I had the privilege to review SEK’D Samplitude 5.5 back in 2000, and I was impressed with the power and flexibility of this German-made audio editing package. With the introduction of version 6.0 ($674), Magix (previously SEK’D) has made Samplitude an even stronger package.
Product PointsApplications: Audio editing, mastering and recording; 5.1 surround processing; audio for video; Internet audio encoding
Key Features: Nondestructive/object-oriented editing mode, 32-bit internal processing, 192 kHz sample rate support, uses DirectX and VST plug-ins, 5.1 surround support, Red Book CD burning.
Contact: Magix at 310-477-0241, Web Site, www.samplitude.com
Because the product is so vast in its feature set, this review will survey the basics of Samplitude, look at some of Samplitude’s strengths and highlight significant new features introduced since version 5.5. (PAR 9/00)
Samplitude is a multitrack audio editing package for PC computers running Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000 or NT (Magix says Samplitude 6 should function also in Windows XP – Ed.) It will work with virtually any audio hardware, relying only on the CPU for its extensive audio processing. Several of Samplitude’s more-demanding effects algorithms have been optimized for Pentium III and IV processors for optimum performance.
One of the main characteristics that distinguish Samplitude from other packages is its object-oriented approach to digital audio. Individual audio objects (segments of audio data) have volume, fade and pan controls. You can apply real-time effects to objects, drawing from Samplitude’s own excellent algorithms as well as DirectX or VST effects.
Standard effects include fully parametric four-band EQ, de-hisser, FFT filter, stereo enhancer and various dynamics algorithms (four-band compressor, expander, single-band compressors, maximizers, limiters and more). Equalization and one single-band dynamics algorithm are always available; to these you can add up to three of Samplitude’s stock effects, plus as many DirectX/VST effects as you would like, per object.
Objects can also be stretched in time or pitch-shifted, looped and automatically crossfaded. Beat sensing allows cleaner tempo and pitch changes of highly percussive audio objects (such as drum loops). With version 6.0’s new object-oriented pitch shift and time stretching, object manipulation becomes nearly limitless on the Samplitude “Virtual Project” timeline.
All of this object-specific processing is real-time and nondestructive, and it is only the tip of the iceberg. Audio objects sit on tracks, which have their own volume and pan automation. These mixer tracks also offer individual delay or reverb effects, traditional aux sends, dynamics, four-band fully parametric EQ, distortion and any number of DirectX or VST effects.
Finally, all mixer tracks funnel into the main stereo output (or 5.1 surround output). Mixer outputs offer the now familiar four-band EQ, FFT filter, single-band dynamics and any number of third-party plug-ins. Plus, you can add in the smart de-hisser, multi-band stereo enhancer and multiband dynamics processor.
Catching the trend here? Samplitude Producer lets you add effects almost at will, giving you three different opportunities to process any chunk of audio data (object, track and master output). It is conceivable that one audio object could pass through dozens of real-time effects by the time it leaves Samplitude. Try that with a rack of outboard gear.
In addition to serious multitrack mixing power, Samplitude Producer offers powerful nondestructive wave editing features; fast-and-easy CD burning right from the timeline; tight integration with Magix VideoDeluxe video editing package; the ability to directly open, edit and output to such formats as MP3, RealAudio, Windows Media and MPEG; and more.
Other enhancements since version 5.5 include a transparent linked file system that allows recording of audio files much larger than 2 GB, project folders that contain all relevant data for a given project and CD-R backup of the latter that can span multiple discs. A nifty FTP (file transfer protocol) download utility allows you to pull audio files off the Internet or another file server. Magix will even host and stream your finished masterpiece from its web site.
In the native effects department, Version 6.0 boasts new “advanced dynamics” algorithms that offer smooth analog-style compression as well as mastering-type limiting and maximizing functions. Metering on these effects is great, actually plotting audio amplitude on the “gain line” in real time. As with the multi-band dynamics, FFT filter and de-hisser effects, advanced dynamics offers look-ahead processing.
New “visualizations” give you several ways to look at your audio, including a spectrum analyzer, spectrogram, oscilloscope, phase correlation meter and traditional bar-style level meters. The latter offer lots of options for scale and speed, as well as peak hold, numerical indicator, RMS indicator and more.
It makes me happy when designers put as much effort towards refining and streamlining the user interface as they do towards adding new features and goodies. Samplitude Producer 6.0 boasts a significantly enhanced interface, with the main improvements being in the project window and digital mixer.
Control layouts are more intuitive, mouse modes are more powerful and flexible, and “tool tip” help – seen when the mouse hovers over a button or control – is improved. You can now reconfigure the whole Samplitude screen and save it as a work surface preset for instant recall. Likewise, you can save presets that instantly reconfigure the whole mixer.
In addition to these high-level presets, Samplitude lets you configure things at a lower level as well. You can store individual screen sets, zoom levels, track selection and more. You can save mixer snapshots for instant recall, as well as mark specific views of the mixer for recall. You can customize your toolbars, track display, snap and grid modes, fonts, time markers, keyboard shortcuts and more. In a word, you can make Samplitude fit the way you like to work.
Samplitude offers a useful color-coding tool called Comparisonics which separates signals in the waveform by frequency. But sometimes locating the perfect point in an audio file is sometimes more easily done by ear than by sight and Samplitude has an excellent jog/shuttle/scrub function to accomplish this. The resulting audio is clean and glitch-free at a wide range of speeds, and the responsiveness of the control is spot-on. The mouse’s scrub mode is equally well implemented.
Samplitude’s 5.1 surround support is very good, offering easy routing, panning and automating of multichannel projects. I really appreciate the small location display that shows channel surround position right on the main mixer surface. Samplitude supports four-point impulse response models for creating ultra-realistic surround ambiences.
Are there shortcomings worth complaining about with Samplitude Producer 6.0? Not many. The software does not allow direct automation of effects sends, but you can accomplish the same thing with a somewhat inconvenient routing of effects sends through mixer busses.
Samplitude crashed hard for me a few times (on both Windows ME and 2000), and locked up once or twice while placing and removing plug-ins. The software’s “Crash Guard” handled the majority of the crashes gracefully, allowing me to save files and projects before the software exited.
It is no fault of the software that it can lure a person into applying more effects than are prudent. With so many places to stack up effects, you have to be extra careful to not drive your CPU to its silicon knees. That said, Samplitude’s supplied effects sound excellent almost without exception and are quite conservative on CPU usage to boot (even the four-band compressor).
Where Samplitude continually amazes me is in the number of options it gives you at virtually every point in the audio production process. You do not get just stereo or mono pan, you get multiple types of each. You are not limited to simply inserting a DirectX effect, you get to decide whether it is pre or post-fader, where it sits in relation to other DirectX effects, and whether it is before or after Samplitude’s own effects algorithms. Samplitude does not give you just one compressor to choose from, it gives you a stack of ’em. And, oh – would you like a peak limiter with that? The options just keep coming.
I cannot think of another software package that tops Samplitude for a wide variety of audio editing, mixing, mastering and audio-for-video chores. This is a mature, polished piece of software that just oozes thoughtful design. Perhaps one of Samplitude’s greatest strengths is the way in which it can be reconfigured, with presets at almost every level, to become the perfect audio editing environment for most every user.
It is a very rare product that boasts almost limitless power tucked behind a well-conceived user interface.