It’s the end of an era – but maybe not such a golden era. Once upon a time, ACID and Sound Forge were each industry-leading software tools, originally developed by Sonic Foundry. Now, languishing alongside their stablemate, video editor Vegas, they’re seeing ownership pass from Sony (via its creative software division) to German software house and holding company MAGIX.

There are reasons to reflect on ACID and Sound Forge individually.

Big in their day

ACID wasn’t the first loop-based production tool (Propellerhead and ReCycle deserve a lot of credit there), but it was the tool that made time-stretched, loop-based production into what it is today. In fact, it was so influential, that it’d be easy for newcomers to music production to overlook. But the 1998 release of ACID (originally awkwardly dubbed ACID pH1) really heralded the arrival of music production workflows built on audio loops. ACID cleared the way both for Ableton Live and GarageBand. (Side note: I’d love to look at this history in more detail – and recall someone telling me that Apple even hired away the original creator or one of the original creators of ACID. The evolution of this sort of music software seems a story worth telling.)

Sound Forge, for its part, remains a favorite dedicated waveform editor. Originally Windows-only, Sony brought the software to the Mac just as OS X lost a lot of its own competition in that category. And that makes Sound Forge one of the few choices if you want an editor that focuses on editing audio files, from mastering to batch processing – things that DAWs aren’t necessarily focused on doing.

Sony announced on the 20th of May that they would sell essentially all of their audio and most of their video tools – including flagship editor VEGAS (also a Sound Forge creation) – to MAGIX. I’m embarrassed to say most of us didn’t even hear the news.

But the news is a milestone. I always admired the unique shared lineage of the Sound Forge line in audio and video media. That means that ACID takes a unique approach even in its most recent Sony release when it comes to features like keyframes and automation, one that it has inherited from the video world. Sound Forge has unusually robust integrated video features. And Vegas was always the one video editor that felt musical – in the mirror image of ACID, one that lets you take a metric, rhythmic approach to video editing if you so choose.

Avid might have bought Pro Tools; Apple might make both Logic and Final Cut. But those editors always seemed to live independently in their own paradigms. (I regularly get muddled switching between Logic and Final Cut, for instance. Yet it’s possible to edit entire audiovisual creations in Vegas.)

SFP11

The Sony years

ACID in particular has languished under Sony ownership – just when it most needed to compete against breakneck development of Ableton Live, Reason, GarageBand, and even the likes of FL Studio. The last major release was way back in 2008, with the only real maintenance update in 2010 – a sad slow-motion death for what was once a great product.

Sound Forge has continued development, and might well have a future – this is a tiny niche, to be sure, but without much competition. (Whether that’s a good sign or bad is up to you.)

So who is the new owner? That’ll be MAGIX Software GmbH.

Under new ownership

MAGIX is probably Berlin’s best-kept music software secret. Sure, you know Ableton and Native Instruments and SoundCloud and even Bitwig are here in the German capital, but MAGIX is less a household name.

PC users know them, though. They make various entry-level music and video software products, for one thing – making ACID and Vegas something of a logical fit. While that may seem weird, and while those tools don’t have the name recognition that GarageBand does, I’ve heard over the years repeatedly that some of these entry-level products in general do surprising volume numbers.

Even if MAGIX did nothing other than strip ACID for things like time stretching tricks, it might be worth it. (Even some big name products just use licensed algorithms.)

And MAGIX is also a maker of niche pro products – Samplitude and Sequoia might elicit a big “huh?” from Mac users, but some pro users on Windows live and die by them. That also suggests a good fit.

I also think it’s encouraging that MAGIX is no longer publicly traded. Music software makers haven’t exactly been Wolf of Wall Street material. (Well, depending on which scene you mean.)

MAGIX are neighbors of mine, so once the acquisition settles in, I’ll have to pay them a visit and see how these tools are faring. I have personally spent some quality hours with them. I would at least hope they do well. The market is far more mature than it once was, meaning that even older tools could get a second lease on life.

In particular, I do think Sound Forge could do well – last editor standing from the once-crowded audio editor category. Sound Forge 11 hit as recently as 2013, with everything from workflow improvements to new mastering tools; it saw at least some update as recently as last year. (Here’s a glowing review from ask.audio.) And there are still lots of reasons a dedicated editor can be useful – especially one with some video savvy. Not to mention, there is this nifty spectral editing tool SpectraLayers (also sold with the other tools):

Fingers cr– well, it’s moving to Berlin, so “thumbs pressed.”

Sony Creative Software Sells Majority of Products to MAGIX Software GmbH

  • I am eagerly waiting for some news about spectralayers. It will be interesting what they can make it become.

    • I’m the dev of SpectraLayers, I’m all ears if you have requests 🙂

      • Really embracing the image manipulation side would be awesome: importing images as brushes, rotation of selection (freeform, and quantized to underlying stencil, where sufficiently rotated frequencies hop to nearest free zone designated by stencil), proportional vector painting – shrink or spread energy toward or away from cursor. Blending modes for frequency pencil. Using time axis as a basis for a stroke parameter, where frequency pencil would vary its volume(influence) based on horizontal axis and chosen rhythm preset. My mind was blown away when I saw the first version of the Program, and I can see where it eventually could go. Imagining things is easy, implementing them is hard, so KUDOS to you and the team!
        Nikola Kołodziejczyk
        nikolakolodziejczyk.com

      • coding

        I’m also a fan of this software. I use it more like a sound design tool. At the begging I thought I could use spectralayers for mixing and mastering purposes but the algorithms are still to artificial and it’s difficult to make great sounding equalization (it’s possible but you need lot of time and in most cases you use it only for certain tracks). But the sound design is limitless. Unfortunately working with it is time consuming. The pitch shifting, the time stretching – all those basic sound design tools are time consuming when you use only spectral layers. In my opinion it should go more into iris (izotope) area but more focused on sample (not modulation and fx like iris). All those tools that Nikola wrote would be great. But I think that the most important question is if this soft should be a repair tool or a creative instrument. In my opinion at the moment spectralayers is somewhere in the middle.

  • Dubby Labby

    I can’t imagine what could bring Acid to desktop in 2016/17 but I can dream about something to iOS… Realtime timestretching technology such this or Roland Variphrase adapted to iOS devces in some “groovebox” form will be exciting.
    The same for video fx composition could bring some fresh air to non-linear editing.
    Sound Forge could be revamped for Pro segment if Magix has VR in mind. Implementing Cinelerra (or similar algorythm) for spatial and generarive content (more than recorded) could be a good niche to focus.

    • Ali Bengali

      Hi Dubby Labby!
      Have you ever tried Auria Pro?
      This should be the masterpiece of realtimestretching.
      But because i own an iPad 2 (too slow) and Auria Pro is not available on iPhone (i got a 6 plus) I didn’t tried it.
      Perhaps Korg Gadget (fine iOS DAW 🙂 ) gets realtime stretch or Fruity Loops next Version or Beatmaker 3. But i am waiting still too for seeing time stretch on iOS…….

      • Dubby Labby

        Hi Ali!
        No I didn’t tried Auria Pro because I can do more or less what I need from GB, AUM and others and no need for DAW… But I will look into it because Auria is a great app.
        I need something like Samplr app mixed with DjPlayer… Midi mappable for external control (Samplr hasn’t) and Audiobus/IAA (DjPlayer hasn’t) so… Something like Acid/Vsynth variphrase.

        I will look into Gadeget too. I have the enough powerhouse since few time ago…

  • enparticular

    I started making music with ACID and it was a game changer for lots of people. I still kinda miss it. I remember that i shared e-mails with Dan Snaith (from Manitoba/Caribou) and he wrote to me that he used ACID 1.0 (THE FIRST VERSION) for years and years and made all his first albums with that. brilliant, dirty piece of software

  • Seth C. Polansky

    I’ve used Acid since the Sonic Foundry days. I’m almost ashamed to say that I still use it today for certain types of work. *chuckle* It still holds a special place in my heart.

  • Jesse Engel

    Acid got me into making music on my computer around ~2000 or so. Funnily, I never used it for techno, but for guitar music (layering guitars and guitar loops). Still, it was so friendly to get started and hacking with that it changed my relationship to recording and compostion, way before ableton et al. I’ve done a lot fancier things since, but there’s always something charming and raw about those early tracks for me. Something nice about the constraints of linear editing sometimes.

  • just enough to say “the next release of Sound Forge MAGIX” to understand – that WILL be the Hit.

  • Freeks

    I was ACID user when i was still on PC(P) in 1998-2001. Sound Forge was THE audio editor in that time. I remember when trying Ableton Live 1 for the first time. It was like cheap copy of ACID and i was sure we will never hear about it again 🙂

    Sony should have ported ACID to mac in early 00’s. It had very good time stretching that was 10 years ahead of Ableton. I never tried Vegas as i was on Mac when it was released. It has sounded really good and probably something that i would love as audio/videoeditor.

    I still play in my liveset a track that was done in ACID in summer 2000 😀

    • Freeks

      Oh and one big thing that ACID still has over Ableton: It has no clips! You did all the things in arrangement that you need clip window in Ableton. There was a lot of creative experimentation going on. You just sliced the audio and messed with the segments in the arrangement.

      I had to fire up Live to try this: We still can’t pitch audio segments in arrangement in Ableton. We can’t draw pitch automation in arrangement. You need to jump clip hoops to do any edits you your audio files in arrangement.

      • Ali Bengali

        Hi Freeks!
        I still use Reaper and know ACID a long time.
        Now i am heading to AbletonLive, because i always created mixes with samples/beats.
        So-about your experience with Live:
        Do you see any limits in the actual Version of AL?

  • Adrian Anders

    Acid Pro was really ahead of its time. Years before VST added MIDI effects, Acid Pro 4.0 supported Yamaha’s short-lived OPT standard that allowed whole new piano roll interfaces to be added in the editor window. Sony really destroyed everything that was good about Sonic Foundry which made some really great affordable software for the time. Ironically Magix started its life copying many of the features of Acid, focusing on the same market as other entry-level prosumer products such as Mixman.

  • Foosnark

    I use Sound Forge 10, but I still kind of miss Cool Edit 2000.

    My first PC music production was done with both Acid and Sound Forge, with a combination of SoundFonts and very limited outboard MIDI gear. (Before that, it was with a terrible Yamaha QX MIDI sequencer and and Tascam 4-track cassette recorder, and I did a lot less with it.)

  • leolodreamland

    i have seriously been waiting for the next gen ACID so i can finally make an album. ableton is all about session view for me. so i’m waiting with baited breath for a next level audio mastering pasteboard…

  • chaircrusher

    I remember when there was a pre-1.0 leak of Acid, and we jumped on it. I’d started computer-based music making in 1993 or so using a soundblaster pro and Voyetra 8 sequencer, and graduated to Studio Vision Pro, and Acid was a game changer. Sound Forge was also a huge thing back in the day — I worked out how to make whole tracks in it, creating stems and destructively mixing them.

    As Acid was enhanced over the years, particularly after the Sony acquisition, it started to seem a little clunky. The MIDI track integration was frankly a little weird. I still have a friend who swears by it for loop based hip hop production though, though he stubbornly stays on Acid Pro 4 or 5, because he doesn’t want to deal with the later complications they introduced.

    The person to try and contact is Peter Haller, who was at Sonic Foundry in the beginning, and is still listed on LinkedIn as working for Sony Media Software. He is a great guy, who was active on the old PC-DAW mailing list, and provided a lot of personal e-mail support back in the Sonic Foundry days for Acid and Sound Forge.

    As for Sound Forge, in order to support the Mac, they did pretty thorough re-write, using the Spectral Layers team to take it cross-platform. Both now run on the cross-platform package Qt. Qt is also what Ableton Live uses for the Push GUI, and based on recent hiring at Ableton, will become important in the Desktop product.

  • Krzysztof Szychowski

    On the Mac side of things it would be great if Magix could fix the instability problems plaguing SoundForge.

  • partofthepuzzle

    I’ve been using Sound Forge since ver. 1.0 (approx 20 years!) and it’s like an extension of my audio editing brain. I’d be very, very upset if it were to go away. If Magix can just make sure that it stays compatible with future versions of Windows, that will be fine with me.

    Acid deserves much credit as for what was ground breaking time stretching capabilities at the time it was first released.

    Although I never used the video editing features, I also used to use Vegas as a multi -track audio-only DAW for a while: it had very sophisticated multi track editing features. If they had added MIDI editing to Vegas, it could have competed very successfully with the other DAWs. An opportunity lost.

    Much credit to Sound Forge for breaking new ground and for making a product (Sound Forge) that is still at the top of it’s class over for 20 years.

  • DPrty

    I still use Acid for certain things although for me Reaper is my main software. Vegas is also great software. I really hope Magix moves these forward in a good way. The work flows were great, the pitch stretch engine sounded good and the audio quality really had something about it. One last thing, the interface for setting up beat-matching is very intuitive and works well.

  • leolodreamland

    i have actually been mucking about with my new opl3 based toshiba libretto machine. it has windows 98se and that runs acid pro 4.0!

  • I cut my teeth on Acid, SoundForge, Actual FruityLoops, Goldwave and Amen Beta. Ahh the memories. For a while Cool Edit pro was the bomb.

  • EricM

    ACID and Sound Forge were great. The “painting” of loops onto tracks felt so intuitive. And I’m pretty sure they also used to promote the product well. If I remember correctly, they would provide the “community” with free loops on a regular basis and team up with artists to provide loops of their tracks for remix contests. I found it so cool when they teamed up with a local fave Bran Van 3000 so we could remix their track Astounded (Curtis Mayfield vocals and all) and be picked to be featured on a remix CD.

  • Robin Parmar

    Samplitude is simply the best DAW I have used. I also own Reaper, but it’s simply not as convenient. I continue to recommend Reaper, however, on the basis of price. And because until you use Samplitude, you don’t know what you are missing! MAGIX also make lots of “home” software that provides most of the functionality of Samplitude in very cheap packages. Unfortunately the names of these products change with the prevailing wind, usually drifting somewhere around “Music Maker” and “Music Studio”. Given the profusion of products, I imagine that MAGIX will have little use of the Sony applications.

    But I wonder what they will do with Vegas, currently my video editor of choice? They already have three products in their Movie Edit series, plus the “professional” Video Pro X. It looks worryingly like MAGIX may have bought these just to remove some competition.

  • Ali Bengali

    I used ACID long ago and it was really, really good i for mixing/samples. The next great piece of Software was Fruity Loops 🙂 🙂 🙂
    Then i hated Sony for buying ACID. Sony should build electronic devices but should not create music production software.
    Anyway. Some years ago i found the “ACID Xpress-Version” and was happy to see this masterpiece of Software again. But … it was still a little bit “oldschool” looking….. The time is gone now, i dont know what Magix want to do now with ACID?!? They are 15 years to late! There is Reaper, Garageband, BitWig, Ableton, Cubase Essential,…. so many DAWs.
    And about SoundForge: I still got this piece of Software and i like the shortcut integration for double section, move section to right/left). I was looking for the mac Version but its too expensive for my hobby….
    But i like to hear that ACID and SoundForge are now Sony-free 🙂 It just took to long time.
    And because i dont like MAGIX i think i will never take a look at ACID in future.

  • Bent6

    Haven’t had the opportunity to use any Sonic Foundry/Sony software in a number of years, but I spent quite a bit of time on Vegas years ago. If my memory serves correctly (and I might be completely off here) Vegas was originally a multitrack audio DAW and the video editing was added in at a later time.

    I remember Vegas sounding good and being quite stable. The video tools were very quick compared to other editors I was around at that time. It was very intuitive to an audio engineering mindset. Somewhere in my hazy memory, I remember an off-the-shelf inexpensive PC with Vegas saving the day on a live record date when a Mac was being rather futzy for some reason.

    I’m curious as to the fate of the CD/DVD architect software. sF/Sony really did nice work with this software and it was a very attractive alternative to the Adobe software once Apple dropped DVD Studio Pro.

  • Morgan Hendry

    Back in the late 90’s, I got my start making music with Sonic Foundry’s Acid and Sound Forge. I didn’t have any music theory background at the time, so these tools (plus freeware like Hammerhead and TS404) gave me the chance to start experimenting with electronic music from a sound design and arrangement perspective. It’s capability grew with mine, adding MIDI and better time stretching algorithms during the period I was in college. Acid was the backbone of my show on USC’s KSCR radio, letting me put together weekly mash up mixes quickly and easily. It got me through music theory by letting me experiment with and write my 4 part harmony arrangements on loop. I owe a debt of gratitude to the Sonic Foundry team as I really would not have been a musician today had it not been for this software.

    A shout out to Vegas as well. I still use it for splicing things together from time to time.

  • DPrty

    Peter.. would you ask Magix what they are going to do with these. Gut them or continue them.

  • Larry Johnstone

    Don’t underestimate the power of Acid Pro. It eventually became a fully fledge DAW and even though it cannot compete ‘technically’ with modern DAWs, it is still one of a kind and unbeaten by any other. I hope Magix does the right thing and elevates it to the status it deserves. I still use Acid Pro 7 in combination with Magix Sequoia. What more can I say.

  • Yermom

    This could be good. I still use SoundForge for a lot of things.

  • Monty Schmidt

    Well if you want you can contact me. I’m probably not a bad source having written the first 2 versions of Sound Forge myself. 3 of us wrote 3.0 and there were about 5 of us on ACID 1.0. I might have a story or two for you.

  • John Tuffen

    when I moved to using a mac in 2006, SoundForge was the biggest loss I felt, having used it since about 1998. The workflow was just *right*, and I haven’t found an audio editor which I’ve felt comfortable with since. I didn’t make the jump to SF on the mac when it was (fairly) recently ported since it felt overpriced and the feedback I read wasn’t great. It’d be great to see what Magix do with it. As for Acid, that was always a great deal of fun to play with as more of a sketch pad, although the introduction of MIDI never seemed as intuitive as the native sample-based workflows.

    I have to say that the Vegas (specifically “movie studio”) video-editing software was by far the best/most intuitive video editor I ever used, just great for cutting visuals to a soundtrack; the drag/drop interface shared with Acid maybe helped (if you know how to use one, you can use the other) – I’d buy a mac version of Vegas like a shot…

    Good luck to Magix!

  • kritikosman

    So long 8packs & free Xpress DAW–most likely