Adobe Soundbooth CS3

Adobe Soundbooth CS3

While Soundbooth’s interface is neat and organized, we wish it had more than a single pair of audio tracks.

 

Adobe has long been known as a graphics powerhouse, but in recent years the company has brought some audio tools home to roost. Soundbooth, an audio editor, is now included with Adobe’s Creative Suite 3 Production Premium and the CS3 Master Collection. Soundbooth’s inclusion got many production pros’ hopes up that Adobe’s Audition would also be ported to the Intel Mac, but this was not to be. And unfortunately for Soundbooth, it can’t compete as Adobe’s equivalent to Apple’s Soundtrack Pro.

 

Instead of the high-end feature set found in Audition, Soundbooth has a stripped-down toolset that’s suited for basic audio editing and enhancement. The interface is fairly straightforward, with the unified visual look now found in all Adobe applications: tabbed panels arranged on a clean, uncluttered screen. The most essential types of procedures for editing audio are presented in the Tasks panel, including noise removal, pitch and timing changes, loop creation, sound removal, and AutoCompose Score. These are designed to quickly accomplish useful tasks, but the price you pay for that simplicity is limited flexibility.

 

Basic editing is handled quite nicely, with some truly innovative interface touches that we’d love to see in other audio software. Creating fade-ins and fade-outs consists of grabbing an envelope control and dragging it while watching the visual waveform of the processed audio change interactively, an intuitive and slick way to create gradually ramped audio level changes. The Normalization button does a nice job of maximizing low audio levels, a problem that plagues camcorders with built-in condenser microphones. In order to minimize the background noise and hum that accompanies volume changes of this magnitude, the Clean Up Audio task panel has fairly decent controls for reducing hiss, residual noise, and other nasties. Unfortunately, there is no automatic 60Hz hum removal, a common problematic frequency, but this is somewhat offset by the rather nifty Audio Heal command, which is the aural equivalent of Photoshop’s Healing brush.

 

Soundbooth lets you look at (and edit) sound in a spectrographic display mode, which makes it easier to visually spot audio anomalies and use basic graphics tools to remove them. The built-in audio effects filters are just so-so, however, and include the most important categories: a compressor, limiter, convolution reverb, phase shifter, graphic and parametric equalizers, and a few others. Pitch and tempo shifting are good enough for audio novices, but aren’t the fastest performers on the circuit. Another cool feature, AutoCompose Score, comes with 40 different types of editable soundtracks, and might save your bacon if you can’t afford a backing orchestra, but it’s much less capable than stand-alone competitors such as Synk Audio Studios’ Musicbed DV ($249).

 

All this aside, the current version of Soundbooth has some major weaknesses that limit its usefulness for serious work. In a world of surround sound, the fact that the app can only really handle a single set of stereo audio channels is a huge drawback and severely limits Soundbooth for most professionals. This is compounded by the fact that you can’t easily edit the separate left/right channels independently without workarounds, something Adobe needs to fix as soon as possible. The included audio-processing filters, while serviceable, are rather rudimentary by today’s standards, and the obvious solution - using any of the many excellent third-party Audio Units plug-ins - is simply not supported. That’s a crying shame. The real-time scrubbing function plays back audio with far too much noise and skipping. What’s more, in our testing, actual recording starts between two to four seconds after we clicked the Record button, which to us qualifies as a bug.

 

The bottom line. We’re glad that Adobe included a workable audio editor in CS3 Production Premium and CS3 Master Collection, but anyone besides the most inexperienced audio editor is going to be stymied by Soundbooth’s limitations rather quickly.

 

COMPANY: Adobe

CONTACT: www.adobe.com

PRICE: $199 à la carte, available in two CS3 bundles ($1,699 to $2,499)

REQUIREMENTS: Multicore Intel Mac, Mac OS 10.4.9 or later, 512MB RAM (1GB-2GB for video playback), 10GB disk space, SuperDrive

Some excellent interface innovations. Audio healing tool is uniquely powerful. Editable spectrographic display.

Limited to a single pair of stereo tracks. No Audio Units support. Won’t work on PowerPC Macs.

 

 

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