One of the giants of the Windows audio world has made it to the Mac at last. Was it worth the wait?
The Sound Forge Pro Mac interface is easy to use and fully customisable.
In recent years, the Windows platform has been much better supplied for audio editing software than the Mac, thanks to applications such as Steinberg's Wavelab, Adobe's Audition and Sony's Sound Forge. Mac users, by contrast, recently lost one of the few well-specified Mac-only audio editing packages when BIAS went out of business but, fortunately, Sony have now followed Steinberg in porting their flagship program to the platform. To the surprise of many, given their very long-standing PC-only product line, Sound Forge Pro Mac is with us now.
While it bears some visual similarities to Sound Forge on the PC, Sony are at pains to point out that this is not a port: Sound Forge Pro Mac 1.0 has been built from scratch for OS X. Although this means that the transition between the PC and Mac versions is not a totally transparent experience for users, it does mean that SFPM looks very clean and fresh.
Hardware permitting, SFPM supports a wide variety of audio formats, and can record up to 32 simultaneous channels at 64-bit/192kHz resolution. You could, therefore, use SFPM to record or edit anything from the simplest mono sample up to a high-fidelity, multi-channel live recording, and presets for recording common surround channel configurations are included. All the usual editing tools — trimming, cutting, pasting, adding fades, and so on — are present and correct. A sensible selection of processing tools is, likewise, available, as is a range of third-party plug-ins from Izotope and Zplane, and any other VST or AU plug-ins on your system are also available within SFPM. As well as applying processors individually to a file, or a selection from a file, users can also build plug-in chains and save them as presets, while effect controls can be automated via envelopes. Once your editing is done, your beautifully crafted audio can then be rendered in a range of audio formats including MP3, WAV and AIF.
All of this sounds great, but I should point out now that, compared with the Windows version, there are also some surprising omissions in this first SFPM release. I'll return to this point later.
SFPM supports record tasks of up to 32 channels.
The upper toolbar strip aside, the main SFPM display is divided into four user-configurable, areas. The Editor pane dominates, displaying a waveform overview area which shows the full length of the audio file and the main waveform display, where detailed editing is carried out. Within the waveform overview, the mouse can be used to highlight a portion of the file, which is then shown in more detail in the main waveform area. Using the mouse to change the size or position of the highlighted portion in the overview is very intuitive, making it easy to move the selection or to control the degree of zoom in the main waveform display. Within the main display, the mouse can be used to make selections for editing tasks. Depending upon where you drag — along a track's edges, in the centre or across tracks — you can select material from just a single track or all tracks; again, it's all neat and very intuitive. If you want multiple files open at the same time, tabs appear at the top of the Editor pane, and you can also open a second Editor pane and stack the two panes, either vertically or horizontally.
Three further panels can be made to appear to the left, right and underneath the Editor pane. A range of tools can be displayed in these locations, including the Media Browser, Meters, File Properties, Regions List and the Plug-in Chain. In the left and right panels, the tools are stacked, while in the bottom panel the tools appear as a tabbed list and the user can switch between them. If you just need more room for the Editor pane, you can, of course, just toggle the display of these additional panels off. All in all, I like the overall design of the user interface and I think this is one area where Sony's 'fresh start' approach to developing the Mac version has paid off.
Projects can be saved in a variety of audio formats as well as the SF project format.
Sound Forge Pro Mac's suite of tools caters for all general editing tasks with ease. You can work directly with a range of audio file formats but, if you are going to do any serious work, it is well worth saving the file as a Sound Forge project (this has a '.forgeproj' extension). This format contains your audio plus other elements you might have added via the editing process, such as markers, regions, plug-ins and plug-in automation, and an edit history. The last is particularly useful, as it allows you to undo your edits should you wish, although it would be even better if there was a 'history list' that could be viewed and from which you could pick a point within the history to return to; as it stands, you just have to step backwards one edit at a time. By contrast, edits made to a WAV file are applied destructively when the file is re-saved.
Editing work is done in four different modes, which can be chosen via the buttons at the base of the Editor pane or from the Edit menu. The default mode is Time, wherein the cursor appears as a standard arrow which can be used, for example, to make time-based selections within the Editor pane. Pencil mode lets you redraw the waveform manually, and is available only at high magnification levels, while Envelope mode is used when creating and editing automation envelopes. The other mode is Event, of which more in a moment.