Apple Loop into another (see Fig. 2). Until collapsed, each layer retains its own properties, its own SmartEdits, and its own plug-in effects.
Layers do impact each other, however. They are processed in order from the top down, and there are four options for how a layer affects the ones above it: it can be added as in standard mixing or subtracted as in phase-inverted mixing, duck the layers above it, or ring-modulate them. Ducking is useful for voice-overs and video-censor editing. You can use Wave Editor's waveform generator to produce a waveform for ring modulation, and then pitch-shift and time-stretch that to vary the effect (see Web Clip 1).
What You See
Wave Editor has several useful utility modules in addition to the waveform generator. The Recorder can record as many as 32 channels of audio, and you can use an audio-routing utility such as Cycling '74's Soundflower to record audio from other applications running on the same Mac. The Level Meter, Stereograph, and Spectrograph windows give you a visual readout for identifying clipping, stereo imaging, and EQ problems (see Fig. 3). The Loop Editor gives you sample-level control over loop tuning.
FIG 3: The Inspector, Analyzer, Lever Meter, Spectrograph, and Stereograph windows provide complete details for each audio file layer.
The Analyzer window identifies peaks, clipping, DC offset, and positive and negative maximums. The Inspector window has panes for audio file statistics, MIDI triggering information, tempo settings, and metadata contained in the file header. MIDI triggering allows you to control playback from a MIDI keyboard with MIDI Note Number controlling either playback speed or start position relative to markers in the audio file. You could use that to trigger individual slices in REX files, for example.
User-definable keyboard shortcuts are available for virtually every Wave Editor function, and many scrolling, zooming, and playback functions are available only through keyboard shortcuts. The ability to customize most aspects of its display and operation is one of Wave Editor's greatest assets.
If you're used to another audio editor, it may take you a little while to get used to Wave Editor's adaptation of graphics-editing techniques. But the advantages those techniques offer are well worth the effort, and the pure Aqua interface is a pleasure to work with.
Len Sasso is an associate editor of EM. Visit his all-new Web site atwww.swiftkick.com.
Wave Editor 1.2.1
PROS: Standard Mac OS X Aqua interface. Clever adaptation of layers paradigm from graphics-editing software. SmartEdits for managing audio snippets within layers.
CONS: Documentation is online and not searchable. No provision to automatically move regions or slices to separate layers.
Guide to EM Meters
5 = Amazing; as good as it gets with current technology
4 = Clearly above average; very desirable
3 = Good; meets expectations
2 = Somewhat disappointing but usable
1 = Unacceptably flawed
EASE OF USE...3