Sony Sound Forge Pro 10 review

£380
Price when reviewed

Sound Forge is a dependable workhorse for music and video producers, handling destructive audio-editing tasks in a refreshingly straightforward manner.

It specialises in preparing files for use in other applications, editing and saving them directly rather than layering and exporting as multitrack software does. Typical uses include creating samples for use in sampler MIDI instruments, designing sound effects for video production and mastering finished mixes prior to distribution.

It has been 28 months since Sound Forge 9 was released, and with a high upgrade price it’s fair to expect some significant new features. Top billing goes to event-based editing. When activated, an audio file ceases to be manipulated as a continuous stream, but instead is presented as blocks of audio. Initially, a file comprises a single block, but cutting and pasting adds more, and blocks can be split in two with a key command.

Events behave in a similar way to audio objects in the Sony Vegas family of video editors. Here, it turns Sound Forge into an odd hybrid of destructive and non-destructive editor: events can be trimmed and faded non-destructively, but applying effects and other processes remains destructive. It’s also possible to switch in and out of event-based editing, but saving in WAV format discards the event boundaries.

Despite its conceptual awkwardness, event-based editing has numerous practical benefits. Sound design often involves manipulating discrete sections of audio, so the ability to switch in and out of event-based editing and perform non-destructive fades proves to be a valuable time-saver. Event-based editing also paves the way for two other new features.

One of these is support for various software sampler files. These files typically comprise numerous individual samples, which are laid out across a MIDI keyboard and performed as a musical instrument. Some software samplers include their own destructive editing tools, but Sound Forge’s are invariably superior.

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The list of supported formats is, however, disappointing. We can’t imagine that the SoundFont 2 and DLS formats are used much in professional audio-production environments. Sadly, there’s no support for Native Instruments Kontakt, Steinberg Halion or Emulator X sample libraries.

Event-based editing is also crucial to the new disc-at-once CD-authoring facilities. Sound Forge now incorporates most of the features of Sony CD Architect, creating Red Book-compliant audio CDs for professional replication.

CD Architect was – and still is – bundled with Sound Forge, but keeping everything under one roof is a little neater. However, it’s disappointing that the audio plug-in chainer, which is used to process tracks for mastering, must be applied to the entire file. An option to apply a chain of plug-ins to an individual track would make album mastering much easier. CD Architect can do this, but its lack of VST plug-in support cancels out its advantage.

Our favourite new feature is élastique Pro, a time-stretch and pitch-shift plug-in that gives superior results to Sound Forge’s ageing built-in processes.

Annoyingly, though, there’s still no intelligent pitch-shift processing to bring monophonic recordings such as a vocal in tune with a given key. These so-called Autotune effects may be more at home in multitrack software, but something akin to Cubase’s VariAudio would be a big asset in Sound Forge’s toolkit.

Other new processes include superior sample-rate and bit-depth conversion. It’s hard to get excited about these utilitarian functions, but our tests confirmed that they produced noticeably less noise and fewer aliasing artefacts than their predecessors.

Details

Software subcategory Audio production software

Requirements

Processor requirement N/A

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes
Operating system Linux supported? no
Operating system Mac OS X supported? no

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