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Adobe Audition 3

Manufacturer: Adobe Systems Incorporated
Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided DigiFreq with a NFR unit of this product for review.
Reviewed by Scott R. Garrigus
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In 2003, Audition was born from Adobe's acquisition of Syntrillium Cool Edit Pro. They basically gave it a name change and introduced it as a new product. While Adobe's coverage of video (and other multimedia) was extensive, their audio product line-up was basically non-existent. Audition was to change all that. In 2006, Audition 2 was released and was considered a major update with a new user interface, VST support, improved tools and effects, ASIO drivers support and more. Version 2 cemented the fact that Adobe was serious in competing in the audio software marketplace. Version 3 aims to take things one step further with more audio enhancements as well as the addition of MIDI data recording and editing support, thus making Audition a competitor in the DAW software market. Audition can now be used not only for audio recording, editing, mixing and mastering, but also for MIDI music composition.

Interface Improvements
In this new version, we get a few interface enhancements in the form of better file sorting, a VST plug-in manager, and customizable workspaces. Better file sorting refers to the fact that files can now be sorted by track number or by date, although sorting by name stills seems to be the most useful. The VST plug-in manager basically allows you to enable/disable VST and VSTi plug-ins. You can also specify VST directories to be scanned. There is a bit of confusion involved, however, because Audition has a VST (fx) plug-in manager (accessible only from the Edit view) and a VSTi plug-in manager (accessible only from the Sequencer view). It would be better to have one manager accessible from any view.

My favorite new addition to the interface is customizable workspaces. This feature allows you to setup Audition's interface to fit your own working style and then save the configuration. Panel/window positions along with colors and display settings are saved and can then be recalled via the Workspace menu or even a keyboard shortcut.

Editing Enhancements
The new editing features are sure to please just about every Audition user. At the top of the list is clip grouping. You can group multiple clips over multiple tracks and easily manipulate all the clips simultaneously. Select one clip in the group and all become selected. Trim one clip and all become trimmed. And it's a beautiful thing to be able to apply an identical fade to all clips at once.

Ripple Delete lets you delete a range of clips and have the empty space filled automatically by existing data beyond the range. Duplicate Selected Track lets you clone a track exactly including data and settings. And more significantly, Audition now uses the famous iZotope Radius time-stretching algorithms for high-quality adjustment of audio clip length and tempo. The algorithms come into play in all of Audition's time stretching features such as clip dragging, clip properties, time stretch effects and even the simple matter of changing the project tempo.

Two other very welcome enhancements are the new Top/Tail view and Play Lists. The Top/Tail view allows you to create perfect audio loops by displaying a special view of the beginning and end of a file, while also displaying the entire file for reference. You can adjust loop points during playback for precise loop creation. My favorite enhancement, however, is Play Lists. By inserting markers into a project, and then creating a play list using the marker regions, you can easily try out different arrangements of your song. For example, have section B play before section A and loop multiple times before playing the ending. This is a feature that all DAWs should include.

More MIDI Support
Now before I rip into the new MIDI features provided by Audition, please let me say that it's great to actually have these features available. They are definitely a big step forward from Audition 2, which only provided simple MIDI file import and playback to hardware or ReWire. With that being said, Audition 3 includes a lot more MIDI functionality, but it still falls far short of the features found in other DAWs.

The basic MIDI workflow goes like this… you insert a MIDI track. That MIDI track can be opened into its own Sequencer window. Inside the Sequencer window, you can have multiple VSTi tracks – up to 16. Each VSTi track can drive a single VSTi, however, they must all share the same audio output that is assigned to the MIDI track. So while this type of paradigm seems flexible at first, the restriction of a single audio output negates that flexibility. Inside the Sequencer window, you can record and edit the MIDI data for the MIDI track, but that data is not displayed in the clips area of the track in the Main window. This means that if you have multiple MIDI tracks in a project (as well as audio tracks), you can't see how the data is lined up.

Recording and editing MIDI data has drawbacks as well. Actually, recording works fine – there's real-time recording as well as step recording. For editing, there are the usual Select, Create (pencil), and Erase tools with data display on a piano roll grid. You also get Snap to Grid and Snap to Scale functions. You can edit note, velocity and controller data (although you are limited to nine predefined controller types – yikes!). To make matters worse, if you want to edit groups of data in multiple tracks, you have to Select All data in each track one-by-one. Plus, you only have four different global editing functions: Humanize, Quantize, Randomize Velocity, and Transpose. Quantize strength is always 100%, Humanize and Randomize Velocity don't provide any adjustable parameters, and Transpose gives you simple semitone and octave adjustments.

Supreme Spectral Editing
The crown jewels of Audition 3 are the spectral audio editing features. I nearly cried tears of joy when I saw what these tools can do. When editing a single audio file in Edit view, you can display that file as a waveform or one of three spectral displays: frequency, pan, and phase. The Spectral Frequency Display provides Time, Marquee, and Lasso selection tools, a Scrub tool, as well as the Effects Paint Brush and Spot Healing Brush. With the selection tools, you can select specific frequencies and frequency ranges of an audio file and then apply processing to those selections. Even more exciting are the Brush tools. Got an annoying sound in your audio that you want to erase? Use the Spot Healing Brush and simply erase that sound by drawing over it with the Brush. It's that easy. What if you want to process a specific sound instead? Use the Effects Paint Brush to draw a dynamic selection in the spectral image and layer Brush strokes to determine the intensity of the processing. Then use any of Audition's processing and effects features to edit the selected data. I kid you not!

The Spectral Pan and Phase Displays only provide the Time and Marquee selection tools, but they are still very useful. If you have an audio mix with instruments panned throughout the stereo image, you can use the Spectral Pan Display to select and process the individually panned instruments. For example, you can select a guitar part that was panned away from the center and apply effects to that part without disturbing the rest of the audio mix. The same goes for the Spectral Phase Display, but in this case you would select a part of the audio that was out of phase. In addition, there are Graphic Panner and Automatic Phase Correction effects available that are very useful in fixing panning and phase problems.

By the way, if you are really into tinkering with audio data, you can actually save the spectral image of an audio file as an image file. You can then load that image file into a paint program, make changes, and then load the image back into Audition to hear what it sounds like. Not only that, but you can load in any image file into Audition and have it automatically converted into audio data. Of course, the results can be wildly unpredictable, but just think of the sound effect possibilities? Have you ever wondered what a picture of yourself sounds like?

New Effects
To top off the many features added to Audition 3, are the inclusion of a number of brand new effects. These include a Convolution Reverb, Analog Delay, Guitar Suite, Mastering Rack, and Adaptive Noise Reduction. Convolution Reverb brings more reverberation power to Audition and comes with a collection of 17 impulses, and of course, you can load up any other impulses you may already have. Analog Delay provides some cool delay options with Tape, Tape/Tube, and Analog processing modes.

Guitar Suite includes a rack of effects in one plug-in with Compressor, Filter, Distortion, Box Modeler, and Mix modules. The effects you can achieve with the suite are quite good, although it doesn't provide as much flexibility as something like IK Multimedia AmpliTube. The Mastering Effect is also a rack of effects in one plug-in and provides Equalizer, Reverb, Exciter, Widener, Loudness Maximizer, and Output Gain modules. Again, you can achieve some nice results with this plug-in, but it doesn't provide as many features or adjustable parameters as something like iZotope Ozone. I really do like the Guitar Suite and Mastering Effect plug-ins though. I also like the new Adaptive Noise Reduction plug-in a lot because it allows the removal of noise without using a noise print. So if you have an audio file that doesn't provide any silent spots (where a noise print can be taken), then this plug-in might do the trick.

Awesome Audio But Only Okay MIDI
So, while Audition 3 now includes more MIDI features, it's still not up to par with other major DAWs such as Cakewalk Sonar or Steinberg Cubase. Audition needs to add many more advanced MIDI editing functions and enhanced track output support in order to compete as a full-fledged DAW. When it comes to audio, however, Audition is extremely powerful. Being able to double-click a clip in Multitrack view to have it instantly opened in a full-fledged audio editor is so very useful. And having spectral editing at your disposal is just incredible. Audition 3 is a great application for audio recording, editing, mixing and mastering.
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