BIAS Peak Pro XT 6 - ProSoundNetwork.com

BIAS Peak Pro XT 6

The latest version of the "perfect" Mac-based stereo editing and processing solution is an entirely different beast among standard industry DAWs.
Author:
Publish date:

The easiest way to define Peak Pro XT 6 is "an advanced sample editor that can edit individual audio files from a hard drive with single sample precision." It is the perfect stereo editing and processing solution for engineers, musicians, and sound designers. While some of its features are the same as those found in all DAWs, it is an entirely different beast.

Peak Pro XT 6 is the latest flagship BIAS product. It includes Peak Pro 6, the SoundSoap 2 and SoundSoap Pro restoration plug-ins, the Master Perfection Suite, DDP 2.0 Export with CD TEXT addendum and the Peak Pro Production Pack.

Features

The broad BIAS Peak Pro XT 6 feature set includes digital signal processing (DSP) tools, dithering for distortion-free bit reduction, batch processing, support for 24-bit/96 kHz and 192 kHz, optimization for multiprocessor/multicore computers, and built-in support for Mac I/O and Core Audio hardware (third-party hardware may require compatible Core Audio drivers).

Image placeholder title

To operate effectively, Peak Pro XT 6 requires a G4, G5, or Intel-based Mac (with a 400 MHz or faster processor), Mac OS X v. 10.4.3 or higher (including Leopard), a screen with minimum 1024 x 768 resolution, 256 MB RAM (512 MB or more is recommended), 330 MB available free disk space, 18 ms hard drive (average seek time) or faster, and QuickTime 6.0 or later.

The release of BIAS Peak Pro XT 6 adds a host of new features to this Macintoshbased, industry-standard, stereo audio editing, processing, and mastering application. Not only for mastering, the software suite is an obvious solution to everything from sound design for film, video, and multimedia, to music production and broadcast editing. The package touts a variety of new features like mastering and "classical editing" cross-fade modes, new controls like pre/post roll audition, the ability to insert new event at play-head, voiceover ducking DSP, cache in RAM, a new user interface and improvements to the delivery tools, and the inclusion of the Peak Pro Production Pack, a collection of analysis, equalization, audio cleaning tools, sound effects and more (separately valued at $300).

Peak Pro XT 6 ($1,199 list) offers a complete set of audio tools, which includes six powerful VST/AU plug-ins. There are also Peak 6 LE ($129) and Peak 6 Pro ($599), which have fewer features and components but may be adequate for some users. Peak Pro also includes the Peak Pro Production Pack DVD. Peak LE includes the Peak LE Production Pack DVD, which is identical to the Peak Pro Production Pack with three exceptions: It doesn't include SoundSoap LE or Reveal LE and the free Broadjam subscription is limited to six months.

BIAS Repli-Q, a EQ-matching application Peak is designed to work with mono or stereo audio files. It serves as a complement to DAWs such as Pro Tools and Logic, and is the perfect tool to make a finished mix production-ready. Its robust and easy-to-use batch-processing feature is great for managing lots of audio files. When used with the RMS Normalization feature that matches average dynamic levels, the batch-processing feature is ideal for podcasters, as it allows large groups of audio files to be easily prepped for radio or podcast programs. Podcasts can be authored and uploaded directly from Peak as RSS feeds without requiring a separate Podcasting app.

Image placeholder title

Peak's new user interface includes global contrast control, scroll bars, and buttons. The new high-resolution logarithmic meters are user-configurable, and the program's windows are now "magnetic," automatically snapping together for optimal screen management. The new Vbox effects and instruments matrix offers additional preset viewing and selection controls plus MIDI channel assignments. Additionally, the playlist offers an improved cross-fade control area along with a new stereo view and useradjustable waveform to list view ratio.

"Advanced Playlist Editing and Mastering" features in Version 6 add multiple new features to Version 5's feature set (which included PQ editing, CD-TEXT, DDP export option, and ISRC codes). Peak Pro 6 includes selectable Mastering or "Classical Editing" cross-fade modes. Volume envelopes allow volumes to be easily and precisely edited across entire regions, fades, and cross-fades. The custom default x-fades allows custom crossfades to be created, saved and automatically applied to favorite x-fade shapes. Added controls include edit sync between source document and region. BIAS has also added several playlist waveform zooming tools (zoom to sample level, auto-zoom to cross-fade, zoom out all the way) to improve workflow. Ideal for editing complex musical takes, preparing tracks for commercial CD replication, or simply arranging sections of a remix, the new playlist in Peak Pro 6 is now even more powerful and optimized for the task.

Peak Pro 6 has added several new tools to its Editing, Processing and Sound Design feature set. Perpetual Looper DSP ensures perfect "beat-free" sustained loops on monophonic sources. It is great for creating instrument sample libraries. The Voiceover Ducking DSP analyzes the amplitude of a voiceover and automatically adjusts volume of the background audio. This feature is ideal for podcast authoring when a voiceover needs to be mixed with background music. The Change Pitch and Convolve Envelope feature applies dynamic changes over time. Pitch Envelope allows pitch changes to be controlled with a user-customizable envelope. It is perfect for creating special pitch-based effects over time. Convolve Envelope offers dynamic control over the amount of convolution being applied over time and is excellent for creating new sounds by mapping the harmonic spectrum of one file over another.
BIAS SoundSoap Pro, a restoration plug-in for Peak Pro
The Change Duration options allow algorithmic selection for optimizing results with vocals or musical content. The Vbox Link allows a cross-synthesis between virtual instruments, audio, effects, and live input with real-time mix, convolve, vocode, modulate and magnitude multiply modes. The proprietary Dither Cloning Audio Technology (DCAT) provides ultra-accurate emulation of the most popular dithering technologies as well as parameter controls to adjust, preview, and apply frequency and attenuation skew. As in previous editions, POW-r dithering is included. Cache in RAM provides a fast editing option that stores audio in RAM. This avoids disc-access holdups when working with large files and drastically increases processing speed for many DSP operations.

Image placeholder title

Peak Pro is frequently used for CD, web, video, and gaming audio file preparation. Version 6 adds new export capabilities while streamlining integration between other applications. Advanced PQ sheet/text export now includes custom playlist reports with durations, index points, CD-TEXT info, notes, etc. This data can be printed, saved to PDF, or exported as a tab-delimited file. Audio documents and playlists can be quickly exported directly to iTunes, and files can be dragged and dropped between iTunes and Peak playlists. The "Send To iTunes" option also allows files — or entire playlists — to be encoded using iTunes automatically, if desired.

The Default Save As feature stores frequently used file type, bit depth, and compression settings in the Save As dialog. Peak can read and write to all major file types (AIFF, SDII, QuickTime, MP2, MP3, MP4, FLAC, WAVE, Broadcast WAVE, AU, Sonic AIFF, JAM Image, Raw, DDP, and more). It also supports the reading, writing, and even editing of metadata (audio information stored within the file such as artist, title, and SMPTE start time) for the most major of file types — MP3, FLAC, AIFF, WAVE, and Broadcast WAVE.

The Peak Pro Production Pack is a powerful assembly of audio plug-ins, utilities, and content. It includes BIAS Reveal LE, BIAS SoundSoap LE, WireTap Pro, a 1-year membership to Broadjam.com, AMG's "ONE" sample player (content-limited edition), and tons of content from PowerFX, Hollywood Edge, and Sound Ideas.

Image placeholder title

The LE editions of SoundSoap and Reveal integrate exclusively with Peak on Mac OS X, while the retail editions are cross-platform and compatible with thirdparty AU, RTAS/AS, and VST hosts. WireTap Pro from Ambrosia is an excellent application for capturing system/Internet audio with no loss of quality or additional cable connections. AMG's "ONE" sample player is a real-time sample playback instrument featuring a limited selection of quality loop content.

SoundSoap 2 effectively removes broadband noise, 50 and 60 Hz hum, and rumble. I've found the plug-in to be intuitive and easy to use. It can be used as an Audio Unit, RTAS, or VST plug-in, or as a standalone application with almost any digital audio or video file. SoundSoap Pro combines three reduction and restoration tools: Broadband, Click and Crackle, and Hum and Rumble, plus a sophisticated Noise Gate into a single plug-in. It includes an intelligent noise-learning algorithm that works miracles 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 works perfectly to remove unwanted room noise, hiss, electrical hum, rumble, and other background noise.

The BIAS Master Perfection Suite includes the PitchCraft, GateEx, Reveal, Sqweez, SuperFreq and Repli-Q plug-ins. PitchCraft is a natural-sounding pitch-correction plug-in that combines an X/Y Tuning History Graph, Keyboard Display and several sliders to control format and pitch changes. The GateEx gate/expander plugin is a powerful gate in a comfortable and easy-to-use interface. The Reveal plug-in is a seven-tool audio signal analysis suite that provides engineers an intelligent way to analyze audio. 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 plug-in is extremely useful in determining how certain processing is affecting the audio content while mixing or mastering. The Repli-Q plug-in is an EQ-matching application designed to analyze, edit, and compare the spectral content of audio recordings. Once analysis has taken place, the spectral characteristics of one recording may be applied to another. The Sqweez-3 and Sqweez-5 are multi-band compressor 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 SuperFreq EQ plug-ins are 4-, 6-, 8- or 10-band equalizers. Each band has adjustable bandwidth, gain, frequency, and an individual band bypass button.

In Use

BIAS PitchCraft, a natural-sounding pitch correction plug-in Installing the Peak Pro XT 6 software suite was a breeze, and I'm happy to report that the package no longer requires a USB key to operate. BIAS has redesigned the entire look of the graphic interface, and it is visually better than ever. The drab gray look of the previous version has been replaced by a higher contrast, more invigorating GUI. The increased customization to be helpful too, though I'm surprised that there's still no support for storing custom window sets. As with previous versions, Peak's interface is relatively simple and intuitive. First-time users will be up and running in a minimal amount of time.

Image placeholder title

BIAS has redesigned the metering in Peak and the new high-resolution, logarithmic-scale meters offer user-definable configurations and the ability to meter audio before or after the master output slider. That said, I occasionally miss the old metering which was more accurate in some situations. An option for "Peak Legacy" metering would be nice.

Since sample rate conversion is still far from perfect in any software package, I think it is a good measure of the quality of the program and how it handles audio. Peak 6's USRC (Ultimate Sample Rate Conversion) sample rate conversion is quite impressive. I listened to several different files that I converted with Peak and found that in most cases the sonic difference was so small that it was almost undetectable and the results were always usable. It's sonically better than the sample rate conversion that I've ever used in any DAW.

The new cache in RAM feature makes for some mighty fast editing without the need to constantly load audio files from the drive. This is a great addition to the packages feature set. I also found the addition of a real-time bounce feature to be extremely helpful when I was using analog gear to process an audio file or when I wanted to manipulate plug-in controls in real time as the bounce happened. As a user of Frontier Design's Tranzport wireless remote controller, I was happy to see that this device is now supported by BIAS with no additional configuration.

My overall impression with Peak Pro XT 6 is quite good. The package includes a substantial amount of content for a reasonable price. As expected with a package this extensive, there are several things that I found disappointing. There's no support for surround sound, DVD-A, SACD, or Blu-Ray. There's no PC support, either. [However, "the included plug-ins are cross-platform," offers the manufacturer. — Ed.] It would be helpful if it were possible to mix regions with different bit depths or combine mono and stereo documents within a playlist.

Summary

For working with stereo audio files, Peak Pro XT 6 is the best resource that I've encountered. New features include mastering and "classical editing" cross-fade modes, controls like pre/post roll audition, the ability to insert new event at play-head, voiceover ducking DSP, new user interface and improvements to the delivery tools. With the inclusion of the Peak Pro Production Pack, a collection of analysis, equalization, audio cleaning tools, and sound effects and BIAS Peak Pro XT 6 is a bargain.

Russ Long, a Nashville-based producer/engineer, owns The Carport recording studio. He is a regular contributor to Pro Audio Review. Visit him online at www.russlong.ws.