Adobe Audition CC a solid upgrade hampered by subscription pricing

Christopher Breen
15 July, 2013
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With Audition CS6, Adobe busied itself adding back features that were available to Windows users in Audition 3. The result was a very fine audio editor aimed at sound designers, radio producers, audio and video editors, and podcasters. With Audition CC, Adobe has largely finished feature restoration (save for MIDI support) and instead focuses on adding new audio restoration and manipulation tools, and tweaking the interface to make the application easier to use. It’s now a better audio editor; however, its target audience may look at alternatives solely because of Adobe’s subscription-only model. Before discussing the financial model, let’s turn to features.

Twice the bits

Audition is now a 64-bit application, which, in some cases, translates into speedier operation. For instance, on my dual 2.26GHz Quad-Core Xeon Mac Pro, I bounced three effects-laden tracks of a 25-minute podcast to a single track in both Audition CS6 and Audition CC. The CS6 version took three minutes and 38 seconds, while the CC version did the job in three minutes and 12 seconds.

Those with 32-bit VST (Virtual Studio Technology) effects can continue to use them thanks to a €9.90 (about $13) application called jBridge. This program makes it possible to run 32-bit VST plug-ins in a 64-bit host. However, 32-bit Audio Units plug-ins are not compatible.

Excise errant sounds

If you’ve ever tried to remove an unanticipated sound from an otherwise clean track, you’ll be very happy with the new Sound Remover tool. When a phone rings unexpectedly or a siren sounds in the distance while you’re recording a podcast, you’ll find it quite useful.

Audition has long included tools for removing constant noise – such as an air-conditioner or a hum in the audio line – but notching out these unpredictable noises is a much tougher task. That’s where the Sound Remover tool comes in. To use it, switch on the spectral frequency display, zoom in on the waveform, and look for your unwelcome sound. If it has a predictable wave like a siren, it’s pretty easy to spot. A ringing phone can be seen as a series of dashes, with each representing a brief tone within the ring. You then choose the Paintbrush Selection tool and simply ‘paint’ over the offending portions of the sound (the brush size is adjustable for going after things like small overtones). You can then sample and store that sound, and ask Audition to remove any instances of it. If you’ve selected carefully and correctly, the annoying sound disappears, leaving the audio you want in place.

Audition’s new Sound Remover tool allows you to remove unexpected audio.

I happened to have a podcast track in which a phone rang, so I used that as my test file. The most difficult thing about Sound Remover is identifying all portions of the unwanted sound. In my case, the dashes told me where the ringtones were, but the overtones were more difficult to spot. So it required going back in and painting a few other areas. Eventually I managed it and applied the effect, and the ring was gone. I was pleased to discover that the voice that was speaking when the phone rang still sounded natural after the effect was applied. When I listened in context, I didn’t get the sense that something had been notched out.

Before and after

In past versions of Audition, you could hear what an effect or process did to your sound before you applied it. With Audition CC, you see the results of your work before they’re applied thanks to the Preview Editor. This comes in the form of a split-screen view. The waveform for the original file appears at the top of the window. When you assign effects to that audio, you can see what will happen to the waveform once those effects are applied. If you’ve amplified a track, for example, you can get a better idea in the Preview Editor of whether applying the effect will distort the sound (and, if so, where that distortion will take place). This is helpful for those who assign an effect, listen to the first couple of seconds of the track, figure everything’s fine and click Apply. Preview Editor lets you see the entire track so that you can spy any problems ahead of time.

Pitching your audio

The latest version of Audition offers two features for changing pitch – Pitch Bender and Pitch Shifter. Pitch Bender allows you to dramatically ramp a track’s pitch up or down over time, and it sounds remarkably smooth. However, when you change pitch, you also change the track’s duration. Sound designers interested in a ‘put your hand on a turntable’ effect (and there is such a preset) will find that Pitch Bender fills the bill. It can create some pretty great monster sounds as well.

Pitch Shifter is a time-compression/expansion effect that allows you to change pitch (up or down, with a total range of one octave) while maintaining the track’s original duration (or tempo). Judging by Adobe’s presets (Angry Gerbil, Deathly Ill, Stretch and The Dark Lord), you can understand that such an effect could be put to frightening or humorous use (perhaps with your next Alvin and the Chipmunks project?). But you could also use it to raise a song’s pitch by a half step to give it a bit more brightness and punch.

More from multitrack

I’ve long felt that Adobe should allow you to do more in the multitrack view rather than shuttling you off to the waveform view to perform one task or another. And more is what Audition CC provides. Because I requested the feature in my review of Audition CS6 (and described how it would work in that review’s comments), I’ll first call out the new ‘Silence Selected Clips in Time Selection’ effect. To use it, select a portion of a track in multitrack view that you’d like to be silent – a flub or unintended curse, say. Impose the effect, and Audition draws steep volume curves that silence the selection and then return the track’s volume to its previous state after the selection. In the past, you’d have to jump to waveform view, destructively apply the Silence effect or remain in multitrack view, split the clip and delete the portion of the audio you didn’t want. This is far faster. Thanks for listening, Adobe.

You can now easily silence bits of audio in multitrack view.

Other additions to multitrack view include the ability to assign different colours to each track. Because Audition’s interface conforms to Adobe’s tiny-tabs-and-text style, it’s often difficult to make out a track’s name. But colour coding makes it easier, so you know that Bob the Bass Player is blue, Dirk the Drummer is red and Tom the Tuba Player is orange. And when you drag a clip from one track to another, it adopts that track’s colour.

As with GarageBand, you can now merge clips within a track into a single clip, making repositioning its contents easier. Also, when you drag multiple clips into the multitrack view, you have the choice to place them in individual tracks or have them arranged sequentially in the same track. When you drag in those clips, you no longer see only a vertical orange bar indicating where the clips will land, but rather waveform previews of each clip. As you drag clips over existing material within a track, Audition will add cross-fades where the clips collide (and you can see previews of those cross-fades as you position your clips).

And more

With Audition CC you can now edit your saved favourites. So you can, for example, remove an effect from a favourite that includes multiple effects or make an adjustment to the effects within the favourite. A Frequency Band Splitter allows you to split a track into frequency bands (say, all the material that lives from 20Hz to 60Hz). If you’re a DJ interested in extracting the drum and bass material from a recording and using it for your own ends, this is helpful. You can export your files directly to SoundCloud. And a new Loudness Radar feature allows you to see the perceived volume (according to human hearing rather than metering) of your tracks and then adjust them to a particular audio standard.

Now, about money

Adobe’s decision to move to a subscription-only model with Creative Cloud has been argued up one side of the internet and down the other. My thoughts on the worthiness of this model are not appropriate here. However, I do think it worthwhile to say that in the case of Audition, Adobe should additionally offer it for sale as a single application.

Although Audition will be a great help to video editors as part of Creative Cloud, this is only a segment of Audition’s audience. Those sound designers, radio producers, audio editors and podcasters I mentioned will benefit greatly from it, but most don’t need Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere or the scads of other tools available as part of the $49.99-per-month CC subscription. And unless audio is your living, $19.99 a month until the end of time for just Audition is too steep.

Given how responsive Adobe was to my request for a silence feature in multitrack view, I’ll offer one more plea. Let me and others like me (those who edit audio as part of their work and play, but don’t do so as a primary source of income) buy it. When Logic Pro costs $209 – and you own it free and clear – I see little sense in renting Audition for $240 a year. Logic Pro may not have Audition’s restoration and cleaning tools, but the purchase of Izotope’s US$349 RX2 audio repair suite remedies that.

Bottom line

With Audition CS6 I moved to this application for my audio-editing needs – using it to edit and repair difficult podcasts, as well as produce the audio for some of my Lynda.com titles. I like a lot of the new features, particularly the Sound Remover tool, the Preview Editor and the more flexible multitrack view. Other Audition users will as well. The only thing that will prevent me from using it on into the future is the requirement that I rent rather than own it. Audition is a wonderful tool, but its talents and audience make it an inappropriate choice for subscription-only access.

by Christopher Breen, Macworld

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