(click thumbnail)With the new release of BIAS Peak Pro XT 5, the Macintosh-based industry standard stereo audio editing, processing, and mastering application is better than ever. The program suite is the perfect solution to everything from sound design for film, video, and multimedia, to music production and broadcast editing and, most importantly, mastering.
Fast FactsApplications: Studio, broadcast, post production
Key Features: Twol-channel; mastering, noise reduction, EQ, multiband compressor, pitch modules and plug-ins
Contact:BIAS at 707-782-1866, www.bias-inc.com.
Peak Pro XT 5 has a list price of $1,199 that offers a complete set of audio tools including Peak Pro 5 (Mac only), SoundSoap 2, SoundSoap Pro and the BIAS Master Perfection Suite which includes six powerful VST/AU/DirectX plug-ins.
Peak Pro XT is designed to work with one stereo audio file at a time. Therefore it works as a compliment to DAWs such as Pro Tools, Logic or Nuendo and is the perfect tool to take a finished mix and make it ready for production. It also has a robust and easy-to-use batch-processing feature making it a wonderful tool for managing lots of audio files. When combined with Peak Pro’s RMS Normalization feature that matches average dynamic levels, the batch processing feature appeals not only to audio engineers but to podcasters as well since it’s useful for prepping large groups of audio files for radio or podcast programs.
Peak 5 has several useful new features that should improve workflow. For example, Peak now enables you to recover a damaged audio file by simply supplying the Recover Audio dialog (located under the Edit menu) with information such as channels (mono or stereo), bit depth, sample rate, byte order and the location of the audio data within a file.
BIAS has also added Region Split functions and Snap To options which increases the looping and slicing capabilities. They have also added high-resolution, tape-style scrubbing which amazingly has the sounds and feel of real tape based editing. Peak Pro 5 is the only retail Mac waveform editor that supports both VST and Audio Unit (AU) plug-ins. In the Vbox effects matrix it is easy to assemble multiple VST and AU plug-in chains that can be saved and recalled as presets. Peak’s continued support of hardware samplers and the addition of live MIDI input and VST and AU soft synth support makes the program perfect for individuals designing sounds for samplers or other instruments.
Peak Pro 5 features a completely overhauled Playlist editor, which can be used to combine several audio files with cross-fades, construct and burn CDs, and prepare disc images for a professional mastering house. Peak Pro 5 adds high-quality POW-r dithering to their first-rate sample rate conversion so higher-resolution audio can be converted with a minimal impact on sound fidelity. The result can be bounced to an audio file, burned to a Red Book-compatible CD, or with an optional plug-in, be exported to a Disc Description Protocol (DDP) file.
The included SoundSoap 2 and SoundSoap Pro are tools for noise reduction and restoration. I’ve been a user and a fan of SoundSoap Pro for sometime now but I’m new to SoundSoap 2. SoundSoap Pro and SoundSoap 2 are both professional noise reduction plug-ins for VST, RTAS, AU, AudioSuite, and DirectX host applications. SoundSoap 2 also operates as a standalone application for users that don’t own a compatible host program.
SoundSoap Pro includes intelligent noise learning algorithm that can work wonders on noise-laden tracks. The parameter controls include click and crackle removal tools, a global spectrogram and several other visual tools that assist in the audio restoration process. The program features a tab-based user interface that has a dedicated set of tools for specific noise types. It works perfectly to remove unwanted room noise, hiss, electrical hum, rumble, and other background noise.
SoundSoap 2 effectively removes broadband noise, 50 Hz and 60 Hz hum, and rumble. Its “Learn” function allows automatic noise reduction/removal and the “Preserve Voice” function provides a specialized prefiltering for voice-based media files.
The BIAS Master Perfection Suite includes PitchCraft, GateEx, Reveal Sqweez, SuperFreq and Repli-Q plug-ins. The PitchCraft plug-in has a user-friendly interface and it provides a very natural sounding pitch correction. The plug-in combines an X/Y Tuning History Graph, Keyboard Display and several sliders to control format and pitch changes. I’m a long time user of the Antares Auto-Tune plug-in and I was impressed at how quickly and effectively I was able to adapt to using PitchCraft.
Lke PitchCraft, the GateEx gate/expander plug-in provides a comfortable and easy-to-use interface. A waveform display gives the user a real-time view of audio as it enters the GateEx. Two horizontal lines act as gate threshold indicators and are controlled by the Threshold slider. Setup is extremely quick and efficient.
The Reveal plug-in is a seven-tool audio signal analysis suite. It includes an oscilloscope, spectral analyzer, spectrogram, peak and RMS level history display, peak and RMS level meters, Lissajous phase scope and pan power history display. This unique combination of tools provides engineers an intelligent way to analyze recordings. This is not the type of plug-in that I would typically consider buying but I must say I have found it to be a very useful tool. When I mix I have found the plug-in to be extremely helpful in determining exactly how certain processing is affecting the audio content. All of the analysis tools can be viewed simultaneously or independently.
The Repli-Q plug-in provides a graphical representation of the spectral content of an audio file. It is designed to analyze, edit and compare the spectral content of audio recording. After the analysis has taken place, spectral characteristics of one recording may be applied to another. I found this to be helpful when mastering a project that had several songs that were mixed by one engineer and one or two drastically different mixes that were mixed by another engineer. The plug-in quickly and easily brings the different sounding mixes into the ballpark of the other eight.
The Sqweez-3 and Sqweez-5 are linear phase multiband compressor/limiter/ expander plug-ins. In both versions, each band of compression provides gain and threshold sliders as well as five band-specific pop-up controls (attack, release, knee, ratio and max reduction). The plug-ins sound good and there are six default settings which I found provide excellent starting points making it much faster to achieve the desired result.
The SuperFreq plug-in is a 4, 6, 8 or 10-band equalizer that features five parameters per channel. Each band has a gain adjustable from –24 dB to +24 dB, a bandwidth adjustable from 0.1 to 30, a frequency sweepable from 20 Hz to 20 kHz, individual band bypass buttons, 24 dB stereo input/output meters and selectable filters including peak, notch, high-shelf, low-shelf, high-cut and low-cut.
Installing the four-disc Peak Pro XT 5 software suite was a breeze. The installation concludes with a routine requiring the USB software key to be unlocked. I hear a lot of people complaining about USB keys but I have to say, my experience with them has been only good. If that’s what it takes to keep people from stealing software I’ll support it.
At first glance I noticed that besides the look of the new toolbar icons and the addition of a three-octave MIDI keyboard, Peak’s interface has changed very little since version 4. It is relatively simple and very intuitive. Someone who has never used the program before will be up and running in a short amount of time.
BIAS has redesigned some of the more confusing toolbar icons in Peak Pro 5 but the monochrome gray-on-gray toolbar is sometimes difficult to read at a glance. While navigating between windows in the environment is fairly natural, I wish that BIAS had added the option to store custom window sets.
I was happy to see that the new Playlist window can be used to assemble CDs visually, complete with precise timings, crossfades, and CD text. I don’t really like mastering projects that I’ve engineered but after giving it a few tries, I’ve found myself truly enjoying the process. Peak is highly intuitive and really enjoyable to use. There really aren’t many things wrong with this program. I was disappointed that a mastering suite costing well over $1,000 doesn’t offer support for surround sound. But even with these complaints, I think that Peak Pro XT 5 is one of the best bargains in the audio industry today.
When it comes to working with stereo files there is no better tool than Peak Pro XT 5 and the combination of included features makes it an incredible value. If you already have a wide selection of plug-ins and/or you do only light production work, you may not need the full-blown XT. If you are looking to add a suite of polished processors to your effects arsenal, this bundle is one of the best deals on the Mac.