Speaking of audio editors for the Mac, Adobe has its own wave-editing tool for Mac and Windows. Soundbooth is different from other entries in the field, in that its aim is really to woo a wide audience and not just those of us who work with sound regularly. Got a Flash project and need to make some quick sound effect adjustments? Making a swooshing noise for After Effects? Transcribing notes from a workshop session? Soundbooth CS4 is aimed at you.

Now, you can buy Soundbooth on its own for US$199 list, though I expect almost no one would. (For one thing, if you’re spending your hard-earned dollars on an audio editor, you’re likely to choose one of its rivals, like Adobe’s own superior Audition for Windows.) More likely, you’ll get Soundbooth as part of Adobe’s creative suite.

I actually quite like Soundbooth; because it was built from the ground up, it has a clean, elegant interface, and some unique features. Unfortunately, CS4 was not the step forward I hoped it would be for this fledgling tool. You can read a review by Mac guru Christopher Breen in Macworld; I know that review up and down as I was its tech editor.

Review: Adobe Soundbooth CS4 [Macworld]

Basic sound editor adopts more-advanced features

The problem I have with CS4 is that while adding multitrack capabilities make sense, the implementation just doesn’t seem finished. Many of the options in the wave editing view don’t work in multitrack view, including some you’d expect to work with multiple tracks visible, like adjusting effects, markers, and slicing up chunks of a waveform. (In every other program I’ve ever seen, those are mixing functions.) Apple Soundtrack Pro, Sony SoundForge, and Adobe’s own Audition all seamlessly allow multitrack edit working methods. I have a feeling we’ll just see this addressed in CS5, but Adobe, if you can manage a point-5 release of Soundbooth that fixes this, I’ll be the first to applaud.

Note that you can simply choose to stick to the Editor view and not bother with multitrack, which is what I’ve taken to doing. But needless to say, if Adobe wants audio newcomers to be comfortable with Soundbooth, these kind of idiosyncrasies won’t help.

It’s also a bit odd that Adobe allows non-destructive saves exclusively, rather than letting you “flatten” changes when you want to make them permanent.

Now, in my own Peak review, I complained about the lack of multitrack functions and non-destructive editing. Soundbooth CS4 demonstrates that it’s better to add these features late than add them half-baked, so BIAS, I’m willing to wait. But part of the reason I’m being a stickler on those issues is that I know it’s possible to add these to an audio tool successfully.

That said, I’m actually really happy to have Soundbooth around on my hard drive as an additional audio utility, alongside these other tools. I’ve got a stack of interviews to transcribe, so I’m eager to try that feature. Expect a report back (plus, hopefully, some published interviews with musicians) once I’m done.

The simple truth is, while Soundbooth doesn’t stand so well on its own, as an integrated part of Creative Suite, it’s fantastic. Let’s assume this is just an off release and the third version restores some of the fresh promise of the first.

For one last Macworld review, see my take for Macworld.com on Apple’s Soundtrack Pro – now, sadly, only available in Final Cut Studio and Logic Studio, not on its own (though the latter can be a nice option).

Soundtrack Pro 2.0.1: Improved editing and new features help you sync audio with video

  • But… the question should really be: why use Soundbooth or Peak if audiofile-engineering "Wave Editor" is (a lot) cheaper and better??

  • Bram, lots of people asking just that question. 🙂 We need to do an updated review of Wave Editor; we did one but only of an earlier version.

  • Heya Peter, yeah, I was going to bitch about not having review on the site, but a quick google fixed that rant right up. That post was 1.5 years ago! 🙂

  • bram : 'cause I'm on Windows and don't have Wave Editor 😀

  • Well, right, and on Windows you have lots of other great options: Audition, WaveLab, Sound Forge, and the free Wavosaur. (In fact, given that, I just can't make a strong case for Audacity. I love open source, but it's pretty far behind.)

  • Wavosaur seem pretty nice – but the other are not cheap, especially compared to Wave Editor.

    Thanks for Wavosaur, I'm gonna try it right away!

  • Dom

    I'm unsure about Soundbooth – I found the CS4 version to be very buggy and experienced a lot of unexpected quittages.

    I'm now using Amadeus Pro and find that a lot easier to use. It's not half as featured as Soundbooth but it's lite, quick and cheap.

    Check it out if you can't stump up the $200 notes for the Adobe option.


  • stk

    Why would they release this when they've already got Audition? Seems an odd move.

    Anyway, if CS4 is anything like CS3, I can imagine this is a tangled mass of bugs – seems, lately, that everything Adobe touches turns to crap.

  • stk: I got Soundbooth as a result of Production Premium (CS3, though). My guess is that they intend this for some simple edits for the soundtrack in some video project as opposed to heavy-duty audio work.

  • ooops. i just left this comment on the peak review, and it was meant to go here. anyway:

    soundbooth is great in the context of multimedia 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.)

  • For me the question really is, why (t.f.) didn't they just port Cool Pro / Audition to OSX. So many people in the industry are used to it?

  • chris

    I complained during beta testing, and somebody tell me if they did this already, but have they added the ability to reverse a sound? Seems like the easiest transformation to apply. If it's there and I couldn't find it then it is the most counter intuitive sound editor I've used ever.

  • Leslie

    Outside Bias Peak (number one for Mac), I rather use Fission for quick and "dirty" editing… 😉

  • googoo

    OK, sorry for basically cross posting this to two different articles – but I must know! In Soundtrack Pro 2, there is a feature where creates a list of actions performed on the audio file (any and all actions – fade outs, cuts, effects, etc), that you can use to go back and edit or rearrange. after modifying it, soundtrack then steps through the subsequent actions and reapplies them based on the changes made, but all pseudo-destructive (for example, if you edit the settings on a reverb that you used 15 steps ago, it would go through the last 14 steps as if you had used that setting in the first place. ). Does the new Soundbooth CS4 (or peak or anything else for mac…) offer that feature? That 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).

  • @googoo:
    Yes, there is a basic History palette and non-destructive editing in Soundbooth. What you *don't* get is the ability to interactively add and subtract edits or flatten changes, so I'm not sure I'd migrate from Soundtrack Pro to Soundbooth for this feature. I just don't think you'll be very happy. It's worth looking at how Wave Editor does, this, though, which seems to many folks to be the top choice at the moment.

    Peak seems reliable to me (at least in my testing), but you don't get non-destructive editing.

  • dan26

    used soundbooth as a quick solution to clean up some audio on a new laptop i got.

    program is UNSTABLE as anything can be when working with multi-track audio. crashes all the time!! the auto-save feature doesn't seem to recover anything after a crash. had to redo a project 3 times (I was trying to do a 4 track multi, ended up just doing 3 rounds of 2 track audio to prevent the crashes).

    its OK because it came with CS4 (which the rest is fine for me), but 200 bucks not worth it.

  • I've been pretty happy with Soundbooth so far. I haven't had any crashes, etc., and it is certainly an upgrade from Audacity, which I was using before. A few things that it needs to improve, though are A) having a reverse audio feature. Seriously, I couldn't believe that it didn't. B) I wish that the multi-track editing was a little smoother. Maybe I'm missing something, but I feel that I should be able to make quick edits from the multitrack screen (maybe I'm listening to a draft of a mix and just want to delete a second or two of one track) but as far as I can tell, you can't. All in all, solid and it does what I need it to do.

  • raghul

    i used fleximusic audio editor…..it overcomes these problems…..just try it……