FIG. 1: Sony Creative Software Sound Forge 10''s new event-based editing can be used quite effectively in the multichannel audio window, where you can create events from within files and drag them into other tracks.
Sony Creative Software's Sound Forge Pro multichannel audio editor has reached the major milestone of Version 10. Long one of the most popular and full-featured Windows audio applications, the new update receives a number of obvious enhancements and even more that are under the hood. Among the major additions are event-based editing; built-in CD authoring and burning; support for DLS, GIG and SF2 file formats; and new high-end plug-ins such as iZotope's Mastering Effects Bundle and 64-bit SRC and MBIT+ dithering effects. Combined, these features move Sound Forge Pro ever closer to a full-blown audio production workstation.
We reviewed Sound Forge 9 in the October 2007 issue, so have a look at that review (available online at emusician.com/editing/emusic_sony_creative_software_sound_forge_9) if you haven't been following the development of the program. This review will focus primarily on the new features in V. 10.
Sound Forge Pro 10's most significant update is event-based editing. This feature allows you to have multiple independent clips of audio on a track and move them around as needed. Events can be selected and dragged or copied to a new location with automatic, adjustable crossfades applied, or you can add an effect to or process just a single snippet. You can also apply simple envelopes (ASR only, but with variable curves) with just a few clicks. It's easy to split a long file into any number of events, or you can drag an event onto the workspace to create a new file.
Event-based editing gives the program a huge boost in flexibility. Working in Sound Forge's multichannel environment (see Fig. 1), which was introduced in Sound Forge 9, I was able to load multiple files and view them simultaneously, then create events from different files and drag them to a new file to create a composite track. In older versions, this type of work would require numerous copy-and-paste operations, often using trial and error to find the correct location within the destination file. You can copy a mono file to one or both tracks of a stereo file, yet you can't simply drag and drop an event if it has a sample rate different from that of your intended destination and retain the original tempo. This requires resampling the source clip to play at the correct speed.
In addition to creating events manually, Sound Forge will create an event automatically if you simply highlight a region of a file and apply an effect or process to it. At that point, you can either move the event to a new location or leave it in place, and the entire file will play back seamlessly.
Sound Forge doesn't support recording multiple tracks of audio simultaneously, and it couldn't be described as a true DAW. Yet editing and manipulating events in the multichannel window really gives you the feel of working in a multitrack environment, and the program is now suitable for many mixing chores.
Bend and Stretch
Another new addition is zplane's élastique Pro time-stretch and pitch-shift plug-in, which is found in several other popular programs (Ableton Live and Native Instruments Traktor, for example). This plug-in supports stretching from one-tenth to 10 times a selection's original length, and it lets you specify the new length as a ratio, a new tempo (BPM) or an exact time (showing old time vs. new). It also supports pitch-shifting up to two octaves in either direction with an option to preserve formants or have them shift according to the shift amount. For time-stretching, I particularly liked the sound of élastique Pro on vocal material (see Web Clips 1 and 2 for audio examples and the Online Bonus Material for a comparison of élastique and two freeware time-stretching programs). Two of élastique Pro's Stretch modes use transient perseveration, while two do not, so you can choose which option works best for your material.
You won't find many other additions to the Effects or Processes menu in V. 10, but there's a new resonant filter that has a lot of potential. I prefer to use dedicated software such as GRM Tools for most of my filtering needs, but this effect sounds really great. It offers a choice of low/band/highpass options plus adjustable frequency, resonance and wet/dry balance (see Web Clip 3). Sound Forge also now sports high-quality bit and sample-rate conversion via iZotope's tools for those purposes. I do a lot of work using direct sound synthesis in Csound, a software-synthesis programming language, and I appreciate Sound Forge's ability to convert my digitally generated 24-bit files to CD-ready, 16-bit resolution. These converters will also come in handy if you're recording at high sample and bit rates or if you generate a lot of high-resolution audio with soft synths.
FIG. 2: Sound Forge Pro''s support for DLS, GIG and SF2 files means you can tweak your sample libraries directly within the program. Shown here is a cello sample from the Miroslav Vitous Mini Library.
Get the GIG
I have a ton of Tascam GigaSampler GIG files on my hard drive that have mostly gone unused since the demise of that program, but Sound Forge now gives them new life. In Fig. 2, you can see the interface that opens when you load a GIG file; the one here is a set of cello samples from the Miroslav Vitous Mini Library. You can't replace individual samples by dragging and dropping a replacement from the Explorer window, but you can easily add an effect or process to one or more samples or save a single sample to a new file. You also get a full hierarchical view of all the components in your sample bank, although you can't edit any of that information.
A number of improvements to the interface should make your workflow more efficient. For example, the new tabbed window-browsing feature really helps organize your workspace, especially when you have multiple windows open. You can now create and save a different custom window layout for each of the main types of projects you work on. There's also a new option to show an adjustable number of grid lines overlaid on top of a highlighted selection, which is particularly handy if you do a lot of work with loops.
Sony has included a number of new interactive tutorials that should make learning Sound Forge easier. The tutorials run directly from within the program's interface, and they cover a variety of topics including applying an effect and burning a CD. These do a nice job of walking you through each step of the process, but they don't get very deep or cover advanced topics. I hope this series will continue and that more high-end features — for example, working with Sound Forge's excellent Acoustic Modeler convolution effect — will be added.
I've been a Sound Forge user for many years, and the program has always been one of the most stable and reliable applications I've owned. I've also had good success running this on my Mac under Boot Camp. I'd be hard-pressed to recall any time where it crashed or failed to perform as expected. Version 10 adds even more features to an already rich and mature program, and if you haven't upgraded recently, now may be a good time. Even if you own Sound Forge 9, you might find that there are enough enhancements to compel you to upgrade. Check out the demo at Sony's Website to see if the new features suit your needs.
Dennis Miller is a composer and animator living near Boston. Check out his work atwww.dennismiller.neu.edu.