Sonic Foundry Sound Forge 6 & Acid Pro 4 test and review

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Sonic Foundry Sound Forge 6 & Acid Pro 4

Sonic Foundry has recently updated both of its flagship audio products. We look at Sound Forge 6 and Acid Pro 4 to see what the new versions have to offer

Sonic Foundry's Sound Forge 5 and Acid Pro 3 earned high marks when we last looked at them. Sound Forge reinforced its reputation as one of the best audio editor programs for Windows, and Acid Pro 3 was confirmed as a first-rate music production environment. Both supported video playback and rendering, making them particularly useful for Windows-based video editors. A little over a year later, it's time to check out Sound Forge 6 and Acid Pro 4.

What's new?

Both programs installed on our test system without a hitch. It then took just a few seconds via the internet to register the programs with Sonic Foundry. Top of the list of enhancements to Sound Forge is non-destructive audio editing. Previous versions allowed edits to be undone, but in V6, edits are only written back to the original file when it is saved. As a result, most editing processes are faster than before. Also helping the workflow is support for background rendering - while one file is being rendered to disk, it's possible to continue to work on another. Also on the list are improved management of effects plug-ins, enhanced zoom ratios (for sample-accurate editing) and full 32-bit audio support.

There are also further improvements in video handling. A number of new rendering options are available, including fast video resizing and video stretching, and these trade-off video quality against rendering speed - useful while a project is in the early stages of development (Acid Pro 4 also includes these options). In addition, providing the host OS (and disk drives) has support, Sound Forge will work with files larger than 4GByte. And, video can be previewed on an external monitor running from a DV camcorder attached to an OHCI-compliant FireWire port. Another nice touch - the LE (limited edition) version of Sonic Foundry's highly-respected video editing program, Vegas Video 3.0 is included with Sound Forge, and it's far from being a shabby cut-down of the full product.

The additions to Acid Pro are somewhat more dramatic. There's support for VST Instruments (VSTi) - so Acid can now act as a host for VST-based software synthesizers, samplers or effects. Two other new features make use of VSTi practical. First, ASIO drivers are now supported. With the right sound card/driver combination, these can give the low audio latency (for example, less than 20ms) that means software synthesisers can be played in real-time without there being a noticeable delay between pressing the Midi keyboard and hearing the synth produce a sound. Second, Midi editing has been dramatically improved (answering a criticism we made in reviewing V3), making Acid a respectable (if not yet fully featured) Midi sequencing environment. Another major addition is support for 5.1 Surround Sound mixing - clearly aimed at those with an interest in DVD production. Among the other many improvements are automation of some effects plug-ins, and the addition of alternate time signatures and the same new video rendering options found in Sound Forge.


The upgrade to Sound Forge brings some welcome new features and, in use, probably the most noticeable is the considerable improvements in workflow, brought about by the introduction of non-destructive editing. This is audio editing of a high standard - very slick and very professional.
However, it is in Acid where the more obvious enhancements have been made, with ASIO/VSTi support, 5.1 surround sound mixing and much better Midi editing topping the list. All these new features are well implemented and there is a host of smaller improvements, too.
Acid still doesnít compare with a full-blown Midi sequencer, but its Midi functionality is now good enough to be taken seriously. For those musicians who work predominately with audio loops, but need access to Midi for some tasks, Acid is probably now good enough to avoid having to run a sequencer as well.

Many musicians are now moving from hardware samplers to software samplers and, providing a VST-compatible software sampler instrument is used, such as Steinberg Halion, Acid now provides a suitable VST host. While Cakewalk's Sonar is an obvious competitor, Acid - the daddy of loop-based audio sequencing - is still up to the mark. It also happens to be a lot of fun to use. For existing users, the upgrade to version 4 is a no-brainer. Potential purchasers who download the demo will see how easy computer-based music making can be.

John Walden


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