Test Drive: Adobe Audition Version 1.5

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by Craig Jackman

In the beginning there was Syntrillium, a small software company… Okay, one guy, David Johnston (a.k.a. The Creator), and the freeware audio application Cool Edit. And, it was good. Cool Edit begat Cool Edit 96, which added a bunch of extra features and sold for real money at a reasonable price. The ability to multitrack was needed, so Cool Edit 96 begat Cool Edit Pro 1.0 (CEP), which in rapid succession begat Cool Edit Pro 1.1, Cool Edit Pro 1.2, Cool Edit Pro 1.2a, Cool Edit 2000, Cool Edit Pro 2.0, and Cool Edit Pro 2.1. In the intervening years the winning equation of low price compared to a seemingly endless list of included features resulted in a legion of devoted and rabid followers (including followers like me!). The business food chain being what it is, it was inevitable that Syntrillium would be swallowed by a bigger fish, and it was when Adobe Systems acquired the technology assets of Syntrillium. Development didn’t stop as Adobe began integrating Syntrillium into their company with the goodwill free upgrade to Audition 1.0. Audition 1.5 is the heir to the Syntrillium line, and the first real injection of Adobe’s DNA into the bloodline. Like a lot of offspring, if you just look on the surface, you may not see a lot of changes, but take the time to look closely enough and you’ll see some significant changes.

Just to get it out of the way, let me note here that Audition 1.5 was designed to integrate smoothly into Adobe’s existing video software line such as Premiere Pro. Some of the shortcuts have changed from what they were in CEP, to what the rest of the Adobe line uses. There is a modifier tool in the Multitrack screen that changes the way the mouse behaves. Since this fine publication is all about RADIO, and the pictures exist exclusively in our minds, that will be the last I say of that nasty “V” word until the very end.

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If you’ve spent any time at all with Cool Edit Pro since its genesis, you’ll be comfortable with 1.5. The GUI is not changed all that much since CEP 2.0. There are a number of dockable windows, but the first change is the included Window menu, which makes it easier when accessing the list of windows you may need to open. I’ve added a video card with dual outputs and a second video monitor which expands the desktop, leaving room for more windows to be open without covering what you are trying to work on, an option that has improved my satisfaction in use of the software. Dropping down, the first thing you’ll notice is tabs to switch between the now three areas of the program; Edit view, Multitrack view, and CD Project view (more on this later). The tabs can exist with the Toolbar buttons, or close either the tabs or toolbar buttons or both, leaving you to switch views with menus. The first thing that I appreciate about CEP and now Audition is that you can easily adapt the software to how you want to work, and how relatively little you have to adapt to the software.


In the Options menu are the keyboard shortcuts. Just about every task within the program can be mapped to a keyboard shortcut or a MIDI command. These are some of the best ways to use Audition, as it keeps you from wearing out your body and mouse with multiple mouse clicks. Unlike previous versions, with Audition 1.5 you can save multiple shortcut schemes. For those of use that share studios with multiple users, you can now have a shortcut scheme for every user if you want, rather than trying to agree on a common list of shortcuts. Your current 1.0 shortcut scheme is available as a choice in 1.5 for existing Audition users.

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Audition 1.5 now includes VST support. That means you can use VST effects in both Edit View and Multitrack View without having to use a DX-VST wrapper. Also, you now have access to literally hundreds of neat effects available on the Internet, most of which are either freeware or low-cost shareware. Audition includes a dizzying array of effects, but if you want to use something else, your choices just got a lot wider. It is important to note however that this is VST effect support and not VSTi virtual instrument support.

If you are into MIDI music and custom scoring, note that Audition 1.5 now has Rewire support. Rewire is a protocol that allows the transport controls in Audition to playback your audio tracks in sync with your MIDI music tracks created in your sequencer program. You can’t edit the MIDI tracks (you have to go back to the sequencer for that), and while it doesn’t make Audition a one-stop MIDI compatible program, it is the next best thing.

If you want to whet your toe with custom scoring, the full version of Audition ships with more than 5000 music loops and sample sessions. This is an expanded version of the Syntrillium Loopology content, and still uses the old .cel (cool edit loop) file type, which is MP3Pro with different header information. Another addition to the program is a preview button with volume control in the Track Organizer. Also new with the loop playback aspect of 1.5 is an in-time file preview. Any loop you import into the Track Organizer window will now play in time with the session you have open, regardless of its native tempo. The Track Organizer also has an Auto Loop function, so your loop will cycle through. This makes it much easier to hear how your loop will sound in context of the rest of your session.

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The first of the three areas of Audition 1.5 is the Edit View screen. This is the area for most of your editing, effect applications, and file conversions. Any changes made and saved to your files in Edit View are destructive, so SAVE CHANGES really does mean SAVE CHANGES. The first new feature in Edit View (EV) is the most revolutionary. Existing CEP 2.x and Audition users will know that there has always been an alternate view called Spectral view. This view changes the vertical scale to frequency, and the amplitude of those frequencies is displayed as color, so the brighter the color, the more energy in that frequency. Previously, there was no way to edit in this view that wasn’t available in regular waveform view, so I saw no reason to ever use it. Now there is a new tool available in Spectral View called Marquee Selection that allows Frequency Space Editing. This tool lets you to highlight specific frequencies over time, and edit only those frequencies! You can surgically go in to edit out frequencies, change their volumes, or add any effects. Whatever you can do to a track in EV, you can now do to specific frequencies with Frequency Space Editing. There is a little practice required with Frequency Space Editing, as you have to relearn what you are looking at, similar to what you had to learn when you first started looking at details in a waveform. My first successful use of this feature let me go into a voice track, and surgically remove a couple of small paper rustle noises completely, without affecting the voice in any way! Frequency Space Editing is also a great tool to use in localizing background noise for a noise profile for the intelligent noise reduction, or to use with the Fill Single Click Now from the Click/Pop eliminator tool in the noise reduction menu to eliminate mouth clicks and table thumps. It can also be used as a kind of multiband processing. So if you want to apply reverb only to the high end, or echoes on just the bottom end, this is the tool to do that.


CEP always had a couple of presets for vocal removal. They never really worked all that well, but all that has changed with the new Center Channel Extractor. This is so much more than playing with inverted phase to eliminate the center of a stereo track. This effect allows control over frequency, and stereo spread. You can optimize it for male or female voice, center of stereo or panned through the space, and like any good effect it can be used in boost or cut mode equally well. I’ve used it in cut mode as you’d think with vocal music, cutting voice out (or just bringing down the level) to let a voice track sit over top without working too hard to be heard. In boost mode I’ve used it to remix poor sounding MP3 commercials by bringing up the center channel, where the voice would be, to increase intelligibility. No more fights with the Producer across town on how he mixes the spots that the client wants sent to you.

Also new is a Pitch Correction effect that lets you either automatically or manually and graphically analyze and tighten the pitch to a selected scale. You can also misuse this effect to get the Cher “Believe” vocal glitch effect. One less plug-in you’ll have to buy!

If you are dealing with audio restoration, or pulling music off an LP, there is a new Auto Click Pop effect in the Noise Reduction tools. It’s very similar to the existing Click Pop tool, but easier to use with just two controls for Noise Threshold and Complexity.

The last new effect is a 4th reverb called Studio Reverb. This slots in above the existing normal Reverb and Quick Verb in sound quality, but below Full Reverb. The advantage Studio Reverb has is that is uses a lot less of your computer’s DSP power than Full Reverb, making it a good choice to use as a real-time effect in a complex mixdown in Multitrack.

Audition 1.5 does not have a scrub feature to use when editing. I haven’t found this a drawback, but some certainly have, missing the old “rocking the reels” when editing. New to this version is a pre/post roll option that allows you to highlight a section of a wave, and hear how it would sound before making the cut. Under the Options menu is a selection to let you change the pre and post roll times separately to whatever you want them to be. Much like Rewire support, this isn’t scrubbing but certainly is the next best thing for those that miss it.

The changes aren’t limited to just Edit View! There are goodies in Multitrack as well. The first of which is Flexible Envelope Scaling, which works in two ways. First a little background. Audition uses envelopes to “automate” volume changes, pan, wet/dry effects mix of real time effects applied in multitrack, and an FX parameter envelope for certain automatable effects. These envelopes are written in using the mouse to create breakpoints or nodes. You then move the envelope around as you need like a giant rubber band. It may not be as fast as a system that records fader automation moves, but it’s exceedingly accurate, and you don’t have the extra expense involved of software, moving faders, and interfacing it all. Previously you could only cut volume using envelopes as the maximum value was 100%. Now you have the choice of having a maximum value of 200% so you can boost the volume of your clips as well as cut. There are bonuses in this new feature as well. Press ALT when grabbing a volume envelope and you can adjust all the points in your envelope by the same amount, or press CTRL when grabbing a volume envelope and you adjust all the points in your envelope relative to the bottom and top of the envelope (in other words your envelope curves can now be squished). This is one feature I’ve become quite addicted to as it makes changes to complex envelope curves completely painless and quick, rather than having to adjust each individual point on the curve. You can also SHIFT-click on any single breakpoint to lock it in time — you can still move it up and down, but not side-to-side.

One thing to remember is all edits and changes done in MT are nondestructive. A great new feature to this is nondestructive Clip Time Stretching. Sure, time compression has been a part of CEP and Audition since version 2.0, but it really wasn’t all that great. Anything less than 3% was generally safe, but anything over was a compromise with sound quality and artifact issues. Plus, it was an Edit view process that was destructive to the original file. Activating this new feature with the toolbar button, then click-and-drag the bottom corner of your clip lets you shrink the length of it without affecting the pitch. I’ve pulled 20% pitch changes with no noticeable artifacts! Now there is no excuse for even a 61-second spot! You will get a small clock indicator on each clip that has been time stretched or compressed to let you know it’s been changed from the original. Remember, because it’s nondestructive, you can change or undo the stretch at any time, and it never changes your original file.

The MT track count is now up to 128 stereo tracks from 64, which is overkill for radio use.

New to Audition is the CD Project view. I know, I know, all you CEP users are saying what’s the big deal with CD burning? Syntrillium had a CD burning plug-in available for CEP 2.1. Yes they did, and the big deal is that the Syntrillium plug-in was a beta release. Adobe doesn’t release beta to the general public, and the Syntrillium plug-in was disabled in Audition 1.0. The CD Project View in 1.5 won’t set any new standards for innovation in CD creation software, but it’s functional, and works with the Track Organizer window from within the program. Audition 1.5 will auto-convert any tracks to the CD standard of 44.1kHz/16-bit, and auto-convert MP3’s as well. You can select pause times between tracks all the way down to zero, so you can have tracks flow into each other. Note that you can’t save CD projects, but for one off Red Book CD’s it’s terrific.

So that’s all that’s new, but how does it work? Well actually it works exactly how you’d expect it to work. If you are a regular CEP 2.x or Audition 1.0 user, you’ll be flying through it instantly. It’s a point-5 release, so it’s more of an evolution of what’s already existing, as opposed to something completely new. The new features integrate seamlessly and work exactly how they should. Is it perfect? I don’t think there is a perfect piece of software. There are a few really minor bugs in the display. I’ve been hammering on this pretty hard, and I haven’t managed to make it blink yet.

Audition 1.5 minimum system requirements are a 400MHz processor with 64MB of RAM. Naturally you won’t get terrific performance out of such a system, and the recommended levels are a 2GHz processor with 512MB of RAM. My test system is a 2.4GHz/1GB, and as I said it was flawless. Audition 1.5 will only work under Windows XP (Home or Pro), or Windows 2000. It will not install on any earlier Windows variant. Is this the convenient excuse you need to upgrade?

The upgrade from Audition 1.0 or CEP 2.x costs $69. If you’re upgrading from CEP 1.x or Cool Edit 2000 it’s $169. They have a competitive upgrade for owners of Sound Forge, Acid, Vegas, Pro Tools, Pro Tools LE, Nuendo, Wavelab, or Cubase for $249. If you are jumping into this program for the first time, it’ll cost $299. Upgrade buyers should also note that unlike previous updates you do not need to have your existing program installed in your computer. All you need to have on hand is your original serial number to enter when prompted. As it’s been since the beginning, this represents an outrageously good deal. The price per feature is ridiculous! Check their website at www.adobe.com/audition.

While on that website, click over to the Audition User Forums. That and the User Forums at www.audiomasters.com should be required daily reading for all Audition and CEP users. Okay, maybe not daily, but every week for sure! Both are great places to get your questions answered, help others by answering their questions, or pick up another great trick you didn’t know.

If you are interested in a career change, like making home movies, or work with video on a regular basis, Audition 1.5 is part of the Adobe Video Collection 2.5 Standard. This includes video editor Premier Pro 1.5, motion graphics and visual effects with After Effects 6.5, and DVD authoring with Encore DVD 1.5, all of which I know absolutely nothing about. Adobe will sell the whole magillah to any registered Audition 1.0 or Cool Edit (including Cool Edit 2000) user for $799.

Also available from Adobe as part of their Total Training series is a 2 DVD set for $149. If you are the least bit unsure about what you are doing, Adobe Audition Product Evangelist Jason Levine will guide you through the whole program at your leisure. Included in the 1.5 package is a real honest to goodness 300 page manual, and a 2 part, 40 minute DVD where Jason guides you through the new features and how to use the included loops. I even learned something new that has existed since 2.0 by watching this DVD, and I highly recommend you take the time to view it. The program ships as 2 CDs, one for the program and one for the loop materials.

I’ve been a long time user and supporter of CEP and Audition. Audition 1.5 is not only the newest version, it’s also the best, with the stability of 1.2a, and uses the advanced features of 2.1 as a leaping off point. I think it’s terrific, and just about ideal for the way I work in radio. One of my co-producers at our cluster thinks it worthwhile just for the Clip Time Stretching, while another loves the pre/post roll as it was the last thing he was missing from a previous software package he was used to. Yet another thinks the loop material is quite cool. I like the Envelope scaling best. The Engineering Director likes how well the upgrades fit into his capital budget. Is Audition 1.5 worth it? Yes!

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