Cool Edit Pro has 64, separate, stereo tracks. Individual sound files may be up to a gigabyte in size. If it's a .wav, .snd, .aif, .vox, .au, .pcm, .vba, .smp, .vl, .dwd, .iff, .svx, .sam, in any kind of compressed or uncompressed state, Cool Edit Pro can read it, save it, or save it as another file type. Sorry, I forgot it also does RealAudio (.ra) files for your Web site. Of course, you can save entire multitrack sessions as well. You may open files as they are already sampled, or open them at a different sampling rate. Any sampling rate that your soundcard is capable of is possible. (You can even type in a sampling rate, if you would ever need to.) Record with an 8-bit, 16-bit, or 32-bit resolution (something for next year's soundcards). When using files of different sampling rates on the multitrack, they're automatically converted with pre and post filtering to the sampling rate you choose to work with. You can append files (add files to the end of another) with other files, and append multitrack sessions with other sessions. Cool Edit Pro also makes "peak files" (.pk) from the waveform you record or load up, and doesn't have to read the file ever again, making the redraw of the display instant after an edit. Did I mention, while you are recording, the waveform is drawn on the screen in real-time? The cursor line can also stay in the middle of the screen, with the waveform driving by, on playback.
The transport controls are straight-forward (no pun intended). Stop, play, pause, loop, play-to-end (starting at a highlighted area, but continuing past the highlight), record, go to the track's beginning, go to the track's end, fast-forward, rewind, and, in the play mode, scrub forward and backwards.
The display controls are just as easily mastered. Zoom in (right down to the sample), zoom out, display entire wave, zoom in to display a highlighted section, display the highlighted section and an equal amount of time to the left of the highlight, and display the highlight and an equal time to the right of the highlight. In addition, two buttons in the lower right corner of the window changes the vertical zoom factor, zeroing in to the center of the amplitude of the 2-track editor, and showing more tracks in the multitrack view.
The time counters show the start and end points and the length of the entire waveform display (these are dynamic, and change with any zoom, to tell you where you are within the whole), where the cursor line is, and the start and end points of highlights, with the total time inside the highlight. The counters will show your choice of minutes/seconds/hundredths, samples, bars and beats, SMPTE drop frame, or, of course, a custom frame/second setting.
In the multitrack view, the track controls on the left of the display are very familiar. Each has a mute button, a solo button, and a record enable button. Track volume and track pan (stereo tracks, remember?) are also here. If you are using an 8-in/8-out soundcard, you can also use the two buttons there to set where that track's input will come from and where that track's output will go. A single left click on the track name, and you've got a dialog box that gives you all of the track controls in one spot.
While working on individual tracks in the multitrack view, you have a choice of editing the "image" of the original file (which will change the original file), or editing a "clone" of the original file (which leaves the original intact).
Sliding a wave around the multitrack is a right click and drag away, within the track or to a different one. Turn on the "snap" function, drag any wave close to another, and snap! It butts the two waves together for a seamless connection. I was sliding multiple waves around from track to track while it was playing without a glitch in sight.
It's difficult to go anywhere in Cool Edit Pro and not hear yourself whispering to yourself "this is cool."
Beyond just cool
Here's where you must fasten your seat belts: the DSP functions. It would take a book to explain them all in detail, but the list of effects alone is impressive. Only some of the effects controls are listed.
Here we go.
Dynamic Range Processing is the place to compress, expand, limit, and noise gate. Besides full gain and level controls, there is also a graphing capability that allows you to "draw" the effect you're looking for.
Envelope lets you draw a curve of any kind to shape the amplitude of your highlight--most useful, I find, for precision fades up and down, in very small places.
Normalize will, well, normalize the level of a wave to a preset "percentage of maximum," without changing its characteristics (compressing, for example) in any way. Essentially, it's a global volume control based on percent.
Amplify is a "smart" volume control. Not only will it set levels, it will also perform functions such as fade-up or fade-down. It's nice to fix syllables or overemphasized vowels in voice-overs.
Chorus is just as good, if not better, than the EFX processor in your rack. There are many settings, including the number of voices and vibrato.
Delay is a digital slap-back that will create a tunnel, a stereo feel for a mono sound, or even a single echo back. "Spatial" is the word for this one.
Echo is your auditorium, shower, or small room. There is a "successive echo EQ" and also includes a "falloff" ratio.
3D Echo Chamber is a calculator for sound. You choose the room size, how far the microphones are set apart, and what the walls are made of. The mother of all ambiance makers, this is one fun effect, with up to 25,000 echoes.
Flanger, and a good one. One of the presets is "under water," but my fave is "high school movies."
Multitap Delay is the ultimate reverb chamber. Set numerous "delay units" to all run at the same time, such as 1) delay 139 ms at 158 ms 2) delay 46 ms at 80 ms 3) delay 49 ms at 146 ms 4) delay 79 ms at 313 ms. Better than the real thing!
Reverb. Good ol' plain reverb with all the fixin's.
DTMF Filter is made specifically to lower the level of Touch Tones, the nemesis of VU meters, everywhere.
FFT Filter is the low-pass, high-pass, notch, and sound-like-a-telephone maker. With this filter, I discovered the perfect setting to remove popped Ps (and you can be sure, I made a preset for that one). A graphical display lets you draw what you want.
Graphic Equalizer is the EQ of EQ. Choose a 10, 20, or 30 band equalization with a display, a range setting, and an "accuracy" adjustment.
Parametric Equalizer is another cool choice, with the ability to drag the pattern around on a graphic display.
Quick Filter is like having bass and treble controls, except there are 8 of them. It's got both initial and final settings.
Scientific Filters are pretty scientific. A graph displays the likes of Bessels, Butterworths, and Chebychev low pass, high pass, band pass, and band stop (reject) filtering.
Click/Pop/Crackle Eliminator. You guessed it.
Hiss Reduction removes hiss under a set level. Oddly, you also have the choice of keeping only the hiss!
Noise Reduction analyzes the selection for noise, and allows you to set how much of it you want removed.
Stretch is, by far, the most useful effect for those 68 second spots. Speed up or slow down, I pushed this to 22% without a glitch. Now, that's cool.
Other effects include Convoluting, Distortion, Invert, Reverse, generating Noise, an Oscillator for tones, DTMF touch tones, and a Brainwave Synchronizer that creates effects to meditate with-—particularly useful on "Production Director Fridays." There's also a Frequency Analyzer and a Waveform Statistics analyzer that gives you RMS powers, sample values, and other things. Of course, Cool Edit Pro has a myriad of controls for copying, pasting, and mix-pasting--the combining of several waveforms into one stereo track.
All effects can be "previewed" in real-time so you can hear what you're doing while the wave is playing. Once you make a choice, the waveform is saved that way (of course, undo undoes). The average waiting time with the computer we built was about 45 seconds, including saving the undo file, for a 60 second long, 44.1/16-bit stereo file. The waiting time decreases accordingly when effecting smaller sections of the entire wave. To undo the changes made to the entire minute takes about 4 seconds. A better computer, as mentioned above, would lower the waiting time.
Each effect has many settings, and most have so many options, you will probably go back to work over the weekend just to play with them; this is one of the reasons for "presets" (and a valuable time-saver--imagine making the perfect preset for anything you produce, for any client or station promo, and always having it at your fingertips at a later date).