It's back! After being pulled from the market more than two years ago, Sonic Foundry's CD Architect ($299, retail; $209.97, direct download; $239.96, boxed) has returned in a new and improved version. Formerly available as a plug-in for Sound Forge, CD Architect 5.0 now runs standalone and has significantly more features than the original. With support for 32-bit, 192 kHz audio, nearly two dozen included audio effects, and sophisticated CD-layout and -burning tools, CD Architect comes very close to being an all-in-one audio-mastering and -production platform.
CD Architect is a hybrid application that combines features from Acid, such as real-time pitch-shifting and time-stretching, with two stereo tracks of audio-editing and -mastering features from throughout Sonic Foundry's product line. Acid or Vegas users will feel at home with CD Architect's interface, which is clearly modeled after those programs.
Split It Up
As in the earlier version, CD Architect's interface is split among several main windows. The Timeline is a graphic display where you'll arrange the Events that will become the tracks on your CD. Events are complete audio files or selected portions. You can overlap multiple files, even if they have different sampling and bit rates, to form your tracks. At the bottom of the Timeline is the CD Layout Bar, where you'll see small, blue rectangular boxes that show the name and duration of the tracks in your project. By dragging those along the Timeline, you can easily rearrange the material on your CD. You can also type a new Start point into a track box's Properties dialog to change its position — very handy for making fine adjustments.
Sonic Foundry's CD Architect 5.0 is a standalone application that offers considerable resources for mastering and authoring CDs.
The Playlist is a text-based screen that resembles the Event Editor found in many sequencers. In the Playlist, you'll see a list of all the Events in your project along with their start and end times, durations, and various other parameters. There's a column to enable normalizing individual Events; as elsewhere, you can modify a parameter by simply typing a new value into the appropriate field. You can't, however, drag in the box to change values, which would be useful.
The third major window is the Tracklist, which displays many of the same parameters as the Playlist, but its properties reflect information about entire tracks. Among other options, you can drag single or multiple tracks to new positions, set the Pause time between tracks, and toggle Protection and Emphasis. Right-clicking on a track's name lets you preview the track or jump directly to its position in the Timeline, or both. If you choose Zoom, the entire Timeline window will zoom to fit the length of the track. That type of integration makes configuring a CD project quick and efficient.
More than Core
In addition to its core mastering and burning features, CD Architect offers several editing options and authoring utilities to ensure that you get the job done well. For example, it includes 20 real-time DirectX effects that you can apply on an Event-by-Event basis. Other features include realtime time stretch — just hold down the Control key and drag an Event to the desired new length — and multiple fade types that you can use with the Automatic-crossfade function. You can also print or export your tracklist in a variety of formats, though you can't design CD covers from within CD Architect — at least not yet! And of course, nearly all current CD drives are supported, including USB and FireWire models.
Sonic Foundry has recently released a plug-in for Acid that allows it to burn multichannel audio onto a DVD. It would be great to see that feature added to CD Architect. In addition, adding a few more stereo tracks to the interface would be useful and might even allow users to work entirely within the program — as it stands, you'll probably want to keep your main audio editor on hand.
Much has changed in the CD-burning world since CD Architect was last on the scene. Today, multitrack audio editors such as Steinberg WaveLab and Magix Samplitude, not to mention Sonic Foundry's own Acid software, offer sophisticated CD-burning capabilities. Moreover, consumer programs such as Roxio Easy CD Creator and Nero 5.5 offer ever more high-end functions. Yet with its professional CD-authoring and -burning features, included DirectX effects, and efficient (and customizable) work flow, CD Architect 5.0 should assume a comfortable position in its niche. If you're not happy with your current CD-burning tools, give CD Architect a try.