Thanks to the advent of file-sharing systems such as Napster and WinMX, CD burning is at an all-time high. Professional musicians, producers, and DJs have become burn-happy, resulting in cheaper CD-Rs and CD-burning shareware and in CD burners priced at less than $150. Everyone craves editing flexibility, improved CD-layout options, and audio-mastering and -optimization features such as normalizing, EQ, and compression. And everyone wants all of that in a single Red Book-standard, audio CD-burning solution.
Enter Emagic's WaveBurner Pro 2.0 for Macintosh, a standalone CD-burning application that features a graphical user interface and nondestructive editing (that is, it maintains the integrity of the original track) and comes with six well-crafted mastering plug-ins that will elevate the quality of your CDs. With WaveBurner Pro, you can rip CD audio and import WAV, AIFF, SDII, and MP3 files. You can even record directly onto your hard drive, much as you would with a standalone CD-R drive.
WaveBurner Pro 2.0 requires a Power Macintosh 604e with a 200 MHz or faster processor, at least 96 MB of RAM, Mac OS 8.6 or later, and a supported SCSI CD-R drive (see the sidebar “Supported CD Recorders”). You'll need QuickTime 4.x or later for use with MP3 files. I tested the program on a Power Mac G3 with 192 MB of RAM, running Mac OS 9.0.4. I used a Plextor PX-W422OT CD-R drive with firmware 1.01. That CD-R drive one that Roland sells for use with its VS-series portable digital studios worked perfectly at its normal maximum 4× speed.
The software supports ASIO, Direct I/O, Sound Manager, and Audiowerk8/2 drivers, allowing you to use a wide variety of hardware audio interfaces for recording and monitoring. Currently, WaveBurner Pro works only with SCSI CD burners, though Emagic has promised to add FireWire compatibility by the time this article goes to press.
Installation was painless. As I put the program CD away, I began searching for the 57-digit serial number, assuming that the app would ask for it upon initial use; I was pleasantly surprised to discover that WaveBurner Pro doesn't require a serial key or even registration (though registering is a smart way to ensure upgrade notification). All Emagic asks is that every three months you reinsert the disc to guarantee authenticity. That is one of the easiest authentication methods I have seen. Lest traveling producers get ticked off about having to keep track of their program disc's whereabouts, the program allows you to wait as many as seven days before you have to reauthorize. Most home-studio types keep their software handy for emergency reinstalls anyway.
REGIONS AND TRACKS
Like many other audio programs, WaveBurner Pro uses the standard terms regions and tracks. Regions are cohesive sections of an audio recording that will be recorded onto the CD as one audio file. Regions can be organized or indexed by assigning track start and stop points, and you can assign pauses between regions.
A track is a song on a CD that is assigned a number for easy selection and cueing, following the Red Book standard. Tracks can consist of multiple files and regions; several tracks can include a single region; and regions can be divided into tracks.
By default, tracks are laid out in alternating fashion: the bottom audio file is track 1, the top file is track 2, the next track on the bottom is track 3, and so on. You can add multiple track markers to a track or delete the default beginning and ending markers given to each separate piece of audio. To edit the audio-file length, click on the scissors icon and then crop the audio as desired. To add markers, use the flag-shaped marker icon; delete markers using the familiar Mac trash can icon. All of the icons are located in the lower right-hand corner and are aligned with the transport controls.
As you move tracks closer to one another, the software automatically applies crossfades. If the degree of the fade is not what you intended, you can adjust the slope or level by either clicking and dragging on the fade envelope or by opening the Track Properties window and manually typing in a fade-out time. You can preview the tracks before you burn the CD by clicking on a section of the audio file in the graphical display.
In version 2.0, WAV files can be loaded directly into the program, as can AIFF and SDII files and regions. In addition, the new version lets you import MP3 files and burn them to CD. WaveBurner Pro converts MP3s to 44.1 kHz audio as the files are imported; all other audio is converted in real time as the CD is being coded. That enables 24-bit audio monitoring until the 16-bit burn.
In response to high-definition audio's growing popularity, 24-bit, 96 kHz files are natively supported within WaveBurner Pro. That allows you to work with the audio file at its original bit resolution. Only at the final mastering stage is the 24-bit file converted to the standard 16-bit, 44.1 kHz audio-CD format, and downsampling is done using high-quality dithering with noise shaping. In contrast, many other programs import the 24/96 files but immediately convert them to 16 bits.
The WaveBurner Pro plug-in bundle includes a sweet suite of six mastering plug-ins and offers VST plug-in support. With that combination, the program has made the leap from CD-burning software to an integrated CD-mastering and -burning package. Each plug-in can be applied to individual regions as well as to the final mix. Any number of plug-ins can be inserted serially in the Plug-In window, which floats on top of all other windows. Each plug-in is well designed and exceptionally easy to use.
The regular (monaural) Compressor plug-in comes complete with all the conventional parameter adjustments (threshold, attack, release, and ratio) and even includes a handy Auto Gain normalizing feature. But the real prize is the Multipressor multiband compressor; the number of bands it can handle depends on available computing power, but most of the time you'll want to use it for 2- or 3-band compression. That useful tool is a welcome surprise in an inexpensive package such as WaveBurner Pro.
The Fat EQ 5-band parametric EQ is flexible and a must-have in a mastering set. The Limiter plug-in is as radical as you should require, giving you the possibility of truly in-your-face mixes.
Stereo Base Expander (also called StereoSpread) makes mono tracks seem to be stereo by sending a selectable number of midrange frequency bands to the left and right channels. You get separate intensity controls for the upper- and lower-frequency bands, and you can set the highest and lowest frequencies affected.
Hopefully, your recording technique is such that you will never need a denoiser; those processors will alter your audio in more ways than simply subtracting noise, so it's really best to avoid them if possible. But Emagic's Denoiser plug-in is as transparent a denoiser as I have heard and includes frequency, time, and level/transition parameters to smooth and ease the muffling and splat invariably caused by a denoiser.
Keep in mind that processing audio with a plug-in burdens your CPU, and overloading the CPU can cause interruptions in the burning process, resulting in the creation of beverage coasters instead of audio CDs. To combat burning interruption, Emagic has wisely added a Save as Disc Image feature. The feature allows audio to be written to your hard drive before being burned to disc. Of course, you need to have sufficient disk space to accommodate the file.
Another solution is to render the processed track to a new track (audio file), which you can then reload for the CD imaging. That involves destructive editing, but if you make a backup copy first, you have nothing to fear.
YOU WON'T GET BURNED
Mix CDs are a common tool of the DJ's trade. To create club-ready mix discs, DJs need crossfades, multiple track markers, and the ability to edit each region individually; WaveBurner Pro 2.0 delivers the goods. The program gives you plenty more than the basic features you need, especially with the bundled plug-ins.
In fact, this program is so feature-packed that I haven't even mentioned several important things it can do. For instance, it supports CD Text and full PQ editing, Copy Prohibit, Preemphasis, ISRC number, and UPC/EAN code. The master output and individual regions (even in different audio formats) can be bounced, with or without plug-ins. Multiple level meters with clip indicators are available during playback. There's more I could talk about, but you get the idea.
As noted previously, the program is a cinch to use. However, if you need help, you can refer to Emagic's concise and well-written manual, which includes a CD-layout tutorial as well as supplemental instructions on compression, EQ techniques, and other mastering concepts.
No doubt, Emagic's WaveBurner Pro 2.0 is a great application for Mac users who want to master their own Red Book-compliant CDs. If you're in the market for an integrated CD-burning and -mastering package, look no further.
Supported CD Recorders
As of this writing, WaveBurner Pro 2.0 supports the following CD-R and CD-RW drives. Only SCSI drives are currently supported, but FireWire support is expected soon. An asterisk indicates that the drive supports CD Text.
LaCie Panasonic/Matsushita Plextor Sony TEAC Traxdata Yamaha
CDR-58S*CDR 6240 Pro*
CDRW 6260 Pro
CDR 4120 ProCDR 100
CDR 200 t
CDR 400 c/t
CRW 2216 S
CRW 4416 S
CRW 6416 S
CRW 8424 S
CRW 8824 S
WaveBurner Pro 2.0
PROS: Easy-to-place track markers. Contains powerful mastering plug-ins. Supports VST plug-ins. Burns disc as image to hard disk. Rips CDs and supports CD Text.
CONS: No FireWire support yet.
Overall Rating (1 through 5): 4.5