Sony Acid Music Studio 10 review
Acid was once a pioneer of computer music production, but progress has slowed considerably in the last few updates. The consumer-oriented Acid Music Studio has received a slow trickle of new features from the pricier Acid Pro, but in version 9 those improvements brought little practical benefit.
A quick glance at the new features in Acid Music Studio 10 suggests we’re in for more of the same. There’s no interface overhaul to address some of the creeping idiosyncrasies that have built up over the years. It hasn’t been redesigned to accommodate touchscreen devices, as Sony Movie Studio Platinum has done.
The maximum sample rate has increased from 96kHz to 192kHz. According to the new features list in Acid Music Studio 9’s help, it already supported 192kHz. This confusion demonstrates how unimportant a change this is, and we can’t believe there are any home users jumping at the chance to move from 96kHz to 192kHz anyway.
MIDI editing now benefits from drum maps, which list the name of each sound in a kit rather than showing a virtual MIDI keyboard. It’s helpful when drawing drum patterns with a mouse, but less so when performing with a keyboard, as the relationship between the names and the keys isn’t shown. It’s also now possible to filter the MIDI input to avoid recording unwanted aftertouch and other types of data that isn’t assigned to anything. It’s another welcome addition, but frustrating that it must be set for each track rather than as a global preference.
This update introduces a Freeze Track button, which bounces down virtual instrument tracks as a WAV file to free up processing power. It’s a common feature in other recording software but not really necessary for this one’s bundled virtual instruments, which are relatively simple and not particularly resource-hungry. Acid Music Studio also supports third-party VST instruments, but anyone who’s spending money on instrument plugins is likely to want more sophisticated MIDI editing facilities than Acid Music Studio offers. It’s telling that MIDI inputs are disabled altogether by default.
The introduction of event groups is more straightforwardly welcome. Audio and MIDI clips can be grouped together across multiple tracks so they move as one. Splitting a clip applies the split to all in the group, although this leaves the grouping in a slightly haphazard state. Its behaviour gets more complex when one of the clips in a group is trimmed. Still, as long as you keep an eye on the results of your edits, it isn’t hard to reap the benefit of this feature.
The best new feature is the ability to assign effects to individual audio events, rather than only to channels. Effects are applied simply by dragging and dropping onto a recording or loop, or by clicking the Event FX button on an audio event. This will be familiar stuff to anyone who’s used to video-editing software. They’re also the people who are likely to appreciate it most. Applying effects to individual events isn’t a common technique for music production, but it’s more useful for sound design and creating atmospheric soundscapes. As such, it’s just the thing for video producers who want to create their own soundtracks.
This is the key to why we feel more upbeat about Acid Music Studio than we did last time around, despite its modest improvements. For musicians, its clunky handling of MIDI, virtual instruments and mix automation makes it hard to recommend – Steinberg Sequel 3 is significantly more accomplished in these regards, and its bundled effects are much better too. However, consider Acid Music Studio as part of a video-production suite and it starts to make more sense.
Its strongest asset is the ability to assemble musical ideas quickly, with the software automatically handling the fiddly issues of matching the tempo and key. There’s a library of 1,645 audio loops included, plus 1,371 more on a sampler disc to advertise the additional content available from Sony. These cost from £21 to £48 per themed library, and range from acoustic instrument performances to abstract soundscapes. Many are designed as construction kits, with collections of loops that work well together. We tried out a couple of these libraries that are particularly well suited to video soundtrack work – Cinemascapes and White Rabbit Asylum – and it reminded us how much fun Acid’s loop-painting approach can be.
Ultimately, this mix-and-match approach isn’t as rewarding as grappling with a MIDI keyboard or acoustic instrument when composing for its own sake. It feels like collaborating with a talented multi-instrumentalist whose mind isn’t really on the job. However, it makes sense for non-musicians who want to create credible, atmospheric backdrops for their video productions, especially as its available in a bundle with the latest versions of Movie Studio Platinum and Sound Forge Audio Studio for a mere £86 (£103 inc VAT).
|Software subcategory||Audio production software|
Operating system support
|Operating system Windows Vista supported?||no|
|Operating system Windows XP supported?||no|
|Operating system Linux supported?||no|
|Operating system Mac OS X supported?||no|
|Other operating system support||Windows 8 and 8.1|