I love synthesis, but there’s something just as appealing about creating sounds from other found sounds — especially if you can make the results unrecognizable. I’ve gradually built a series of tricks using some favorite Mac tools.

First, the newcomers:

Soundtrack Pro: The newest addition to my arsenal is Apple’s Soundtrack Pro, which arrived here last week. Sure, in theory I should be doing actual work with the 5,000-sound+ file library included, like adding sound effects to a film or something. Instead, I’ve been creating custom drum kits and wacked-out sound by combining and processing those sounds. I’ve occasionally started a project with a couple of choices from a sound effects CD, but the variety and quality here are exceptionally high. Many of my favorite Logic plug-ins are included, and there’s AU support, so that combined with Soundtrack’s innovative editing scheme (combining multiple effects non-destructively in real-time) means this is one fun sound exploration app. And why use it on paid work when you can be designing drum kits?

Audacity (FREE): I thought Soundtrack would replace the superb open source editor Audacity. Wrong. There are still some great little tricks on the Effects menu in Audacity, and it supports LADSPA and VST plug-ins, too.

And don’t forget the classics:

MetaSynth: I can’t sum up the spectacular capabilities of MetaSynth in two sentences, but suffice to say, the effects alone make this worth the price of admission. (Try out some of the granular effects and see what I mean.) The real star is graphical editing: paint directly onto a sound spectrum to filter it, or use painting tools to resynthesize sounds. The new version has matured a lot, and it’s OS X native.

SoundHack (FREE): Last but certainly not least, SoundHack is probably the most legendary sound design tool ever on the Mac. Anyone interested in making odd sounds has probably used it. It’s basically a little sound editor with some effects, but unique sound effects like its Convolve implementation mean people still run it on OS X today. Favorite SoundHack moment: Running this baby on a IIci and leaving it overnight to do the processing.

Of course, I’m leaving out the modular workstations, the real-time stuff, the PD, Max/MSP, Reaktor lot, etc. But sometimes it’s nice to do good, old-fashioned, non-realtime waveform-level sound design, and all four of these tools fit the bill. (Note that three of them are Mac-only; the one exception is Audacity.)

For more inspiration: Check out today’s story on sound design in Star Wars, or head to MusicThing for this week’s series on small sound designs (like the THX and Windows sounds).

So what are your favorite tools and techniques? Let me know, and I’ll compile some of the best entries.