Test Drive: Adobe Audition Version 1.5

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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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