BIAS SoundSoap Pro

EQ reviewed the original SoundSoap, a quick ’n’ dirty — uh, I mean, quick ’n’ clean — noise reducer. SoundSoap Pro (SSP) is what you’d expect: A more sophisticated, evolved, and costly version of SoundSoap. Budget-wise, it fits in the midrange of noise reduction tools, but its feature set is more high end.

There are two Big Deals. First, like SoundSoap, SSP works in real time. Second, it’s a plug-in that plays nice with a variety of formats and applications.

SSP has four integrated “modules”: noise reducers for hum/rumble, clicks/crackles, and broadband noise, followed by an output noise gate. They all benefit from a simple interface, and a useful spectrogram to monitor the signal. There are global controls for compare, “noise only” (to make sure you’re not removing important parts of the signal — particularly meaningful because it represents the processing of all four tools), and a series of tabs, set to an intelligent default position, for selecting the four modules. Broadband is particularly adjustable; SSP provides good default settings, but a little tweaking can turn “good” into “wow.”

SSP is not immune from the Noise Reduction paradox: Noise reduction works best on signals without much noise. For slightly grimy signals, SSP removes the dirt without bleach or causing colors to fade. The broadband noise reducer is particularly effective, and I found some bonus features: The rumble filter doubles as a kick drum remover for DJs, the noise gate let me keep just the kick and snare from a drum loop while removing the closed hi-hat, and the “wrong” broadband settings gave good alien voices. Okay, that’s not what SSP is about, but yes, it has hidden talents.

For the acid test, I added unrealistic amounts of clicks and noise to a drum loop, then tested it with SSP, Adobe Audition’s noise reduction tools, and Diamond Cut 5 (there’s a new version of DC that works as a plug-in, but I wasn’t able to set it up in time for this review).

I knew none of these would be able to clean the sound completely; I just wanted to see how they affected the sound when stressed to the max. However, it was impossible to do an A/B comparison because changing one parameter could make one better in one aspect, but worse in another. Each one had a “sweet spot;” however, that sweet spot involved varying tradeoffs, which were different among the different programs. SSP nailed the broadband, hum, and noise gate, but getting good click reduction was tricky — I wanted more resolution at the low settings (apparently so did BIAS; they’re adding this to the next update).

SoundSoap Pro is more expensive than, say, Audition, but considerably less than Waves Restoration X. Either way, people will value what they get in return: The ability to work with multiple hosts on Mac or Windows as a plug-in (and with the HASP dongle, it will work wherever you want it to), and perhaps more important, real time operation. It’s a huge time-saver to be able to tweak while a track is playing rather than having to preview, adjust, preview, etc. However, like any plugs that do extensive realtime processing, SoundSoap Pro likes CPU power. It’s best used on a track or two at a time, then rendered before moving on.

As an effective, general-purpose signal cleaner, SSP is hard to beat. The combination of four important tools, and the speed with which you can use them, makes SSP a pleasure to use. When deadlines loom, it won’t let you down