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On first inspection, AudioFinder is not sexy. Nonetheless, it contains many single features that may be worth the price of admission alone. Anyone who manages tens of thousands of audio samples, tracks, or songs has invariably run into some of the limitations of OS X’s Finder.
AudioFinder (available only for Mac OS X) is a collection of valuable tools for efficient audio file searching, previewing, organizing, and basic editing. Not all tools will be important for everyone, but as you work with the program, you’ll discover which ones are relevant to your workflow.
A detailed discussion of all the functions would make for a rather tedious review (after all, there’s the manual for that) so I’ll provide a basic overview, along with some examples of the standout features for my needs.
AudioFinder’s main window is like a finder on steroids. The sidebar on the left displays customizable high-level groupings of sounds which can be further sorted and viewed in the sound list on the right.
One of the central features of AudioFinder is the AudioViewer at the bottom, which gives a visual overview of a selected sound along with transport and processing options. The sound can be transposed for pre-listening at different pitches via the small keyboard (or an externally connected physical controller).
Whether for recognizing the sound, picking out a selection for editing, or viewing the results of a process you’ve applied to a file, the AudioViewer is a big timesaver, as it allows all these actions to occur without opening the file in a DAW.
Before AudioFinder’s powerful search features can be used, it needs to index all the files on your system. This can take a while (just like OS X’s Spotlight does if you reindex your drives), so make sure to leave some time for the task. I just did it at night and the computer was ready to go the next morning. After the indexing is complete, the search functions are lightning-fast. You can refine search results with the Refine and Exclude buttons in the search bar. These simple buttons are very handy for drilling down into your 62357 files that contain the word “beat”. Those of you with strong Search-Fu can enable Regular Expressions for ultra-efficient searching. However, most of the time I can get quick results using just the main buttons.
Sometimes (especially on a small screen) I prefer to use Finder Selection Mode. This feature enables AudioFinder to follow the Finder or Spotlight selections and preview them in the AudioViewer, just as if they had been selected within AudioFinder itself. When using this mode I detach the AudioViewer (via the Free button) and place it alongside my Finder window.
The Sidebar is where the bulk of the customized organization takes place. It took some experimentation for me to see how powerful this area can be, but now I realize how critical it is for file management. The Sidebar contains Devices and Bookmarks (both of which are similar to those in OSX’s Finder), as well as Libraries, Scan Sets, Recents, and Sidebar Groups.
A Library is a user selected group of files. The files are not real copies, but more like aliases, which enable multiple groupings of identical files without having to duplicate files (which takes up HD space and leads to a chaotic system).
I can’t emphasize how useful this feature is. For example, I have one library each for my TR-909, TR-808, and TR-606 samples. I have a separate library that contains all TR-XOX Kicks, another for TR-XOX Snares, etc. These different organizational schemes allow me to easily parse the same collection of files in different ways in order to suit the needs of any given project.
A Scan Set is a saved audio file search that can contain multiple locations and all subfolders. Scan Sets are useful for locations whose content changes frequently, since you can limit the scan to these locations, rather than re-scanning your entire system every time you acquire new audio material. Some of my most popular Scan Sets are DJ Tracks, Live Recordings, and Source Material Extracted from Film and Video. For example, every time I purchase a new bunch of tracks from Beatport, I can view them with my DJ Tracks Scan Set, then group them into custom libraries based on style or mood. Note that by default the Scan Sets only look for AIFF, SD2, WAV, MP3, and REX files. Because I use M4a files, I had to manually add M4a to the Scan Item Type Setup.
The Recents Bin contains (you guessed it) recently view items, as well as the very helpful Session Favorites. Session Favorites is like a multi-item clipboard. When preparing a group of sounds for a project, I use it as a temporary storage area for items of interest. After gathering the sounds of interest, I do another round of pruning, then create a Library of the refined selections.
A Sidebar Group can contain any combination of libraries, bookmarks, and scan sets. I like to use Sidebar Groups to organize my sounds by project or theme.
Learning to use the Sidebar effectively takes time and regular maintenance, but the effort you spend tending to it will be rewarded with dramatically increased efficiency.
AudioFinder’s editing abilities are reminiscent of those in my (now neglected) hardware samplers, along with Audio Unit processing and a better GUI. It’s amazingly convenient to be able to do basic processing/sample preparation without having to open a DAW. Furthermore, you can do batch processing, so repetitive tasks are minimized.
AudioFinder has its own set of tools for common sample processing, such as Normalize, Change Gain, Fade In/Out, Reverse, Transcode, etc. These tools make cleaning up a series of beats lifted from vinyl a breeze. More sophisticated processing can be done with any of your AU plugins, all of which are accessible from the AudioViewer.
Audiofinder can only process PCM files (WAV, AIFF, and SD2), so AU processing is disabled on compressed files (MP3, AAC, etc)(though the options won’t be grayed out, so it can be disorienting if you are new to the program). However, if you enable “Use Decoding Cache For All Compressed Formats” in the Audio preferences, the AU processing is applied to the decoded files in the cache, so the AUs can be used.
The main waveform preview window is useful enough for basic viewing, rough cuts, or processing applied to the entire file. If you want to do more detailed slicing, dicing, or extraction of parts of a file, I recommend opening it in the Sample Editor.
The Sample Editor is a separate window that gives you a zoomable view on which graphical edits can be made. Fades, Loop Points, Crop Points, and more can be precisely dialed in with this useful feature. Additionally, you can also slice a file based on transients in a manner similar to that of Propellerheads’ Recycle. In practice I found that sometimes this method provided unpredictable results. Increasing the threshold would provide more, then less slices. Nonetheless with a bit of fiddling with the Threshold and Release Times, followed by a few manually placed markers, I could usually get the desired result.
AudioFinder also includes a litany of practical utilities such as Delay Time Calculator, Reference Tone Generator, Sysex Editor, and more. Many of these items can be found in most DAWs, but again, the ability to access them independently can really come in handy.
Whether you are a sample-heavy MPC ninja, an archivist, or simply a Mac DAW based producer, AudioFinder will streamline your daily file management tasks so you can focus on your creativity.
Available directly from Iced Audio. A trial version is available.
Current version requires OS X 10.5 or later. Earlier versions for 10.3 and 10.4 are still available.
…like a finder on steroids…
- Powerful meta-organization for audio professionals
- Batch Processing
- Quick access to common editing tools without opening DAW
- Reasonable price
LOVE IT OR HATE IT
- Enables obsessive sound cataloguing behavior
- Pitch Preview limited to Varispeed-style pitch change (i.e. no tempo or timbre correction)
- Requires practice and maintenance for personal optimization (though work is duly rewarded)
- AudioViewer/Sample Editor won’t work with long files, such as some live sets