I became acquainted with Sound Forge back in 2003, shortly after Sony purchased the Windows-based Sonic Foundry product line. Sound Forge, along with Acid Pro and Vegas Video, became the backbone of Sony’s Creative Software division. In those days, I was regularly using a PC alongside a Mac in the studio, as Acid Pro offered functionality that wasn’t then available on Mac computers. Sony finally released an OS X version of Sound Forge a few years ago, but Acid Pro never left the Windows umbrella. In mid-2016, Sonic Foundry and SpectraLayers spectral editor software were purchased by the celebrated German company Magix, best known for its acclaimed Samplitude DAW. Under the new ownership, the first major update is version 3 of Sound Forge Pro Mac.
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Sound Forge Pro Mac 3 is an audio editor and processor that incorporates a highly customizable single-window architecture. While the look and feel of the application isn’t necessarily bare-bones, it is still a no-fluff application that doesn’t have a host of unnecessary options or excessive menus. This makes it a much easier program to learn and operate in a day-to-day workflow. It supports recording up to 24-bit, 192 kHz and can import virtually any audio file format.
The Sound Forge window is divided into four panes. Waveform displays are located in the top center of the window, where audio files can be arranged and displayed. Panels below and on either side of the waveform display can be toggled on and off. The Panes and Views options in the top right corner determine which sections are shown or hidden. Sections can be arranged within the panes, making it easy to customize the layout based on the user’s workflow and needs. The wave editor area can simultaneously display two files either vertically or horizontally. Both sections incorporate tabs that accommodate the managing multiple open documents.
Audio editing is where Sound Forge excels, and anyone with basic DAW editing familiarity will be up and running with Sound Forge in little to no time. The application makes it easy to edit down to the single-sample level using event-based or time-based editing modes, and it incorporates iZotope’s 64-bit sample rate conversion and dithering. The application includes a lengthy list of Magix processing plug-ins, but it also supports third-party VST and AU plug-ins. Plug-ins can be viewed by category, vendor (manufacturer) or type, and are searchable. They can be dragged from the list directly onto an audio clip for immediate processing (like Audiosuite in Pro Tools) or into the Plug-In Chain area. Each plug-in that is part of a chain can be individually edited, and chains can be saved and loaded.
The application also includes the option for iTunes auditioning, making it easy to preview what “mastered for iTunes” audio will sound like once it goes through Apple’s encoding procedure. This process generates an M4A-format audio file that the user can compare to the master, allowing processing to be optimized for iTunes. With many of today’s albums being digital release-only, this is a fantastic feature.
Engineers who routinely work with video will be glad to know that Sound Forge supports the extraction of audio from a wide range of video file formats, including XAVC, XDCAM and AVCHD. Simply dragging and dropping a video file into the application window automatically extracts the audio and displays it in the waveform view. (Unfortunately, the app doesn’t support video playback.)
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After spending time with Sound Forge Pro, it quickly becomes clear that Magix prioritized the application to meeting the needs of engineers creating content required to meet today’s broadcast standards. The application’s Loudness Meter toggles between ATSC A85 (for North America) and EBU R128 (for Europe) standards and includes support for mono, stereo and surround sound formats. Scale ranges can be switched between +18 and +9 dB and low-level resolution can be varied by changing the base of the meters between -12 and -138 dB.
The loudness meters display momentary loudness with a 400 ms window, short-term loudness with a three-second window, integrated loudness across all of the channels. The “loudness range” helps estimate the perceived dynamics of a mix. The Loudness Log feature provides the ability to demonstrate loudness compliance.
One of the app’s highlights is that it is bundled with iZotope’s RX Elements and Ozone Elements. RX is a restoration and spectral repair tool that includes Ozone’s De-click, De-clip, De-hum and Voice De-noise. Ozone is a mastering suite that includes Ozone’s Imager, Maximizer and EQ. RX Elements and Ozone Elements cost $129 each when purchased separately, so it’s a pretty amazing deal with Sound Forge Pro Mac 3 costing only $299. Also included with the application are dynamic rendering of project files, automatic loudness leveling, updated loudness metering and mastered for iTunes auditioning. A separate batch conversion app called Convrt is also included, useful for processing a large numbers of files in a single instance.
Mac users in need of a feature-packed audio editor should give top consideration to Sound Forge Pro Mac V3. This is a refined audio editor that incorporates a smart, intuitive user interface. It is simple enough for the novice, yet it easily meets the requirements of complex audio editing and CD production, and the value added with the inclusion of iZotope’s Ozone Elements and RX Elements makes the purchase a no-brainer.
Magix Software • www.magix.com/us/