Test Drive: Sony Sound Forge Pro for Macintosh

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PLUG-INS INCLUDED

SFPM includes a small number of Sony’s own plug-ins for processes including normalization and channel conversion, but mainly takes advantage of Apple’s stock plug-ins, which don’t really get the credit they deserve. They’re actually quite good.

But the real draw here is that Sony includes two bundles from one of my fave plug makers: iZotope. You get their Mastering Effects Bundle, which includes their excellent EQ, a reverb, a compressor, limiter, stereo imager and an exciter plug-in. You also get iZotope’s Restore and Repair Tools: their excellent de-clicker, de-noiser and de-clipper, plus their sample-rate and bit-depth conversion tools. This gives you a mini-version of their exceptional RX noise remover, along with the option of cleaning up room noise in voice tracks. You also get time-stretch and pitch shift plugs from Sony, as well as Zplane’s Elastique Timestretch plug-in. Although the latter is an offline processor, its quality is excellent and substantially better than Sony’s.

Those who have used Forge on Windows will feel at home with SFPM’s Plug-in Chain and Chooser pane (available on the right side). Chains are unique per audio clip in the Editor window, and the entire setup process is very self-explanatory. VO talent who want to make their track sound more up-in-your-grille with some compression will have no problem figuring out how to set it up to work in real time.

While there may be fewer total plug-ins here than some offer, when taken together there’s enough power and flexibility to handle pretty much any processing task.

WHAT’S MISSING

Unfortunately, comparing SFPM to Sound Forge Pro version 10 for Windows brings the Mac version up short. In addition to the aforementioned auto-version function, one of the two most significant omissions is batch editing. That’s right, the ability to select a mess of WAV files and have Forge convert them to mp3 files without further intervention is just flat missing. It might have something to do with Quicktime issues, or perhaps licensing and Apple; I don’t really know. I do know I miss it.

The other major faux pas is key commands. In short, there are so few as to make working quickly painful when compared to the PC version. You’ll end up making way too many trips to various icons and menus during a fast-paced session with a VO artist. I ended up using Keyboard Maestro to create some macros for the items I used the most, as I far prefer key commands to clicks. I suppose I’ll get used to it, but there is really no good reason for not giving users a menu where they can assign keys to functions and menu items. I’ll just keep hoping that some of these appear in future releases.

Other minor quibbles include the lack of anything like a Crop command, and the fact that the toolbars cannot be edited. On the plus side is that the documentation is good and reasonably complete, and the program does cost less than the Windows version ($270 for the downloadable version vs. $375 for the Windows version).

SO IS IT WORTH IT?

Frankly it’s hard to say at this writing. The program is not as unstable today as some reported earlier on the various message boards, at least in my experience. But it is not yet the speed demon that the Windows version represents. Keeping in mind that it is still at version one (technically, version 1.0.22 build 2), I really want to like it, and am willing to hang for updates. But for today it has the same air of disappointment about it as did Audition for the Mac -- pretty good, but not nearly as good as its forebear.

Speaking of which, I am happy to report that at least Sony is releasing new revs of SFPM often, at a current run rate of about one per month for the past four months. I only hope they sell enough copies to make it worthwhile adding the items missing from the Windows version. If they do that, I believe they’ll have a winner here. If not, well, I may go back to the PC or to Forge in Parallels on the Mac. Meanwhile, there is a time-limited Trial version, so go check it out for yourself.

Sony’s Sound Forge Pro Macintosh carries a US suggested retail price of $299.95 for the boxed version, and $269.95 for the downloadable version. For more information worldwide, visit www.sonycreativesoftware.com. 

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