Audio editing isn’t a top priority for many video producers. They don’t necessarily need something as powerful as Pro Tools or Sound Forge. Instead, they may prefer something that’s easy to use with a feature set geared more for arranging than for recording.

That’s the target audience for Adobe Soundbooth CS4. Though it’s available as a standalone application, in many cases it will be acquired as a component program within Adobe Creative Suite 4 Production Premium or Adobe Creative Suite 4 Web Premium. If you work in Premiere, After Effects or Flash, it may have all the audio editing tools you’ll need. If you work extensively with audio, however, you may be disappointed that it can’t save directly to surround formats (such as 5.1), use VST plug-ins, or assign individual tracks to specific sound cards.

Track Happy

The biggest news for this version is support for multi-track projects. That opens up the possibility of having separate tracks for video-recorded audio, sound effects, music and narration. The multi-track timeline lets you work with clips either singly or in a group. Each clip has its own volume and panning controls, as well as fade handles. You can add keyframes to adjust the volume more precisely.

Several new features are designed to improve workflow. You can use one of the predefined workspaces, including “Edit Audio to Video” or “Edit Score to Video,” or you can create and save your own workspace. A snapshot option captures the current state of your edit, letting you quickly return to a previous point in the editing process. In addition, you can batch match the volume level of multiple clips to a single reference clip (handy for making everything sound as though it was recorded at the same time).

Say What?

A new speech search feature, also included in Premiere CS4, can analyze an audio file and transcribe its spoken words, allowing you to search for the edit-point associated with a specific word. The speech-to-text engine is heavily dependent on the audio quality, as well as the speaker’s pronunciation. With an Adobe-supplied clip, it was 100 percent accurate. With a phone-based recording, it miss-transcribed almost every word.

Another cool feature lets you share your audio project with other Adobe applications. A new Adobe Sound Document (ASND) file format contains a copy of your original audio assets, any changes you’ve made, and an audio mix down. When you open the.ASND file in Premiere, After Effects or Flash, you see only the mix down. Each of the three applications now has an Edit in Soundbooth menu option so you can adjust the audio without having to leave the timeline.

As a standalone audio editor, Adobe Soundbooth CS4 is a good, but not great, choice. As a supplementary audio editor for Premiere, After Effects or Flash, it could be an excellent choice, as long as your audio needs aren’t too demanding.