FOR NEWBIES AND MAC-OIDS

To help ease the transition for new users, there are several possible preset layouts you can choose when you call up one of the four functions, from basic (which exposes a minimum number of options) to advanced. I found the defaults to be well thought out. Check out the screenshots to see the four modes in action.

For those who are seasoned WaveLab on Windows users, the graphics, windows and general color schemes will be familiar, as will the toolbars. If anything, the overall presentation of WaveLab 7 is significantly toned down from previous versions. However, Mac users will find the overall appearance to be decidedly un-Mac-like to the point of jarring. Yes, WaveLab’s PC roots show up, but I would gently suggest that y’all get over it. WaveLab 7 on the Mac is one of the better looking PC ports I know of, and it appears to me that many Mac software products are actually moving towards the crisper, high-contrast Windows look anyway. If anything, you’ll want a much larger display to show you all those bells and whistles at a glance, and Switcher puts Pro Tools’ limited window configurations to shame. Here are just a few examples to illustrate the point.

If you regularly edit audio alongside other applications, the new “Position on screen” menu option can help your workflows by offering a couple dozen predefined choices setting up windows, ranging from the “Full screen view” to WaveLab occupying the top or left half of the screen, or the bottom right-hand quarter. This flexibility makes it very easy to create split-screen views with a video application, Internet browser, or script. Better still, these multiple window arrangements can now be saved as workspaces, so you can organize everything for different project, such as VO recording, editing, and sweetening, with everything resized, repositioned and tabbed to your taste. This is particularly helpful to those using multiple monitor screens, but even those of you with a single monitor will end up making better use of available space when a list of carefully tweaked layouts is only a couple of mouse clicks away.

MASTER BLASTER

The Master section has always been an important part of WaveLab, since that’s where you add effects, apply dithering, do rendering, save and load presets of particular effects configurations, and so on. It’s much improved over version 6; for example, take the Effects slots at the top of the Master section. You can quickly bypass individual effects with a single click on the checkmark icon to the left of the plug-in, show or hide up to 10 total slots, or hit the icon with three vertical lines to re-order the effects in the slots. The plus (+) and minus (-) icons let you add or remove empty slots, leaving more space for the faders and meters.

To the left of each effects slot you have three buttons: Bypass (for playback only... the effect will be printed to the track when you render), Solo, and the “Monitoring Point”. The latter lets you hear the audio going through the Master section at exactly that point in the effects chain. Three other buttons to the right of each effects slot, from left to right, show and hide the effect’s interface when clicked, lock the effect in place even if you load another effects chain preset, and disables the effect from both playback and rendering. Another function not found in WaveLab 6 lets you right-click to shift effects up or down starting with the slot from where you clicked.

The next section is devoted to Master level functions, including metering (obviously). You can choose to monitor in mono, unlink the stereo faders, and reset peaks at the bottom of this section. Following this comes Dithering, which offers the usual list of suspects for adding noise-shaped dither -- essential if you’re rendering a 24-bit recording down to 16-bits. At the bottom you’ll find the Rendering and Presets Section. This is another area that is far more advanced than WaveLab 6. You can bypass all effects for playback but not for rendering, bypass master section and disconnect all master section plug-ins from the CPU, dock/float, reset everything (which gets rid of plug-ins and resets meters), engage smart bypass that lets you compare processed and unprocessed signal while maintaining a consistent volume, and the various rendering options. For those of you who’ve forgotten, “rendering” is WaveLab-speak for bouncing an audio file or montage to the hard drive. You can process in place, or create a named file (in which case it appears in the main window). Finally, those of you using WaveLab 6 (or 5 or even 4) can easily import your existing effects presets into version 7, and I do mean easily.

NEW PLUGS

WaveLab 7 features some 30 VST3 plug-ins, including three new ones from Sonnox. These are DeNoiser, DeClicker and DeBuzzer, and they deal with hiss, pops/clicks and hum respectively. They are available as inserts in all workspaces, including the Batch Processor. While I am not familiar with Sonnox’s Restoration Suite plug-ins, from which these were plucked, I found them to quite serviceable in the cleanup department. They’re a nice addition to the wide selection of dynamics, EQ’s, choruses and flangers, reverbs, and whatnot provided with WaveLab 7. It’s a very useful set of tools that is well-suited to radio production... no duds anywhere.

Although they’re not plug-ins, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the various metering and analysis tools provided with WaveLab 7. While there are no significant additions to that collection, they comprise one of WaveLab’s most compelling aspects, and they’re all still there.

The documentation for WaveLab 7 consists of a combination of tooltips and context-sensitive, searchable PDF documents. Some users in forums have complained about the lack of a hardcover manual as was provided with version 6, but I don’t see any huge problems with this. In fact, more and more products are moving to the model found in WaveLab, and again some may just have to get over it.

WORTH IT?

Although WaveLab 7 remains on the pricey side at $599 US retail and about $475 on the street, there is a slightly cut-down but still useful version called WaveLab 7 Elements that retails for about $130 and hits streets below $80. The main restrictions are that Elements can have two tracks only (as opposed to nearly unlimited in the Montage section for the full version), just a handful of fade curves, half the plug-ins and half the slots for them, and the loss of some of the more esoteric analysis tools. But the excellent time stretch, Sonnox plugs, workspaces, and all of the essential analysis tools helps ease the pain, as does the radically lower price. Frankly, Essentials should be more than just fine for most radio production folks. If you don’t mind risking the forty or so bucks for the USB dongle, which may become a very light paperweight if you don’t go for the software, Steve sez check out a very solid two track editor.

For more information, visit www.steinberg.net.

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