SOUND FORGE Pro Mac 3 is a tool to edit and process audio in a very detailed manner – whether it’s audio recorded directly into the software, or opened from a pre-recorded file. Sometimes the DAW you work in just doesn’t give you enough detail and depth to get as surgical as you need, and this is where software like SOUND FORGE Pro steps up. SOUND FORGE Pro Mac 3 is also a great audio overview tool – providing options to master your finished tracks powerfully, batch convert files, meter loudness to commercial standards and tools to create great redbook (pre-production) CD images. All of this potentially falls outside the scope of DAW software, and so SoundForge Pro can provide a useful partnership to ensure your sound is pristine from creation to end product.
SOUND FORGE Pro Mac 3 looks good. It’s austere and sparse; not overly impressive looking. But it’s clean, and functional. When you’re diving into audio files to find and correct issues, you want to be able to see what’s going on quickly. And with this software you can. The main waveform(s) image takes up most of the GUI, and is clear and easy to see. As you zoom in the clarity continues, right down to sample level.
The customisation of the interface is good, with options over where to place a variety of useful informational windows, such as plugin lists, channel meters, file system, recording levels. You have control over where on the page to place them, and key commands to introduce and remove them. There is an option to edit multiple audio waveforms side by side or on top of one another, to give quick workflow and comparison windows.
The standard audio editing tools prevail; fades, trims, normalisation, gate, reverse, time stretch etc. Magix have smartly teamed up with Izotope, and offer RX and Ozone Elements bundled with SOUND FORGE Pro Mac 3. These software packs provide a variety of professional quality audio processes available from within the Ozone and RX collection. If you’re not familiar with either of them, check our linked reviews. They are industry leaders in audio correction and processing. To have Izotope products included in Soundforge is a very astute move. Part of their collaboration is the inclusion of Izotope’s excellent Dither and sample rate conversion algorithms.
This is an often overlooked, yet essential element to the music creation process. Whatever platform you’re releasing your music onto, there will be standards that you need to adhere to in order for your music to be accepted, or at the very least, not processed further by 3rd parties who won’t care what it sounds like. If your music is too loud for Spotify, or Apple music, for example, it will get processed, or just turned down. The old days of Louder is Better, is over. For television, or film, there are average loudness standards you need to adhere to. Soundforge provides a bundle of loudness metering options that cater to all those needs, including measuring average or integrated loudness using LUFS industry standards. I particularly liked the true peak meters; meters that measure the inter sample peaks, showing if the sound peaks between sample measurements. Now that the loudness wars are being won by the dynamics side, and there is more room for dynamic differentiation, loudness meters are becoming more important again. SOUND FORGE Pro Mac 3 has you covered. When you’ve finished mastering your track, and have printed it to the specs you want, you can double check by printing a loudness log, that gives all the necessary information needed for that track.
Cutting the Glitch
More often than not, glitches and clicks are sounds you don’t want in your finished product. When you’re not intentionally adding them, they can be a pain to source and clean up. I typically use software like Soundforge to clean up my audio before adding it to a project. Soundforge provides several methods of locating and cleaning up glitches and those pesky digital clips. Find/repair will automagically run through the audio and locate clicks and glitches. You can adjust the sensitivity, so it isn’t picking up claps or snare hits, for example. You can then repair them all with a click of a button, with different methods of healing, from copying the alternate channels audio, interpolating, or replacing with audio data immediately preceding. If the automatic process doesn’t suit, there is a pencil tool, that enables (with a great deal of care) you to draw the waveform in, smoothing any hard shelves that cause clipping. I loved this about my old audio editing programs, and I love it about this software. Failing all that, the RX elements bundle contains an excellent de-clicker and de-clipper from Izotope. So when it comes to glitches and clicks, you’re well covered.
Magix provides a few effects to further process your sound. SoundForge Pro also comes bundled with the aforementioned Izotope elements plugins, which contain several useful modules for audio correction and processing, such as de-hum and de-noise, for removing pesky glitches and whirs that you just don’t need on your audiofile. However the real power comes with the knowledge that you can load in your own AU’s and VSTs. This gives your entire processing collection access to sound forge. Moreover, you can also make a chain of plugins, and save as a preset, so if you’re batch processing files, and need the same plugins running through sound forge for each file, this will cross out hours of tedium, potentially. Another interesting element of the plugin chain is that you can automate the plugins you’re using. Select the VST or AU. and in the list of automatable parameters, turn on the ones you want to use, and click and drag the envelope created to shape the automation. Clicking creates nodes in the envelope, and right clicking gives you curve options between points. I did find that Soundforge seemed to crash when using certain plugins (Soundtoys did not play well), especially when trying to automate. So make sure to SAVE!! The chain setup of using and automating your own plugins is extremely useful, however, and is an excellent addition to the software. If the processing chain is fairly straightforward, and you don’t have to listen to each file, you can open it up in another software bundled with SoundForge Pro, called Convrt, and use that to batch process multiple files using the same plugin chain, cranking up the efficiency even higher.
SOUND FORGE Pro Mac 3 gives you the ability to master tracks well. they’ve included a couple of mastering plugins of their own, however I would recommend if you’re serious about mastering, find and use some 3rd party plugins built specifically for that purpose. Magix’s Wavehammer plugin; a combo limiter and volume maximiser worked pleasingly, I thought. Fairly transparent, so in a pinch, I’d throw that on a track to level it well. From there, you can open all the tracks you’ve worked on, select the order and metadata in the track listing, and burn the entire selection to a CD image. You can also archive the image if you’re working on someone else’s project, and need to keep an archive. Simple, and effective!
These are essential to a speedy workflow. SOUND FORGE Pro Mac 3 has the basics; the large scale overview, and what is there is great – movement around the file, setting time point markers, zoom controls; these are all great. But I kept looking for something that’s a bit deeper – some of the basic processing tools have no shortcut – fades, reverse, normalise, gain change etc. These are tools that are being used constantly when editing audio, and to have to menu dive for them is frustrating. What would be killer here is a key command customisation option, as in Logic – so you could assign whatever key commands to whatever processes you wanted. When it comes to the key commands that do exist, do NOT trust the manual – it is not correct in some circumstances.
SOUND FORGE Pro Mac 3 is a great audio editing software for MAC. Being a small market, there’s not too much competition out there. But I feel that Magix shouldn’t rest on its laurels because of that. It’s super clean, and processes audio quickly. I felt that it was missing a few things that would help speed editing immensely, and I became frustrated at the lack of them. namely; KEY COMMANDS.
Menu diving is so 2010. I want to access all the tools on the window immediately, to keep my flow going. Having to select a segment of audio, then go to a menu? I feel this is a big gap in the workflow process of soundforge3.It also felt a little shaky stability-wise every now and then. Certain plugins crash it, and selecting too big a repair window (in find/repair) will crash it. However, it is in software infancy, and is showing a lot of promise. The software has recently been bought out by Magix, so I have hopes for improvements and updates from here on out. I miss my old BIAS Peak, and sound designer II, so if this keeps going in the same direction I’m in!
Soundforge Pro 3 for Mac costs $249 (discounted at the moment from 449), and is available here.