Long time PAR readers will know that we have reviewed BIAS Peak over the years. From its humble beginnings, Peak has grown into a full-blown digital audio editor for the Macintosh. With the release of version 4.1, BIAS has upgraded this popular program with many significant features.
Product PointsApplications: Studio
Key Features: Displays multiple documents simultaneously; unlimited Undo/Redo; create, edit, read and write regions; loop and reference markers; automated Redbook CD burning; playlist featuring crossfades, real-time effects, and Nudge Regions window; supports all SMDI hardware samplers; looping tools; advanced QuickTime movie and digital video clip support; VST and AudioUnit Plug-in support; recording notepad and timer; supports built-in Mac I/O, and OS X and Core Audio-compatible audio hardware
Contact: BIAS Inc. at 707-782-1866, Web Site
Since we’ve covered Peak’s basic feature set in the past, let’s look at the new goodies. Visually, the program has received a GUI facelift with a slick brushed metallic interface and high-contrast meters. The toolbar is adjustable and can be configured horizontality, vertically or clustered as icons. Under the hood, BIAS has added support for multiple-processor Macs and multithreaded operations.
The big news, however, is direct Red Book CD burning. Using disc-at-once (DAO), CDs may be burned from an audio document or the playlist. Load the regions or files into Peak and then compile them into a playlist. Alternately, you can simply burn CDs from a document window Ð with regions defining the CD tracks. The program provides a number of useful features such as fade in/outs, region nudging, and using VST Plug-ins on playlist events. These features enable users to fine-tune their final audio document. Like all other audio editors Peak doesn’t create PQ subcodes or ISRC codes (necessary for creating pre-masters intended for commercial replication and distribution).
The good news, though, is that version 4.1 comes bundled with Roxio Jam 6 (which does create subcodes) and SFX Machine LT – the popular multi-effects sound design plug-in.
The inclusion of Jam 6 with Peak 4.1 makes this the only comprehensive stereo editing and mastering solution for Mac OS X.
Speaking of plug-ins, Peak has always been known for its variety of creative effects. Debuting in this version are several processing gems including ImpulseVerb. This convolution reverb utilizes actual reverb
impulses recorded in spaces such as cathedrals, caves, and performance halls. While it works in Real-time Preview mode, ImpulseVerb has a beautiful 3-D quality that makes everything shine. BIAS includes a library of 230 MB of samples from more than 30 real and physically modeled spaces.
An advantage of Real-time preview mode, is that larger Impulse Response files may be used without taxing the CPU. When you find the right settings, one can easily render the effect to the file.
Harmonic Rotate is another new processor that warps the sound by rotating the amplitude of the frequency spectrum. This one is great for sound designers looking to push the limit with new DSP tools. As for utilitarian chores, BIAS Sqweez is a new professional-quality dynamic compressor/limiter.
To handle plug-ins, Peak uses five dedicated insert slots that accommodate VST plug-ins and Audio Units (yes, even Apple provides built-in plug-ins for OS X). When using VST effects, Peak uses a clever patching matrix called Vbox. This virtual effects box combines, repatches and mixes plug-ins in real time. An unlimited number of VST effects may be routed in series, parallel, or in various hybrid arrangements.
Other new additions to version 4.1 include a bit-usage meter; importing segments from audio CD tracks; QuickTime movie looping; QuickTime movie playback during recording; Envelope control for tempo change; a Magic Pencil tool for removing clicks and pops; and a Markers From Tempo function.
BIAS Peak is compatible with a variety of third party hardware. I set up the program to work with my Pro Tools/HD system. This allows me to play and record using Digidesign’s hardware. Peak handles sampling rates up to 192 kHz with a 32-bit floating point. The program also supports a healthy number of file formats from WAV and AIFF to QuickTime, SDII, Jam Image, MP3 and others. Interestingly, MP3 bit rates go all the way to 320 kbps.
Burning CDs is an easy process, but not always entirely intuitive. After I read the manual and did a couple of burns, the procedure made sense. And the CDs turned out fine. However, after each disc finished, Peak crashed and I had to do Force Quits. I’m not sure if this problem was in my system or with the program.
[Editor’s Note: Talks with BIAS lead us to believe this to be system-specific. BIAS says it has not received similar complaints from users].
I liked the new translucent cursor overlay. This handy tool shows cursor time information, sample value, selection length, reference marker distance and tempo. Move the mouse around and the information changes. For easy editing of regions, markers and loops, BIAS has added a handy audio document drawer. Little additions like these sure simplify life and speed up the editing process.
The new ImpulseVerb was a joy to use. I tried it on a variety of instruments, but acoustic guitar caught my interest. It really created a sense of space around the guitar. Presets like Asian Bedroom, Circular Glass Room and Granite Quarry sounded great. The only caveat is that a little bit goes a long way. While the main control for ImpulseVerb is a wet/dry slider, BIAS also provides an envelope window. Unfortunately, the envelope does not do much in Preview mode and it distorts easily if not used properly. Hopefully, there will be more reverb settings and editing capabilities in a future upgrade.
Another improved feature I liked is the batch processor. This enables the user to process any number of audio files at once using any number of Peak’s internal functions. One project that I have been working on for a client is converting 1,500 audio files into MP3s. For each pass, I loaded eight WAV files into Peak for automatic conversion. Since each file is about 95 minutes, it takes Peak about three hours to do the job (yes, it will be faster when I upgrade my G4 to a G5). While this seems like a long time, it would be worse if I had to do each file individually. The batch processor is one great feature with tons of other useful applications!
Peak was the first professional audio application to make the move to OS X. Now with version 4.1, Peak and OS X seamlessly integrate like a fish to water. With the addition of Roxio Jam 6 and SFX Machine LT, Peak provides all the ingredients for pro audio mastering. Mac users looking to put the finishing touches on their audio masterpieces should give BIAS Peak 4.1 a spin.