Sony Sound Forge for Mac (review)

Sony is launching an offensive. It is attacking the 64-bit Mac OS X market with new, often innovative creative software. A couple of weeks ago, it was SpectraLayers Pro. Today, it’s Sony’s audio wave editor, Sound Forge Pro. Sound Forge Pro was already available on Windows. The Mac version is a real powerhouse.

Sony’s Sound Forge is a bit like Apple’s SoundTrack Pro, the editor that got retired when Final Cut Pro X was released. It looks a bit like it, but in some ways Sound Forge is more powerful, while in other areas it just doesn’t work that well.

Although Sony made a considerable effort to turn Sound Forge into a real Mac app, it still feels like a Windows app when you need to perform tasks. An example is the Envelope feature, which requires you to first enter into a specific mode before you can use it. Another example is the way you select sound. It’s not that it’s complicated. It just doesn’t feel like Mac.

However, once you pass this molehill the power of Sound Forge quickly becomes obvious.

For starters, Sony hasn’t reinvented the wheel. Instead of developing all filters, effects and sample rate adjustments themselves, they are licensing the best in the industry: iZotope’s MBit+ SRC engine as well as its Ozone mix filter and a bunch of other filters and equalisers.

With Sound Forge you can edit multi-channel audio in up to 192kHz sample rates at 32bits. This highest quality sound is only available in the WAV and AIFF formats. I tested Sound Forge with a 15-minute interview clip that contained a lot of background noise and which needed splitting up in Q&A’s. The file had problems: the noise was considerable and the interviewer interrupted the interviewee.

Sound Forge allowed me to create markers that showed me where I could cut away sound. The program also let me create regions very easily. The regions served as split points along the timeline. Both were very easy to create while exporting regions to separate files was a matter of selecting a menu option to batch export all regions at once.

The audio file was easy to zoom in to. The timeline scrolls as more audio becomes visible, but only when you want that. Using an Apogee Duet FireWire, I never witnessed any lag, nor did Sound Forge choke on plug-ins I threw at it.

I recorded my interview on four channels. My idea was to edit the gap between Left and Right to my liking by using the third and fourth channels (using the built-in microphones of the audio recorder) as centre filling. The audio recorder generated two separate files, both at 48kHz/24bits.

Sound Forge allowed me to mix the two files together by copying and pasting. Very easy! Although you must keep your mind to where left and right are in both files.

I could normalise the volume and process the file through all kinds of enhancements without much effort. I thought I could also use all of iZotope’s filters, but that proved to be impossible. iZotope’s filters don’t support more than two channels. Luckily, Sony’s own filters as well as the 64-bit Apple Core Audio filters worked. These happen to be the ones you will use most for corrections.

Except for all this raw power, Sound Forge comes with multiple editing modes, including a Pencil Mode which allows you to actually draw sound, and an Event mode that permits a different way of splitting your audio in multiple sections, as well as trimming, slipping, fading, and what have you.

Envelope Mode lets you adjust volume and fades by manipulating a graph rendered on top of the wave.

None of these modes and capabilities come natural if you’ve never worked with Sound Forge before. Reading the excellent user guide gets you far in just a few minutes, though.

And of course most of your edits you will do while keeping an eye on the fully customisable sound meters, which you can easily switch from one measuring method to another.

Perhaps the most appealing feature is the ability to record audio direct to Sound Forge. You can thus create entirely new recordings, but you can also create punch-in recordings.

Sound Forge is 64-bit only and occasionally the app would crash on me, especially when I selected the Duet as OS X output device and then tried to access the Audio Preference tab. But other than that, Sound Forge is pure editing power for stereo audio, regardless of whether you want to export to CD, DVD, or sync with US/EU video footage. While you can edit multiple channels, I found it a pity the iZotope filters didn’t work with multi-channel files.