Can sound editing be as intuitive as graphics editing in Photoshop? That’s the question Soundbooth, the new Adobe sound app, poses.

Waiter! There’s a lasso tool in my audio editor!

I’ll give Adobe this: they know their audience. First, they woo audio fans with this sweet-sounding phrase: “A brand new audio application in the spirit of Sound Edit 16 and Cool Edit 2000.” Then, they throw in some tools from Photoshop, just to make sure everyone feels at home.

The good news is, Soundbooth betas show a lot of promise: it could well become the simple audio editor “for the rest of us”. Not everyone needs the full feature set of tools like Audition on Windows or Peak Pro on the Mac (and Soundtrack Pro, before Apple annoyingly decided to give it only to Final Cut buyers). As we saw in my preview of the first beta, Audition offers a really elegant way to edit, taking some of the best of all these programs and packaging them in a single, streamlined tool. This is still a beta, so it’s too soon to say for sure how well the finished product will work — and readers immediately pointed to some missing functionality they wanted to see. But it’s already great fun to play with, and getting more so fast.

Today, Adobe launched beta 2, with some nice new extras. Hart’s Audition, the blog of Adobe audio product manager Hart Shafer, has the full list of additions:

  1. The Lasso tool in the Visual Healing task is active
  2. Many new effects added (including EQ, Reverb, Compressor, & Dynamics)
  3. Copy and Paste between audio files
  4. Mix paste audio into and between audio files
  5. High-quality time and pitch shifting
  6. Normalize button now “Louder” button–multiple clicks apply hard limiting
  7. Click and drag the CTI to scrub
  8. Auto-heal cut/paste boundaries to eliminate clicks on edits
  9. AutoComposer saw many improvements
  10. Familiar Adobe tools panel
  11. Many performance and usability tweaks throughout

Check the “Advanced” menu to find the hidden controls for effects like this convolution reverb. There are actually some decent effects packed into Soundbooth — serious tools for an entry-level app.

So far, so good. I love the new “louder” button. Scrubbing isn’t working at all for me yet, but this is a beta. Best of all are the visual tools, which showed so much potential in beta 1: it’s really possible to select and edit in the spectral view to work with sound in the way you would normally edit bitmap graphics. There’s even a “heal” function; it’s not quite as easy as Photoshop’s healing brush, but it’s close. And the ability to mix in audio when cutting and pasting saves a lot of time versus using multiple tracks for simple jobs.

Beta 2 is most definitely workable for day-to-day use in a way the first beta was not. I found most of the needed functionality in place, and may use this for quick edits. Dig into the “advanced” settings on the effects and you’ll find most of the controls are there; there’s even a full convolution reverb. This comes nowhere near the depth of effects in Soundtrack Pro, borrowed by Apple directly from the Logic Pro effects suite, or the great mastering tools in Peak Pro. Of course, they really shouldn’t be — this is an entry-level tool. But I do hope a future version of Audition Pro can combine Soundbooth’s ease of editing with expanded effects tools.

In the meantime, more kudos to Audition: that program just saved a whole recording session that had acquired some nasty pops and clicks when an audio driver misbehaved.

Now all we need to know is, when will this software come out, how much will it cost, and where will it be positioned? (The beta expires at the end of February, so I expect the “when” might be somewhere around the release of CS3.)

Here’s my impassioned plea to Adobe: please allow us to get Soundbooth unbundled from CS, and please price it for a broad audience. The music and sound markets in general desperately need such a tool, particularly a cross-platform one (even if Adobe snubs PowerPC Macs). I’d love to see Soundbooth show up in the iLife / Photoshop Elements price range, maybe around US$49 or $69. (And, hey, don’t forget — you’re competing with tools like Peak LE on the Mac.) The kind of user who would want Soundbooth is also the kind that doesn’t want to spend a whole lot of money. It’s also not hard to see Soundbooth fitting perfectly for musicians alongside GarageBand, Ableton Live, or other programs that lack a waveform editor — and those musicians, in turn, suggesting it to friends who need to edit a podcast or voiceover. I think with some additional fit and finish, Soundbooth could fit the bill perfectly.

Full info from Adobe:

Adobe Soundbooth Beta [Adobe Labs]

Soundbooth Beta 2 Now Available! [Hart's Audition]

A complete look at Soundbooth with details a lot of its features, by Adobe’s Bob Donlon. Focuses on beta 1 but still useful. (Note to Bob: yes, some people don’t know what to do with a mixer. But a lot of us who DO know what to do with that big mixer from Audition also need a streamlined tool now and then.)

Previously:

Adobe Soundbooth Beta First Look: Simplified Audio Editor for Quick Sound Editing (Windows, Mac)

Adobe Defends Intel-Only Mac Release for Soundbooth

The Problem with Audacity

I have to rant for a moment as an aside. Enough with mentioning the open-source option Audacity: for a tool that should be embracing an entry-level audience, that software is generally buggy, incomplete, and hard to use. I’m not picking a fight here, either: I’m frustrated that I can’t recommend Audacity as a free, basic tool, because everyone I point in its direction comes back with a bad experience. (Contrast, by comparison, superb audio tools like JACK, Hydrogen, the open-ended sound toolkit Pd, and the massive Ardour project, among others. Audacity is hardly the best open source has to offer.) And yes, while you could theoretically contribute to the development effort, I have some serious questions about Audacity’s foundations; it seems like we need a new program entirely.

  • bliss

    Yep, Audacity is buggy, but I really like that I can edit multichannel audio files easily in it. I can only deal with stereo and mono files in all the other editors available for Mac. For some reason in this era of 7.1 systems Mac audio editors are not up to par. And the only major host program on the Mac that imports multichannel files is Cubase SX3 & 4 and Nuendo 3. Totally bizarro world on the Mac sometimes.

  • bliss

    Okay, there's a bug here somewhere. I'm typing away my ideas for a comment and hitting the space bar triggers the "Submit Comment" button… How weird is that? Funny thing is that the first time it happened I only noticed that the page had changed but I didn't check to see if the comment had posted.

  • http://www.jaymis.com Jaymis Loveday

    Hi bliss, that's a weird one. What browser is this happening in? If you accidentally hit Tab that will move you to the "submit comment" button, and space will make the submit happen. I'm guessing that's not the case though?

  • http://theradioproject.com Kyle Klipowicz

    <blockquote cite="Peter Kirn">(Contrast, by comparison, superb audio tools like JACK, Hydrogen, the open-ended sound toolkit Pd, and the massive Ardour project, among others. Ardour is hardly the best open source has to offer.)

    Did you mean to say "Audacity is hardly the best open source has to offer"? Because I do agree with that one.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Yep, that's exactly what I was trying to say. I'll be open sourcing the content of my articles so people can fix bugs and add improvements. ;)

  • bliss

    Hey Jaymis, maybe I did hit the "tab" first before hitting the space bar – I'm not totally sure. It was early…

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Sounds like a tab bar thing to me.

    And yeah, I definitely see some frustration on the multichannel import issue. This seems like a no-brainer. Here's what I'd love Apple to do:

    1. Beef up the multichannel functionality in Logic Pro

    2. Add multichannel support to Soundtrack Pro (video production is where you'd generally want this, after all)

    3. Give us an unbundled SKU back on Soundtrack Pro.

    In the meantime, Audition has some nice multichannel support on Windows, though I think its encoder is 5.1, not 7.1, and certainly don't think it can import. So, in general, this stuff could all get enhanced to keep pace with the times.

  • http://symbioticaudio.com W. Brent Latta

    Another non-vote for Audacity. In its entire lifespan, and over the course of OS upgrades and driver updates from Tascam, I've never once gotten it to work properly with my Tascam FW1884.

    I'm hoping to have some time in the new year to check out WaveEdit from Audiofile Engineering. It looks to be the most promising new stereo editor for Mac, IMHO.

  • Jake

    Does anyone else but me like Sound Studio (from Freeverse, formally from Felt Tip)? It's been great (and deliciously stable, for me) since the last "2" version, and now that it's "3" it also supports multitrack and provided AU plugin support. I'm very curious to hear any other opinions of it.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Sound Studio is quite nice! I used it from its first release — there was a point when it was just about the only app that ran on OS X! And it has evolved nicely. Well worth a look if you need a simple, entry-level app.

    I will admit, though, I'm looking for a cross-platform solution.

  • http://symbioticaudio.com W. Brent Latta

    Cross-Platform would be nice. If only Adobe would get off their rumps and get us an OS X version of Audition!

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Don't think they're "on their rumps" on that; I think, given the legacy of CoolEdit, it was probably coded using Windows-based tools. If everything is sitting in Delphi, etc., it's just not coming to Mac. And whereas Mac developers were forced to switch to Xcode by the Intel Mac thing, there's not a similar "incentive" for Windows developers. Then again, it sounds like Audition should run just fine in Parallels — even more so because it's just an editor, so really low-latency isn't an issue.

  • http://keithhandy.com Keith Handy

    Link to "Parallels"? (I'll try to google it, I'm not that lazy but I figured I'd ask too.)

    For me, Audacity's biggest flaw is the GUI. I hate trying to do envelopes on it, especially since every curve is logarithmic … great for fade-outs at the end of a song, useless for crossfades.

    Also if I time-stretch a part of a region, there is often a click at the beginning or end of that part.

    And no way to jump to a zero-crossing.

    It goes on and on.

  • http://keithhandy.com Keith Handy

    … parallels.com … I never would have guessed!

  • Street

    What is the Cost on the Product AFTER the Trial..?

  • Street

    COST??

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    The cost hasn't been announced. It's not a trial; it's a beta test.

  • studentx

    A total rip off of MetaSynth.

    http://www.uisoftware.com/PAGES/products.html

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Not at all a rip-off of MetaSynth. For starters, neither Adobe nor Eric Wenger (MetaSynth's creator) were the first to think of editing from a spectral view — if anything, it's remarkable that more tools haven't implemented something like this. Also, MetaSynth has many wonderful visual editing features, but they don't work quite like the lasso and heal functions in Soundbooth, nor are these edited into a wave editor. Conversely, Soundbooth doesn't have MetaSynth's spectral filtering and synthesis capabilities.

    That said, for people who like to work visually with sound, Soundbooth and MetaSynth would be an interesting combination!

  • freeloader

    How is soundbooth different from adobe audition? Does it replace the Audition sound editor or is soundbooth simply an additional product?

    And concerning Audacity: it's merely a wav editor, comparing it to Ardour, Jack, etc is like comparing apples and oranges. Despite using MIDI/audio sequencers like Sonar and Cubase, I still use audacity for editing, exporting to celemony melodyne, and then when I'm finished with the song, Sonar plays it and I record the final mixdown in audacity. Plus after using other programs for mastering, I then use audacity to convert the final master to OGG and MP3. The only thing I don't like about audacity is that when I read in a single .wav or .aif file, it doesn't then default to the same file type when I go to save it, it instead defaults to its bulls*hit project format. GRRR! Irritating, but you know what? I changed the code and made it work my way cos I've got the source code. Now compare that feature to Audition and Soundbooth. There's a kick in the teeth for you.

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  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Freeloader, Audition doesn't yet have the graphic editing tools in Soundbooth (though I suspect a future version may), and generally, Soundbooth is designed to be a simpler, more accessible product, whereas Audition is the "pro" app, with many more features.

    I was comparing fit and finish and reliability of Audacity to other open source audio apps; I feel Audacity is lacking.

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    I tryed AS. Looking googd.

  • fd

    For the record:

    a good free software replacement for audacity might be rezound, as long as you don't need multitrack

    http://rezound.sourceforge.net/

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