Test Drive: Hindenburg Journalist Pro

QUICK START

Journalist Pro starts up quickly, and presents four default tracks in the window: Speak, Interview, Ambience, and Music. These default names can be changed by double-clicking in the name plates and typing. I plugged in my MicPort Pro XLR-to-USB converter and connected a studio mic to that. Journalist Pro recognized it immediately and asked if I wanted to use it for input; I clicked okay. Pressing the track arm button in the track header armed the first track for recording and turned the volume slider red, indicating that it was time to set the input level. The stereo meters on the right side of the track header became active, with green showing up to about -9dB, and turning from yellow to red past that point. Clicking the Record button begins to move the cursor, and the rectified waveform becomes visible as the cursor moves right. As the recording proceeds, you can drop Markers to note spots that will need editing, or are of interest in some other way.

If Automatic Leveling is enabled, the recording will be analyzed for level upon hitting Stop. The level will then be adjusted according to the setting in Preferences. As with any audio program, Saving a work in progress, even before recording the first track, is vital. Journalist Pro saves two items in your desired location -- a MyProject.nhsx file which is the recording session file with whatever name you give it on save, and a folder named MyProject Files, which is where audio files are located.

Recorded audio files are displayed with small square “handles” on each corner of the waveform block. To move a block, grab it with the mouse (which will become a hand) and drag. To top and tail a recording in a block, you just grab an edge with the mouse and drag left or right. To create a fade-in, grab the top left “handle” and drag to the right; fade outs work the same way. Grab the handle on the center top of the block and pull up or down to adjust the overall level of the recording. To edit the recording, make selections using the I-beam, which is what the cursor becomes when it’s hovered over the lower third of the waveform display. Clicking and dragging with the I-beam sets In and Out points automatically. You can rehearse an edit before committing it by adding shift-control (shift-alt in Windows) to the spacebar Play command, which will skip over the selected region. Then cut, copy, paste, clear, insert or split, using the toolbar icons or key commands.

To duck a section of music, simply drag with the mouse to set an In and Out selection, then grab the top edge of the block between the In and Out points. Journalist Pro automatically creates fades inside In and Out points as you pull the level down, and the fades have their own handles so you can adjust the time and slope of the fades. Audio scrub is implemented using the “JKL” keys, in which J and L scrub forward and backward in real time, adding shift moves in half-time, and adding the K doubles the scrub speed. It doesn’t get much easier than this, and it’s wicked fast.

Importing audio is a simple matter of drag and drop, and all common formats are supported including WAV, AIF, MP3, plus AAC and Apple Lossless (requires Quicktime in Windows). Journalist Pro will even do sample rate conversion if you drag a 48 kHz file into a 44.1 kHz session. Export options are equally generous, and include the same list of file formats plus MP2 for video use.

SPECIALS

If you check out the track header, you’ll notice that in addition to the Record Ready button, there’s also a Solo and Mute button. After that comes an icon that looks like three faders, and this invokes the effects processor insert. Journalist Pro can use third party effects in AU format on the Mac and VST format in Windows, and the built-in effects are interesting as well. As you might expect they’re bare bones, with a good-sounding compressor that is totally preset with but a single knob to control the threshold and ratio in one go. Also included is a three band EQ with fixed frequencies at about 120Hz, 1kHz, and 10kHz. They’re not surgical in any way, but for general voice shaping they work fine. Finally, the Pro version comes with a Loudness plug which measures in LU rather than dB, and features level measurement standards that are used extensively in Europe but less so in the US.

A unique feature of Journalist Pro is the Voice Profile. Here’s the deal: you import a sample recording of your voice that you like, and tweak it with the built-in effects or 3rd party plugs. When you like your sound, you click the down arrow in the lower right corner of the track header and choose Learn Profile. Journalist Pro then analyzes the recording and builds an EQ curve that you can apply to any recording of your voice. It’s supposed to give you the same sound every time, although when I tried it the difference was so subtle that I could barely hear the change.

JP comes with a suite of features that will appeal to those who create audio books and podcasts, including the ability to set chapters and embed images and links. It also allows what they call 1-click Publishing, which generates RSS feeds and allows submission via FTP or to the Public Radio Exchange.

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