The Track Window
MxTrax gets two thumbs up for keeping the Track Window very user friendly. As with the mixer, you decide how many tracks you want your multitrack recorder to have. Tracks can be added one at a time as needed, or a number of tracks can be added at once. Tracks are mono only, so stereo audio takes up two tracks. Tracks can be grouped for performing simultaneous edits and other functions on both tracks. Connecting tracks to mixer channels is a simple click-drag function. Click on a track and the cursor is replaced with a silhouette of a 1/4-inch plug. Drag the plug to the desired mixer channel, and the digital connection is made. The internal patch bay of the DS2416 can be a bit confusing if you don’t have a good grasp on how audio flows through a mixer, but MxTrax keeps this versatile digital mixer fairly easy to configure. And once you’ve set up the type mixer you wish to use and save it, you’ll never have to mess with the virtual patch cords again. You can also bypass the whole mixer building process altogether and use one of the pre-configured mixers available with the program.
As mentioned, the uncluttered Track Window is very user friendly. At the left of each track are Mute, Solo, and Record buttons. Recorded audio is displayed as rectangular Regions to the right with waveforms displayed inside the rectangle. The transport controls include Fast Forward, Rewind, Stop, Play and Record. A timeline at the bottom displays overall time in user-selectable formats, and a timer to the left shows current time.
Recording and playback is straightforward, and once a recording is made, the Region representing the recording is placed on the track for mixing and editing. Waveforms created from other sources are easily loaded onto the Track Window by selecting the desired track and using the File Open command. MxTrax offers a full array of editing functions, and all edits are non-destructive, leaving the original .WAV file intact on the drive. There are 99 levels of undo. Editing functions include Cut, Copy, Paste, Paste Multiple, Replace, Delete, Cut Time (which removes selected audio and splices remaining audio together), Delete Time (same as Cut Time but audio is not placed in the clipboard), Paste Time, Insert Time (like leader tape), and more. Zoom functions permit zooming into a waveform for accurate visual editing. Regions are easily selected and moved on a track by clicking the Region and dragging it. However, moving a Region from one track to another requires cutting it from one track and pasting it to another. This is a task that could be sped up considerably with a click-drag function used in conjunction with the Ctrl, Shift, or Alt keys—perhaps in a later version. Regions can be grouped for editing multiple regions simultaneously. Various Nudge and Snap functions permit moving regions more precisely than with click-drag moves, and Markers can be placed within a project for instant access to specific points within the project. Fade handles at either end of a Region quickly set fade ins and fade outs, and Region start and end points are similarly adjusted.
The menu bar across the top offers a variety of functions, most of which are duplicated on the keyboard. Under the File menu are selections for opening, closing, saving, and creating projects. A handy Export command creates a single .WAV file from the entire contents of a track or pair of tracks (mono or stereo .WAV file). Edit functions are found under the Edit menu, but you’ll quickly find yourself replacing these menu choices with their keyboard equivalents. The Region menu offers functions that are performed on entire regions rather than selected portions of a region or regions. Along with the Snap and Nudge functions mentioned earlier, there are Group, Ungroup, Crossfade, and Remove Crossfade functions. The Split command splits a selected Region at the cursor point. The Gain Change function instantly changes the level of the selected Region, and the Normalize function normalizes the Region instantly—no waiting for a new file to be written! The Region Properties function permits naming the Region, changing the gain, and also displays the .WAV files associated with the selected Region(s). Choices under the Track menu are used to add and delete tracks as well as name tracks. A Select All command selects all the Regions on a track.
There are quite a few choices under the Mixer menu. Load, Save, and Close mixer files. Insert, Delete, Load, and Save mixer channels. Group and Ungroup faders. Set all faders to zero or all to unity gain. Mixer automation functions are also accessed here as well as Input/Output configuration screens. The Transport and Markers menus duplicate several keyboard functions and add a few additional commands. The View menu lists the various zoom and scrolling functions. For the most part, the pull down menus are more useful as references to look up the keyboard equivalents of each command. Once you get used to the keyboard layout, you may only access the menu bar for such things as opening and closing projects or other seldom used functions.
The Window menu lets you switch between multiple projects when more than one is open. The Options menu offers a small selection of settings for the display. This is also where the sample rate (44.1kHz or 48kHz, no compression) and sample length (16-bit or 32-bit) are set. And finally, the Help menu accesses the MxTrax help files.
The learning curve for MxTrax is relatively short, as is the installation time for both the DS2416 card and the software. Once the editing commands were learned, tackling basic radio production tasks was a breeze. About the only thing that slowed me down was having to go to the Edit menu to select the Cut Time function, a function used quite a bit in editing voice tracks and one not duplicated on the keyboard. No doubt, a future version will find a keyboard shortcut for this command. An audio scrub function would expedite editing also, and I’d like to see how well the DS2416 card performs a task like this.
Once I had several Projects created with a set number of tracks and mixer channels for the various tasks of the day, things went much faster. Project files contain both the mixer and track assignments, and all effects, pans, levels, EQ, and dynamics settings are recalled from the previous session.
By far, the most impressive aspect of MxTrax for DSP Factory is how everything is done in real time. Mixes are instant. Edits are instant. Adjusting levels, effects, and EQ are all instant. In this respect, it’s literally the computer equivalent of working with a real mixing console. The two internal effects processors are perfect for handling typical effects you might use regularly on voice tracks such as reverbs and delays, and you can add one AX44 breakout box to have access to your external effects boxes, not to mention the other benefits of additional I/O.
I eventually noticed that it was time to get rid of some unused .WAV files from older sessions, but there was no function for deleting “unused” files (and it’s not a good idea to delete files you think are not being used). A call to Minnetonka Software informed us of the latest version of MxTrax for DSP Factory which is slated for release at the end of February, and the “delete unused files” function is one of the improvements. The version used for this Test Drive is version 184.108.40.206. The upcoming version will also add support for DirectX plug-ins, MIDI time code generation, vari-speed, and more including the ability to use control surfaces such as the HUI and Yamaha 01v digital mixer to control the MxTrax mixer.
Other companies have DAW software that supports the Yamaha DS2416, including SEK’D, Innovative Quality Software, and Cakewalk to mention a few. But if you’re looking for software that’s both easy to use and still takes full advantage of the DS2416, MxTrax for DSP Factory might be just the package for you.