As part of the new Production Studio, Audition has had a significant overhaul says Graeme Hague.
When Adobe absorbed Syntrillium Software a few years back and got hold of Cool Edit Pro (CEP) the popular audio editing program, it was all part of a process of creating the family of multimedia applications Adobe now has. Theoretically, anything you want to do with print, graphics, video or audio can be done with an Adobe product. It was a good move, but CEP users are a stubborn lot and many didn?t take up even the free upgrade to what Adobe now called ?Audition?. Mostly, this was because Audition was little more than a re-badging of CEP and it actually dropped a few features so as not to infringe on other Adobe products. Even now, it?s hard not to compare the latest Audition release with its CEP origins and, without doubt, evidence of Syntrillium?s handiwork is still easy to see.
However, there?s also been a significant overhaul, and with the new look and feel that Audition 2.0 presents, Adobe has definitely taken up the challenge of getting this software accepted in its own right. The gloves are off; but that works both ways – let?s be fair, the time has come for all the bouquets and the blame to be laid at Adobe?s feet, when it comes to Audition 2.0.
A quick overview first. Audition 2.0 is a complex and very capable Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) for editing wave files either on their own, or in a multi-track format such as you?d see in a recording studio to create a CD album. You can use it to make film soundtracks by syncing the music to a video window, or for putting together the latest Top 40 hit. It?s serious stuff. But right at the start it needs to be pointed out that one thing it is not is a midi sequencer like Cubase or Sonar. Midi support is limited – more on this later.
Another way to explain Audition is to go straight to the Effects sections and have a look at the Reverbs available. Reverbs in the audio world can be a benchmark of quality. They?re difficult to get accurate and are always CPU-intensive, which is why a lot of developers fall short of the mark in the attempts to compromise that quality in favour of overall software performance – a great reverb will chug down any DAW and bring the rest of your project to its knees with it.
Audition 2.0 gives you a choice of three menus. ?Studio Reverb? (strangely enough) is the lesser of the three, providing simple reverbs that won?t tax your CPU too much. The next, ?Reverb Effects? is a lot more comprehensive and is convolution-based, which is kind of like asking Picasso to draw your pictures instead of Mr Squiggle. ?Full Reverb? gives you all the convolution-based options of creating the perfect reverb sound. Now we?re talking Leonardo Da Vinci on steroids. You take your reverbs very seriously.
And this is exactly the type of approach, if you want, that Audition 2.0 provides throughout the software. Sure, there are presets and work-arounds in every function, but the program challenges you to think a lot more for yourself by providing more graphic-based adjustments that illustrate better what you?re doing, rather than an array of confusing parameters (Figure 7). You can take everything very seriously and expect highly professional results, if you have the time, skills and patience. The tools are all there.
Back to some basics. AA2.0, as it?s now called (because it?s easier to type!), has embraced the ASIO 2.0 driver capability fully and with that comes real-time input monitoring and VST support. In other words, it will let you hear what you?re recording on the fly and also, if you?ve brought audio plug-ins like Waves or you already have Cubase installed, all their effects are available in AA2.0, too. Maybe it doesn?t sound much in our industry where we?re spoiled with neat, digital tricks, but it?s a big leap for Audition. Another major revamp is the basic interface window.
There are three main environments to work in. ?Edit? view is where you manipulate individual wave files into whatever shape you want using effects, cutting, pasting and the like. It?s good for fixing straightforward issues, like reducing background noise on a voice-over or taking out bloopers.
?Multi-track? view is for compiling all your different recordings into a complete song or a film score and it?s also where you can synchronise your music to a video window.
The ?Mixer? is a virtual mixing console where getting the balance of your audio is best achieved.
But here?s a neat thing Adobe have done. All these windows can co-exist on your desktop together? no big deal- but if you resize one, all the others adjust themselves accordingly. That?s clever. (Figures 4 and 5) The same feature also lets you use dual monitors as well. This keeps you in touch with everything that?s going on with a level of priority you decide.
That lack of midi support can be worrying for people who are into music composition and want the VST instruments that are usually needed, but perhaps it?s because Audition offers an alternative for users who aren?t musicians who can play a keyboard? a lot of us, right?
Audition has ?Loopology?, Adobe?s own version of a kind of Acid Loops compatibility that uses any of the music loops from the 5000-strong library that comes with the program – and any others you can make yourself in the Edit window or download from forums on the internet. Loop libraries can be extensive and almost useless at the same time, or small yet cleverly put together – it?s all about the content. The Loopology range is impressive in one way as they?ve compiled groups of grooves and feels with the kind of minor variations in each that can make music sound ?real?. It?s good.
The only complaint is that each loop in the folder isn?t named in such a way that you know what they are. You need to audition each one to find out. Rename them as you go and the problem is solved, of course. Also, Audition does a great job of stretching tempos and tunings of individual loops to suit a project, as long as you don?t ask too much! For those ardent midi enthusiasts, Audition does have ReWire capability as well, but that means finding a host sequencer that will run okay with Audition as the same time. Hmmm? now we?re getting CPU greedy again.
A very interesting emphasis that Audition has placed on audio is the provision of analysis tools like Phase alignment. A lot of music that doesn?t sound quite right can be the result of phase issues resulting from importing, or editing, the wave files involved. It?s subtle, but important, and might need you to put your thinking cap on. Make the time as it?ll be worth it.
And another surprising bonus is a Pitch Correction plug in. Wisely, like the best of pitch-correction software available, Audition doesn?t offer any miracles. Face it, if your singer can?t sing, no digital magic will ever help. But if your vocalist has the remains of an illness or (more likely) a hangover and slightly misses a few notes, a good pitch correction plug-in will pull things back into shape nicely. Audition?s is very capable.
Last, but not least, Audition has a mastering function that includes a multi-band compressor powered by none other than Isotope, of Ozone 3 fame. Again, this is stuff coming from a high-quality stable of software development and is an impressive inclusion. Adobe hasn?t skimped on putting the best available together into their main host software.
Audition 2 has grown from its not-so-humble beginnings to an application so multifaceted it?s difficult to give it justice in the space provided here and many readers might feel it?s too much for their video soundtrack editing requirements. Don?t be too hasty. If you do need to slap together a quick soundtrack bed, Loopology is easy and ready to go. If a more layered sound is needed, the multi-track function can easily cater for anything. And if something needs fixing? well, if the Edit view can?t do it, nothing will.
Nothing is simple anymore. Any decent software that wants to be competitive in the market will offer a bemusing array of functions and capabilities, so the focus turns to getting software that does the job well and stays stable.
That?s Audition 2 in bucketfuls. If you?re a musician looking to primarily write and record midi-based music you?ll be disappointed in that regard, yet delighted in the audio functions you?ll look for later in the song-making process. It?s still worth thinking about.