All you really need to know, sound design lovers: cross-synthesis.

“Peak” is a long-standing name in audio editing on the Mac. I recently got to review its latest iteration, Peak Pro 6, for Macworld and Macworld.com.

Macworld Review: Peak Pro 6
Sample editor and audio suite tweaked for pros, sound designers, and podcasters

I still believe audio editors are valuable tools, especially for anyone who spends a significant amount of their time on sound design – whether that’s sound effects or building the perfect drum kit. Peak is an unusual tool, in a way, in that it remains a stereo waveform editor only, whereas most of its competitors have added multitrack compatibility. On the other hand, Peak also bundles an unusually rich set of tools in the box, which explains the higher price of the full-blown Pro versions.

Here’s my breakdown for Macworld:

Pros
Attractive bundle; seamless podcast export; powerful playlist assembly and export; envelopes; deep plug-in routing; fantastic cross-synthesis sonic powers.

Cons
Multi-window UI can be clunky to use; still no real multi-channel or surround support; lacks more full-featured, non-destructive editing; no spectrum view.

I do want to call particular attention to a couple of points:

You can get Peak cheaply if you want a deal. Unbundled, more basic versions run under a hundred bucks, and as noted in comments, you may even snag a deal on an upgrade.

Peak Pro is fundamentally a bundle. The full-blown version may indeed cause some sticker shock, but it’s really about the bundled software – if you want that software, it could be well worth it.

Vbox and cross-synthesis really rock. This is the feature that makes me really, really glad I got to stick Peak Pro on my MacBook. As pictured at top, the combination allows you to route plug-ins in interesting ways and then create routings that are impossible in most other hosts. (Add batch processing, and this gets very interesting, indeed. I’m going to try it on a stack of audio files – I’ll post samples soon.)

All products involve tradeoffs, so as always I try to do my best to characterize the tradeoffs I see. (“This is the perfect tool for everything” is the job of the marketing department.) I’m still particularly fond of the Windows-only Sound Forge (now made by Sony), but Peak remains a strong entry on the Mac. It’s also worth checking out Peak’s nearest rival, Audiofile Engineering’s Wave Editor, which has been developing by leaps and bounds. The Peak / Wave Editor competition could be an interesting one; they take very different approaches to the problem.

As always, I’m happy to hear what readers and users think.

Bias Inc.

  • grimley

    Interesting, Sound Forge is the only reason I still keep a PC around. The batch processing, scripting and speed of operation are what draw me to it. If Peak is as quick as SF then I may take a look. How fast is startup in particular?

  • Miscend

    I think Amadeus Pro is a really great Mac wave editor. From price/utility ratio it beats all the other editors in my opinion.

    http://www.hairersoft.com/AmadeusPro/AmadeusPro.h

  • flip

    I use Peak Pro XT 6 practically every day. As a 2-track editor I've found it pretty slick for fast editing, especially when you're chopping up recording takes or cleaning up some clicks/noise, etc. The cool part about getting the (more expensive) bundle is that the plugins will work in other apps like Logic Pro, etc.

  • route-electrique

    Audiofile Engineerings Wave Editor wins hands down. Best editor ever!.

  • actuel

    meh! I moved from peak to Wave Editor long ago. One of the single greatest software choices i've made.

  • strange-machines

    @grimley – Audiofile Engineerings Sample Manger is the best batch utility for audio I've ever seen. It even has the possibility to process a batch and send the results to a ftp server. Togehter with Wave Editor it is unbeatable and replaced a PC with Wavelab and Soundforge in my Studio. For the price of 79$ each it is a real steal.

  • Leslie

    Bias Peak – Used It for the past 5 years.

    Loved It then, Love It now even more… :)

  • JollyRogered

    I've been a Peak fan for a long time, though I do think they let themselves down with the high price of upgrades which never seem to add much to the previous version.

    It's still my favorite editor, but I think if I was new to it today, I might find the price a bit off-putting, especially as it doesn't do multi-track.

  • maxamillian

    Try this if you're used to Sound Forge:

    http://www.freeverse.com/apps/app/?id=5012

    I found everything else on Mac pretty fiddly to use.

  • http://www.gigacrate.com Nick

    Great read Peter! I'm a recent Mac convert and have been hearing a lot about Peak. I have to check out Audiofile Engineering Wave Editor too. Looks pretty slick.

  • http://mateomurphy.com Mateo

    I've tried them all, and nothing I've found beats Soundforge, but that probably has more to do with workflow than actual features. I really miss how quickly I was able to work with loops using the acid looping tools.

    I'm currently using Amadeus Pro and it's great for the price, but there are some things that really bug me. Wave Editor looks promising, but was too expensive at the time I was shopping; I might check it out again now that they've dropped the price.

  • Pingback: Create Digital Music » Adobe’s Soundbooth CS4, the Audio Editor Giveaway in Creative Suite

  • http://seismo.blogspot.com/ seismo

    soundbooth is great in the context of media work. doing lots of voice over work, i find the transcription tool to be fairly magical. and the spectral editing functions are great for sound design. top it off with the cross-compatibility (cue points, etc.) with the rest of the adobe suite … it's the last stop for audio that's going into flash or after effects.

    but. i still have sound forge installed. there are a few things that it does, mentioned by others here, that have yet to be matched (on the PC, anyway.)

  • googoo

    Does Peak or perhaps the new Soundbooth CS4 offer the feature found in Soundtrack Pro 2, where it creates a list of actions performed on the audio file, that you can go back and edit or rearrange and then it steps through the subsequent actions and reapplies them based on the changes made? That feature alone is what keeps me using Soundtrack Pro. It's kind of buggy but I can't live without that (too great of a feature for sound design).

  • mode

    @ Miscend

    Thanks for recommending Amadeus Pro. It's the closest any Mac program has come to offering everything I loved about Soundforge, including the minimal interface. Great tool for sample slicing.

  • Frank-e

    I have tried the new guys in editing (Amadeus and Wave editor) but they haven't figured out how to allow editors to work fast and precise. Been using Peak for years and the up[grades are a small price to pay in the constant flow of great technology, plus if something goes wrong I can call and they are always happy to help.

  • velocipede

    FWIW, DSP Quattro (Mac only) was being demoed at NAMM. Web site has not been updated, but the developed seemed pretty positive about it and showed new cross-fading and other features. The company is small and was hit really hard by the Intel transition.

  • essbeekay

    Thanks for the advice on other editing programs. I've been trying to make a go of it with Soundtrack Pro for months and just end up disappointed EVERY time. I'm now looking into Peak LE, Amadeus and Wave Editor. I'd stick with Sound Forge if my PC wasn't so old and slow.