Soundtrack Pro 2 from Apple offers some major new improvements over the first release of the “Pro” audio editor from Apple. Multichannel editing now works properly, with the ability to nudge by frames and move clip envelopes together with clips, and there are some brilliant new features for conforming audio projects to video and a “Lift and Stamp” tool for applying audio attributes from one clip (including matching EQ and copying effects) to another.
Macworld.com has just published my complete review of the software:
Pros: Vastly improved multichannel editing and file import and export; Conform feature makes Final Cut integration more elegant; efficient surround panning; improved recording; convenient Lift and Stamp audio.
Cons: Automation requires AppleScript; rigid and sometimes sluggish interface; available only as part of the Final Cut Studio suite.
Soundtrack vs. Final Cut Studio vs. Logic
The bad news, of course, is that the only way to get Soundtrack Pro 2 is to either buy Final Cut Studio or upgrade to the whole Final Cut Studio. Worse, as we’ve commented here before, existing Soundtrack Pro users had to upgrade to Final Cut Studio just to get Intel compatibility. Not surprisingly, this issues comes up in comments even at Macworld.com (and I’ve certainly heard it repeatedly from readers here).
Apple’s made their decision, though, and on some level I definitely understand it. The reality is that this market isn’t terribly big. Apple indicated when they made the decision to discontinue Soundtrack Pro as a standalone product that response had been lackluster. And I’ve heard from waveform software developers that it really isn’t a big market. Lots of people do need to edit audio at some point, but they’re often intimidated by the tools out there, or just don’t make the leap of investing in a dedicated tool. I do think it’s too bad Intel users didn’t have a better upgrade path, of course.
Mac users are hardly high-and-dry when it comes to audio editing. There are other standalone wave editors from which to choose, like the old standby Peak and newer entries like the Audiofile Wave Editor and Adobe’s Soundbooth CS3, which has just started to ship.
Before anyone worries any more about this issues, though, I think the real question is when some of these features will show up in Logic. I have no idea what Apple will do with their next version of Logic, but it’s a pretty safe guess to figure some of Soundtrack Pro’s features will show up in Logic. (I don’t think there will be a bundled copy of Soundtrack in Logic, but if they copy some of the functionality, you might not want it.)
For those of you who do use Final Cut Studio, of course, and cross between the visual and sound worlds (as we do), Soundtrack Pro is well worth a look. The integration and value is greatly expanded in this version for people who do want Soundtrack as a part of Final Cut Studio. Be sure to check out the Final Cut Pro and Color reviews by my Macworld colleagues, or my Motion review. Complaints welcome here.
What About Audio Post?
I’m curious to hear what some of our post production readers think of the new audio post features. To me, it’s a little soon to tell how things like the new conform feature will work in actual production environments, especially since we’ve debated here on CDM over features the size of King Kong (in movieland) or Doctor Who (in TVland). Those of you working in post, do share … though, naturally, the integration here assumes you’re starting out with workflows in Final Cut Pro to begin with, and are willing to do audio conform outside Pro Tools.