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).