BIAS Peak 30 - ProSoundNetwork.com

BIAS Peak 30

Long-time PAR readers may have noticed that we have reviewed Mac-based BIAS Peak since the early days of its inception. With each new upgrade the program has grown into a full-featured audio editor, DSP processor and mastering application. Now with version 3.0 ($499), Peak has moved in some new and interesting directions.
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Product PointsApplications: Stereo audio editing, processing, mastering application.

Key Features: DSP toolset; over 25 VST audio effects plug-ins; batch processing options; unlimited undo/redo with graphic edit history; multiple document windows; user definable display size and color; looping tools; supports all SMDI hardware samplers; supports DV standard (16-bit/48 kHz) without additional hardware

Price: $499

Contact: BIAS at 707-782-1866, Web SiteLong-time PAR readers may have noticed that we have reviewed Mac-based BIAS Peak since the early days of its inception. With each new upgrade the program has grown into a full-featured audio editor, DSP processor and mastering application. Now with version 3.0 ($499), Peak has moved in some new and interesting directions.

Features

Peak has a split personality depending upon the operating system. Users on the cutting edge will run Peak in native mode with Mac OS X. For the rest of us, it will work with OS 8.6 through 9.2. Without question, OS X is Apple's vision of the future. But I would guess most audio professionals are still using 9.x (not to mention 8.6). Hybrid applications that run on both operating systems are referred to as "carbonized" software. Peak is one such program.

I have not seen Peak on OS X, but the BIAS literature states it is "sporting a new, streamlined, Aquafied user interface." I was quite impressed after a quick look at some of the screenshots on the BIAS web site. To my surprise, the graphic interface on Peak 3.0 (using OS 9.2) is not nearly as elegant as the previous version 2.63. Gone are the smooth 3-D look, the menu icon descriptions and the attractive transport. While this version appears more generic, functionality has not been compromised.

Yes, we are in a period of operating system transition! And this has affected some aspects of Peak. Missing in this release is the Audio Preview function. This was especially useful for sorting through massive amounts of sounds and samples before loading them into memory. Also gone is support for Adobe Premiere plug-ins and the SFX Machine.

In addition, Peak no longer supports saving in Real Audio and Shockwave encoded formats anymore. The absence of these functions is due in part to the architecture of OS X and not with BIAS.

On the other hand, OS X has many advantages suitable for digital audio. Among them are protected memory space for enhanced system stability and the CoreAudio standard. CoreAudio is the audio I/O component of OS X that supports multichannel and multiclient hardware.

Other advantages of CoreAudio include low latency, shared drivers across applications, and high bit-depth and sample rates (24-bit/96 kHz resolution and beyond). Peak makes full use of these new OS functions.

As for version 3.0, Peak has some excellent new features. Vbox SE is a real-time multi-effects control environment for VST plug-ins. With an on-screen effects matrix, Vbox SE will combine, route and mix hundreds of plug-ins per channel. This can be any combination routed in series or parallel and with automation features. Standard plug-in features include individual gain control, master wet/dry balance, bypass, A/B compare, stereo metering and much more.

Also new is the free BIAS Freq plug-in. This mastering quality EQ features a four-band paragraphic equalizer with -18 dB to +18 dB gain and 0.1 to 10 Q values. Sweepable frequencies range from 20 Hz to 20 kHz with high and low-cut filters, individual band bypass buttons and 24 dB stereo input/output meters. For users who need more extensive filtering and bandwidth control options, BIAS has also announced the new 10-band SuperFreq EQ ($79 or $49 download by users of Freq).

Speaking of plug-ins, Peak offers full support of all carbonized VST plug-ins. However, not all VST plug-ins are currently Mac OS X-compatible. Noncarbonized VST plug-ins, therefore, will need to run in Peak 3.0 under OS 9.

Version 3.0 also includes improved sample rate conversion, an expanded cursor palette, batch processing, additional options for "floating" windows, MP3 support (an online download) and customizable toolbar and keyboard shortcuts. Another significant improvement is the inclusion of POW-R dithering (for more information, check Bob Katz's review of the Weiss Engineering POW-R Dither, PAR, 10/99).

BIAS has always had excellent documentation for Peak. And it still does. However, instead of providing the User's Guide "book," the manual is now a PDF file on the disk. I know this is cost efficient (and 'environmentally friendly' as some manufacturers say) and many manufacturers prefer it this way. But I still miss the hardcopy and I know other people feel the same way!

In Use

With previous versions of Peak, I configured my system to run through Digidesign hardware. This worked great. However, Peak 3.0 does not fully support the new Digidesign HD system. This is because HD does not support OS X (as of this writing) and therefore is not wholly compatible with Peak 3.0. Likewise, the TDM version of Peak will only work with Digidesign's older MIX platforms.

Users looking to integrate these two systems need to do some homework or wait until everything is OS X compliant.

In any event, Peak has many interesting features including multiple document windows, unlimited undos, split windows for viewing graphic waveforms, great DSP effects, a playlist with automated Red Book CD burning, looping tools and support for SMDI hardware samplers. I used Peak extensively when designing my new sampling CD, Ambient Atmospheres, for the Discovery Firm label. The program proved invaluable.

Readers involved with video editing will be interested in Peak's advanced QuickTime movie and DV clip support. Movies appear in a sizeable window and the audio can be opened as a standard Peak audio document. The program also maintains better-than-frame accurate sync. This allows the user to play the movie while making audio selections or while scrubbing the audio file.

Summary

As previously stated, Apple Macintosh users are standing at the crossroads. Peak 3.0 is a major upgrade for OS X. People with OS 9 may not feel the same way.

Interestingly though, BIAS has included a copy of Peak 2.63 on the install disc. This was the last upgrade before jumping to 3.0. In light of this excellent decision, users have a choice of three versions of Peak. If that is not a good deal, I do not know what is. Install them all and use your favorite one!

Peak 3.1 Ships

At press time BIAS announced Peak 3.1. The new version, free upgrade for 3.0 users, adds support for Broadcast WAV and Dolby AAC files and QuickTime 6 along with a Duplicate command for repetitive audio clip pasting.