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Sony Sound Forge Pro 10

The "Photoshop" of the audio industry is back, better than ever

Sony Sound Forge Pro 10, like its previous incarnations, comes with a slew of industry standard functionality, and then some. It has become the fastest way to edit, record, process and master audio thanks to its easy workflow. You can use it to do everything rom analysis, sample design, loop creation, audio restoring of old recordings, and full mastering of replication-ready audio CDs.
What you’ll notice immediately, brand-wise, is the added “Pro” suffix. Don’t be fooled, however: It has always been a professional application for digital audio editing and processing. In fact, in audio and production/engineering circles it’s known as the “Photoshop of the audio world,” a must-have application if you are a PC user working in audio and music production/design. The new naming I can only assume is to help it better match its family of products: Vegas Pro and Acid Pro. Like any previous version of Sound Forge, it is compatible and works seamlessly with Vegas and Acid, or other DAW software, like Sonar, or any application that supports custom application wave editor triggering.

To catch you up on all things Sound Forge Pro 10, let’s start with the fundamental features, which include more than 40 professional studio effects that you can even “chain” together to create custom packs of presets for batch conversion of sets of files. The primary features are stereo and multi-channel recording and support for industry standard MAC and PC audio formats, including 24-bit, 32-bit/64-bit float and up to 192kHz. SSF Pro 10 also has a Dolby Digital AC-3 export feature, amazing time-stretching and pitch shifting plug-ins, professional metering and monitoring standard and full support for both VST and DX plug-ins (and automation!). The list goes on.

In version 10, there are even more exciting things, like the anticipated arrival of musical instrument file processing (.DLS, .SF2, .GIG), for use with samplers and soft-synthesizers. Integrated disc-at-once CD burning, a feature previously only available in Sony CD Architect 5.2, lets you create red-book standard CDs ready for replication right from within Sound Forge. For those who are new to the software, there are now some handy interactive tutorials (the box included a download code for some official Sound Forge Pro 10 seminar series training video, in fact). They will walk you through the many uses of the software. There are also now customizable window layouts, something I’ve been looking for for some time, which will bring the tools that I need, where I need them, when I need them.

Sound Forge 9 came with a set of 4 mastering plug-ins from iZotope. Version 10 features Mastering Effects Bundle 2, which includes Mastering EQ, Mastering Reverb, Multiband Compressor, Mastering Limiter, Stereo Imager and Harmonic Exciter. Because Sound Forge supports chaining and non-destructive editing and real-time processing, you can take these six studio-quality mastering plug-ins and create truly remarkable masters. I used these plug-ins on my recent two-disc release, Synaesthesia, to great effect with professional results. They were powerful and easy to use. They come with a ton of very useful presets for all kinds of music. I was even able to make custom “chains” with these plug-ins and the other included Sony plug-ins, for an upcoming release. To top it all off, it includes automation and envelope filtering, making for truly optimized project mastering.

Another exciting new arrival is iZotope 64-bit SRC and MBIT+ Dither plug-ins. In short, when you convert or change the sample rate of files (like 192khz to 44.1khz), you can get strange ringing artifacts, aliasing and even loss of data. With iZotope’s algorithm you get a accurately pristine audio conversion. With iZotope MBIT+ dither, you get cleaner bit conversions. In the studio I normally edit with 24-bit masters and sessions, but usually and ultimately those tracks will end up in 16-bit (the maximum supported on Audio CDs), and this new bit-depth conversion minimizes and hides that conversion noise in frequencies less audible. What this means to you is cleaner, smoother bit-rate conversions. It’s interesting to point out that iZotope used musical material rather than test tones for more musical quality output. These two new additions together make getting your material from the studio to the Internet, or to a CD, cleaner. Very cool!

Sony also released its Noise Reduction 2 collection of plug-ins featuring Noise Reduction, Audio Restoration, Click and Crackle Removal and Clipped Peak Restoration for restoring LPs, cassettes, CDs and other sources. I was able to use these plug-ins to clean up cell phone messages, badly recorded field recordings that had major clipping or noise, all in no time. You can’t always go back into the field and re-record stuff from portable recorders, but with tools like this, you can’t need to! The presets are intuitive and ready for almost any project, and with a little tweaking you can clean up your archives and collections nicely.

Sound Forge Pro 10 includes Sony CD Architect 5.2, a program that I use for professional mastering of final stereo tracks, when assembling discs for replication at the factory. This software orders your tracks, gives you a professional print-out of times for the factory to verify your master, as well as CD-TEXT and integration support. I blogged about my usage of this software in May 2009 during the mastering of four years of material in my Synaesthesia release, complete with screenshots.

In my opinion, the best just keeps getting better, and this release proves it. This is truly hot software, and you’ll thank yourself for grabbing a copy of it. I’ve been using Sound Forge since the very first version back in the ’90s. It has come a long way, and never relents on continually improving itself. In the beginning it might have just been a wave editor. But it is, in this version, finally a complete and full production suite, ready for any kind of project or editing job. I love the included tools that help me with loop creation and ACIDizing (industry standard loop formatting) audio content. It has a wonderful snap-to-zero selection system, loop tool and most important, selection grid-lines for time signatures (4/4 or custom), which makes finding that perfect loop in your material, so much easier. No more counting out a measure; instead, you get instant visual feedback without playing the track over and over again. It’s no wonder that this is considered by many professional audio engineers and designers in film, video games, radio and music, as a top-of-the-line set of tools.

Justin Lassen is a composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist and remixer who has worked in the film, video games and music industries.

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