by Jerry Vigil
If you haven't noticed, over the past few months we've been Test Driving some of the software-based 2-track editors on the market. So far, at just $50, Cool Edit 96 comes in as the most inexpensive one of the group, but don't let the price tag fool you. This little program does a lot of the things the big boys do, and does them pretty well.
The program was installed on a Pentium 266 with 64 MB of RAM, a 4GB SCSI hard drive, and DAL's CardD Plus. Fast CPUs, fast drives, and lots of RAM will always be prerequisites for audio (and video) programs to run their best. Installation of Cool Edit was quick and painless. A typical Windows install wizard has the program running in a minute or two, and there are only a few items to deal with in the setup dialogue boxes such as selecting the audio card to use and where to store temporary files. Buffer settings may need adjustment for some systems, and I found it necessary to increase the default settings on the size of the Temporary Files to prevent the system from stopping unexpectedly while playing long files (several minutes in length). Once the tweaking was done, Cool Edit ran smoothly without any crashes or glitches.
There are some very simple 2-track editors on the market, and some that are so full of features that they can be a bit intimidating. Cool Edit does a nice job of providing an editor somewhere in between. Cool Edit's only screen provides a large area for display of the waveform. The top of the screen is in standard Windows format with a title bar and pull down menus, and there’s a self-configurable tool bar. Below the waveform window are the transport buttons, time displays, and two horizontal level meters that span the width of the screen. The transport controls consist of Play, Pause, Stop, and Record. Above these are four zoom controls, In, Out, Zoom, and Full. Highlighting an area of the waveform and clicking Zoom fills the entire window with the selected area. In and Out zoom in steps, and Full zooms out to show the full waveform. Three time displays are labeled Beg, End, and Time. If no area of the waveform is selected, Beg shows the time at the cursor, End is blank, and Time shows the length of the waveform displayed in the window. If an area of the waveform is selected, Beg shows the starting point, End the end point, and Time indicates the length of the selected area.
To the left of the time displays are readouts for the sampling frequency, mono/stereo mode, and 8-bit/16-bit resolution. The choice of sampling frequencies available is dependent upon the audio card in use. With the CardD Plus, several rates are available from 6kHz to 48kHz, including 22.05kHz, 32kHz, and 44.1kHz. The large level meters at the bottom can be set anywhere from a 30dB to 90dB range--90dB provides a good way to see where you're noise floor is.