Sony Acid Pro 7 review

£259
Price when reviewed

Acid was the first music-production software to offer automatic time-stretching and pitch-shifting of samples to fit a project’s tempo and key. In doing so, it encouraged a mix-and-match production style that has influenced dance and pop music for more than a decade.

Today, the same functions are available in everything from home-oriented eJay software to heavyweights such as Cubase, but Sony has kept innovating with other inspired new features. Version 3 gave us the Beatmapper, which clocks the tempo of entire tracks.

This spawned the craze for bootleg remixes where vocals from one track are set against the backing from another. Version 5 introduced Groove Mapping, which extracts the timing nuances of one sample and applies it to another.

In the last couple of years Ableton Live has eclipsed Acid Pro’s reputation for groundbreaking music-production techniques. But Acid Pro has another string to its bow: unrivalled ease and speed of use. Version 1 was simplistic but incredibly friendly and quick, and it’s remarkable that subsequent releases have transformed it into a sophisticated, versatile production tool without compromising its immediacy.

This latest release builds on the previous version’s focus on becoming a more rounded, conventional recording application. There’s finally a proper mixer, which pulls together the various mixing parameters into a conventional single-window interface.

It looks utilitarian to the point of ugliness but it uses limited space well and has the ability to hide or show particular settings or channel types. Colour coding to identify different sections would be welcome, though.

Other improvements include the ability to drag objects to different tracks and to precede recording with a metronome count in. A new Input Bus channel type allows a live audio input to be monitored with effects applied ??” essential for recording electric guitars direct into the computer.

It’s now possible to create tempo-change ramps and curves rather than just static blocks. However, behind the scenes, the software still adjusts the tempo in one-beat blocks, which we found to be a little coarse in some circumstances.

All of the above features have been available elsewhere for years, but they strengthen Acid Pro’s ability to compete with more conventional recording software such as Cubase. There are still quite a few notable omissions, though, such as tools to assist the recording and compiling of multiple takes. Its snap-to-grid facilities lack the option to preserve an object’s offset relative to the grid when moving it.

Mix automation is available either by recording changes in real time or by editing envelope curves, but the latter technique is unavailable for bus and virtual instrument channels. As such, the only way to edit some automation data is to re-record it from scratch. Tempos are limited to a range of 70 to 200bpm, which seems needlessly narrow and may prove to be extremely unhelpful.

Acid Pro’s Beatmapper function was once a cutting-edge tool but Ableton Live has taken the idea further, tempo-mapping with greater accuracy and less user input and even coping with varying tempos. Beatmapping with tempo changes is listed among Acid Pro 7’s new features, but we were disappointed to see that this is a manual rather than automatic process. To map a song with a subtly changing tempo, we had to enter markers every couple of bars.

Our favourite new feature is an improved time-stretch and pitch-shift algorithm, affectionately named elastique Pro. This significantly reduces artefacts compared to the old algorithm, allowing for dramatic changes to pitch or tempo while maintaining acceptable quality.

Details

Software subcategory Audio production software

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