Time Factory (Mac/Win) Prosoniq's Time Factory ($390) provides professional-quality time stretching, time compressing, and pitch shifting for final mixes

Time Factory (Mac/Win)Prosoniq's Time Factory ($390) provides professional-quality time stretching, time compressing, and pitch shifting for final mixes and other "sensitive" audio material. The standalone program can achieve time-scaling amounts of up to one-third the original length (time stretching up to about 133 percent; time compressing down to approximately 67 percent) and effective pitch shifting up to five semitones.

According to Prosoniq, Time Factory uses the company's proprietary MPEX (Minimum Perceived Loss Time Compression/Expansion) algorithm, which employs a sophisticated analysis of the musical content to deliver high-quality, "natural" sounding time and pitch scaling. The program is easy to use with all operations centering on a single window.

Files and StylesWhen you launch Time Factory, you see the main window, where you drag and drop audio files before processing them. You can also open files with the Open button in the Function bar at the bottom of the window. The program supports AIFF and WAV files on the Mac and PC platforms; Sound designer II files are supported only on the Mac.

Time Factory works with 8-, 16-, and 24-bit files with sampling rates of 22.05, 44.1, 48, and 96 kHz. The program is suitable for processing individual tracks as well as final mixes, and it's effective for a range of musical styles, from classical recordings to drum `n' bass arrangements. The Algorithm menu lets you select the most suitable algorithm from one Monophonic option (for voice or instrument melodies) and three Polyphonic options - Fast, Best (which takes longer but delivers better results), and Polyphonic for Classics.

You can open a single mono audio file, or you can open split stereo files created with Pro Tools or similar programs. You can also open multiple files in the main window and process several or all of them at once. To audition individual files, click on the Play button in the Function bar; to start and stop playback, use the Spacebar.

Pop-ups and ParametersEach file appears in a list with columns displaying edit parameters and text information. The first column shows the name and sample rate of the file. In the next two columns, you enter values for tuning the file up or down in semitones and cents. The fourth column contains an input field and a pop-up menu. You use these to set how you want Time Factory to process your files: as a length in seconds, as a percentage value, or as a tempo in beats per minute.

If you use the pop-up menu to select seconds or percentage as a value type, then the input field shows the current value in the selected type. You can then enter a new value for processing. If you choose bpm in the pop-up menu, a dialog box asks you to enter your file's original tempo; Time Factory cannot analyze audio files to extract tempo information.

Test RunTo test the program's limits, I took a 4-bar drum pattern and changed the tempo over a wide range. A sort of thwocking sound appeared on the snare at 50 percent. At 200 percent, the congas sounded slappier than on the original, and the hi-hat sounded louder; but in general, the results were good.

I then pitch-shifted a solo voice and solo guitar, choosing Time Factory's Preserve Formants option, and the results were once again quite good. The voice track sounded faultless, and by pitch-shifting the guitar from F to Eb, I was able to produce excellent results.

Transcribe Mode lets you create a file that plays back at half the speed while keeping the pitch the same - a handy tool for transcribing music by ear. If the music is still too fast, you can process the file a second time to halve the speed again. I transcribed some fast jazz guitar solos and was very impressed by this feature. It doubles the length of the file using a fast processing algorithm.

Often, you might need to make some last-minute edits or add some effects to your audio files. To expedite this procedure, Time Factory lets you designate an audio-editing program to launch automatically when you double-click a file in the main window. The file then appears in your favorite editor ready for modification. Time Factory comes bundled with SonicWORX Essential (Mac only), a cut-down version of Prosoniq's sonicWORX editing software. It offers a range of useful effects along with good waveform editing features.