Review: Magix Sound Forge Pro Mac 3

A promising audio editor gets a new first impression
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A promising audio editor gets a new first impression
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The Mac version of the Sound Forge Pro audio editor has always lived under the shadow of its older and stronger Windows sibling, and previous users of Sound Forge Pro Mac complained of stability problems and too few features. It looked as though the program was going to die on the vine when Sony abandoned it, but Magix took many by surprise when it assumed ownership of the Sound Forge line in 2016. Now, after a few years of waiting, there is finally an update.

Sound Forge Pro Mac 3’s customizable interface showing both audio editors with both tabs open—the Media Browser on the left and the Plug-in Choose and Chain on the right.

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With Sound Forge Pro Mac 3, Magix has not tried to reinvent the wheel. The look and feel of previous versions remains largely unchanged. Instead, Magix has shored up the program’s stability and added some key features, as well as third-party mastering/restoration processing from iZotope, without sacrificing the program’s streamlined workflow.

REINTRODUCING THE CHALLENGER

Sound Forge Pro Mac 3 (SFPM3) offers a very flexible one-window interface with four panes of operation that can be hidden from the toolbar to suit the user’s needs. The main Editor pane can show either two separate waveform editors horizontally or vertically, each with a preview waveform above, or a single editor. The left, right, and bottom panes can each hold a variety of tools such as the Media browser, Record settings, Channel Meters, Plugin Chooser for all your system’s AU and VST plug-ins, and a Plug-in Chain view, where you can design, save, and load custom plug-in chains.

This version supports recording of up to 32 channels simultaneously as high as 24-bit/192kHz resolution, but the program can open, edit, and save audio as high-res as 32-and 64-bit (floating point)/192kHz in almost every major audio format. The update can also import and convert video files to audio only, which you can edit and export. Many video formats like MP4, XAVC, AVCHD, XDCAM and others will work; a few videos formats such as MKV would not open.

Fig. 1. The bundled batch convertor, Cnvrt, adds metadata, and processes and converts the audio files’ format in a hurry.

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SFPM3 performs excellent pitch shifting and time stretching (using the Zplane élastique processor), as well as professional sample rate and bit depth conversion using the iZotope Mbit + Dither and 64-bit SRC plug-ins. All of SFPM3’s processes are also available in the included Magix Cnvrt 1.0 audio batch convertor, which works very fast (Figure 1).

Fig. 2. A single key creates Regions of the selected audio, shown in the Regions List on the left. Another command exports all the Regions as separate audio files.

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SFPM3 provides a number of keyboard shortcuts that you can customize in Preferences. Using those you can mark many separate regions within a single audio file quickly and then export them all to separate audio files at a single stroke (Figure 2). I loved that feature for vocal takes, as well as long found-sound recordings. SFPM3 has the requisite tools, effects, and process to perform accurate editing down to the single-sample level, and it does so with very smooth operation and low CPU load, even with many high-res audio files open.

NEW TRICKS FOR THE TRADE

Fig. 3. iZotope RX 6 Elements includes a simplified, standalone spectral editor and four very effective noise reduction plug-ins for use in Sound Forge Pro Mac 3 or another host.

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Many of the new features of SFPM3 focus on delivering your audio appropriately for many uses and destinations. It includes iZotope Ozone 7 Elements, a preset-driven mastering plug-in designed to produce fast results for more than 20 musical genres. The included RX 6 Elements processors make up two-thirds of the iZotope Elements Bundle and includes a basic standalone spectral editor (Figure 3) along with four plug-ins: De-click, De-clip, De-hum, and De-noise. SFPM3 also has a new automatic clip detection tool in the Find/Repair view, where you can attempt to quickly repair clips, peaks and glitches.

A new Automatic Loudness Leveling function immediately attenuates levels to be in line with broadcast standards of the AES/EBU or the ATSC CALM Act. Detailed Loudness Meters show the audio’s momentary, short-term, and overall loudness, as well as the loudness range. In addition, SFPM3’s dynamic rendering can process multiple project files including the source audio with unique plug-in chains as they’re being burned to a Redbook standard CD, so there’s no need to render pre-master files.

The newly added Preview Mastered for iTunes option will encode and export any selected audio using the same technology that Apple uses for the Mastered for iTunes standard. While it’s just a preview, because Apple does the final encoding on its end, this Sound Forge option is very handy for hearing how iTunes will step on your pristine sound, so you can try to make adjustments before sending it off. However, Preview Mastered for iTunes doesn’t work if your original audio is already compressed. It would be great for future Sound Forge Pro Mac updates to add other previews for other popular streaming/compressed platforms.

MORE HIGHS THAN LOWS

Sound Forge Pro Mac 3 operates very quickly and with far less CPU than you might expect. Of course, you can bog it down if you’re recording more high-res tracks than your computer can handle or by using too many plug-ins at once. However, I was able to keep way more 24-bit/44.1kHz WAV files open and active than I at first thought was a good idea on my aging MacBook Pro.

While SFPM3’s performance was not flawless, it did seem far more stable than previous versions. This update crashed on me only a few times in two different ways. The first was while using keyboard shortcuts to record successive short clips of audio quickly, which worked fine many times and crashed two or three times. The second instance happened when attempting to cancel a Preview Mastered for iTunes encoding that was in process. And when it did crash, I only lost a little time, but not the work since SFPM3 restored my session upon reopening.

SURVEYING THE OPTIONS

Mastering and post-production engineers, as well as other audio pros have an obvious need for dedicated audio editors such as this. Electronic musicians and producers may not see the point unless they can divine the benefit of Sound Forge Pro Mac 3’s workflow compared to other DAWs. However, anyone who commonly treats audio like Play-Doh—recording, editing, and processing it without inhibition just to see how it turns out—will appreciate the speed with which you can render new versions of high-res files, export multiple regions, and batch-convert using custom-saved plug-in chains. And it’s priced very competitively if Magix can keep it at its current $299 level. (It’s listed at $557 retail, which would put it right in line with many other DAWs.)

With its ample power, smooth workflow and reasonable price, Sound Forge Pro Mac 3 belongs in the conversation for any Mac user looking for a versatile digital-audio workstation.

STRENGTHS
One-window interface. Light on the CPU. iZotope plug-ins. Batch processor. High-quality audio engine. Supports most audio formats and resolutions.

LIMITATIONS
Little use of contextual menus. Batch processor not integrated with editor. Video support limited to extracting audio track.

$299 street
magix.com

Markkus Rovito dislikes the sound of his own voice until it’s processed with audio hardware, software, or his own built-in dialect filters.