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Audio editing applications come and go like the seasons — Bias Peak and Apple’s Soundtrack Pro are now history, and while GarageBand, Logic, and Adobe Audition all vie for attention (along with Audacity and a few others), Sony has finally brought the popular Windows editor Sound Forge Pro to the Mac. While this should warm the hearts of Mac musicians and audio engineers, the fact is that this first version has enough rough spots to give us some pause in considering it ready for prime time.
Sound Forge Pro delivers some powerful editing tools and audio-processing abilities in an application that takes some time to master. That’s not surprising for pro-level editing software, but while we found the documentation clear and concise, some aspects of the interface show that this app has DNA from the other side of the fence. Sony is promoting Sound Forge Pro as a Mac-optimized application, but it falls a little short of the kind of clarity we’ve come to expect on Mac software.
One of the first big gotchas is that this is primarily a program for editing individual stereo or mono audio tracks — you can open two audio files at the same time and mix them together using copy and paste, which is no longer sufficient for a $200-plus audio editor. Even GarageBand gives you multiple stackable tracks, with intuitive time sliding and amplitude envelopes for mixing them together. Another quirk: perhaps the most basic type of audio editing you’ll ever do in any program is to create fade-in and fade-out effects, nothing new or exotic for any audio aficionado. In order to do this in Sound Forge Pro, you need to enter a distinct “Event” editing mode, and even then, it lacks some of the fine-tuned control we’ve seen in most other audio editors. We found other places where the program could be more intuitive, and the version of the program reviewed (1.0.21) was a little buggier than we expected, but hopefully it’ll get better over time.
If you want to use this for recording audio, you’ll be happy with the advanced level metering and extensive multichannel support—with the appropriate hardware interface and enough computing power, you can capture up to 32 channels of incoming audio signal. That said, we were surprised that there are no facilities for importing a movie with embedded audio and being able to see both play simultaneously. Only the audio portion is imported, a significant oversight for the intended audience.
There are some excellent bundled plug-ins for advanced sonic processing, including licensed versions of Izotope’s restoration and repair tools, great for cleaning up recordings with hum, static, and other sonic gremlins. And from Sony’s own code archives, you get a sweet-sounding Harmonic Exciter, a slick effect for adding punch and life to flat audio tracks (and which goes a step beyond the more mundane equalization tools often used for these tasks), a pro-level multiband compressor (which adds the presence and punch that you often hear on commercial radio broadcasts), a really nice reverb, and a nice assortment of other useful audio tools. It also supports Audio Units plug-ins, and surprisingly, Mac VST plug-ins, a feature that’s relatively rare for Mac applications, and a nice touch for those looking for the most audio-processing options.
The bottom line. We had some high expectations for this long-awaited Mac version of this powerful tool, but what we see is more about the potential than the actual delivered product. We look forward to seeing what happens with version 2.0 of Sound Forge Pro, but we’d be hard pressed to recommend it over Adobe Audition, which offers many more features, batch processing (noticeably absent in Sound Forge), and true multitrack mixing abilities.
Sound Forge Pro Mac
Intel dual-core processor, OS X 10.7 or later, 2GB RAM
Good plug-in variety and quality. Extensive multiple channel support.
Not easy to mix multiple audio files. Interface can be unintuitive. Buggy.