While there have been competent stereo audio editors on the Mac for some time -- Wave Editor (now Triumph), Peak from (the now defunct) BIAS, Amadeus Pro, even Steinberg’s Cadillac-priced WaveLab -- none of these has garnered the brand recognition that Sound Forge has had among VO and radio production professionals. Forge has enough whizzy audio features to satisfy the heavy edit geeks, while remaining simple enough for voice actors who just want to record and email a thirty to their agent, and do it right now.

Sound Forge Pro Mac retains the clean, simple and configurable interface of its Windows cousin, and most of the same whizzy features (more on what’s not there later). It remains a basic two-track recorder and editor, although it is capable of recording up to 32 tracks of audio simultaneously at up to 64-bit resolution and sampling rates up to 192 kHz, assuming you have the requisite interface to supply it tracks at those specs.

The program does require either OSX Lion (10.7) or OSX Mountain Lion (10.8), which will be a deal breaker for some users who cling to their Snow Leopard (10.6) Intel Macs. It also needs a dual-core Intel processor, which is de rigueur anyway, and a minimum of 2 GB of RAM, making it an ideal candidate for a shiny and flat MacMini computer. Finally, it can use both Audio Units and VST2 plug-ins, which puts it in the same category as Reaper on the Mac; it’s a good place to be.

Installation is simple enough; open the image file, and drag the app from the image to the Applications folder, voila! I fired it up, and a plain gray dialog box appeared offering to either (a) engage the 14-day limited demo mode (which is fully functional excepting that there’s no save or export functions), or (b) go find the newly-arrived email with my activation code in it. The program comes with two -- one for SFPM itself, and another to authorize the included iZotope Mastering Effects Bundle. You’ll need to do the authorization thing on starting up SFPM for the first time; the iZotope won’t bug you about its auths until the first time you use one of them.

Properly authorized, I continued starting the program. I must say I missed seeing that bright red Forge splash screen fill my window. Alas, it’s not there; there’s nothing but a small yet somewhat disturbing HAL-like eyeball in a smallish-splash. I guess change really is hard. But in short order, I was looking at a cleaner version of Sound Forge, waiting for me to personalize its interface to my liking.


The main SFPM display is divided into four user-configurable quadrants, and two sets of three buttons in the upper right control how the main window is partitioned. The left most set of three buttons (Editor) configure the main Editor window and allow multiple files to be viewed at once. The center three buttons (View) activate the additional panels to the right, left, or below the Editor window. The rightmost “gear” button (Tools) brings up a list of tool panels which become available in right panel next to the Editor. These include the Media Browser, Meters, File Properties, Regions List and the Plug-in Chain. Activating the lower panel displays lists of regions, properties, and statistics. Activating the left panel displays a file browser, which is much clearer to use than the explorer-style browser in the Windows version. Believe me, all of this it’s much easier to do than to describe.

The Editor itself contains both the overview of the entire audio file at the top, and also the main view of the audio file which can be zoomed from the overview for detailed editing. Using the mouse to change the size or position of the highlighted portion in the overview is very intuitive, making it easy to move the selection or to control the degree of zoom in the main waveform display. Within the main display, dragging within the waveform or above the ruler is used to make selections for editing tasks. Dragging in the center of a selected region copies that region, and when it’s dropped a Mix box appears to allow mixing with underlying audio, or fading. If you want multiple files open at the same time, tabs appear at the top of the Editor pane, and you can also open a second Editor pane and stack the two panes, either vertically or horizontally using the aforementioned left configuration buttons.

Projects can be saved in a variety of audio formats as well as the SFPM project format, which is preferred if you are going to do any serious work (it will give you a file with .forgeproj extension). This format contains the audio plus other elements such as markers, regions, plug-ins and automation, plus an edit history. The last is particularly useful, as it lets you undo your edits in between sessions. There is no “history” list as in some programs, so undos have to be stepped through to reach a particular even. Do note that edits made to an audio file are destructive when the file is saved.

Like the Windows version, editing work is done in one of four different modes, which are accessed via the buttons along the bottom of the Editor pane, or from the Edit menu. The default mode is Time, where the cursor is a standard arrow which (as noted above) makes time-based selections within the Editor pane. Pencil mode lets you redraw the waveform manually, and is available only at high magnification levels, while Envelope mode is used when creating and editing automation envelopes. The other mode is Event, which is basically where one actually splits, edits, and reorganizes the actual audio files on disk.

SFPM includes a standard marker system for highlighting specific points along the timeline. Hitting “M” on the keyboard drops new markers, and does so accurately which means they’ll work well for marking flubs and mouth noises for later editing. When it Time mode, making a time selection within a waveform and then right-clicking on the horizontal bar that defines its length, brings up a contextual menu for looping and creating a region out of the selection. Regions appear in the Region List pane, as do markers, where they can be named. The important thing here is that regions can be exported as separate audio files, whereas Events cannot. As in the Windows version of Forge, this argues for working within the Time mode for recording and editing auditions, since Time mode does allow full cut, copy, paste, etc., and also allows the edited audio to be turned into a Region that can be exported.

In Event mode, audio files can be split at the cursor into separate Events, which can have their own fade-in, fade-out and level curves. Slipping one Event over another creates an automatic crossfade between them. Like Regions, they can be resized, but they can also be moved along the timeline. So when creating a VO demo using multiple commercial spots, it will be far more convenient to work in Event mode when sequencing the spots. On the other hand, one could create a Region using an entire Event, but that has to be done one item at a time. The Windows version of SF allows auto-regions, but unfortunately the SFPM does not. Hopefully this will be remedied in a future release.


  • Back to Basics: VO Processing

    by Steve Cunningham We knew it would happen eventually. As digital technology became smaller and more powerful, and as the software that utilizes it...