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Bias SoundSoap 2.0 review: Bias SoundSoap 2.0

If you're a digital audio enthusiast or even just a minor hobbyist, you know that compressing tunes can result in reduced sound quality. SoundSoap 2.0 attempts to recover the former glory of your tracks.

Nathaniel Wilkins

See full bio
5 min read

SoundSoap 2.0 arrived in a standard but informatively illustrated software box containing a PC/Mac software CD-ROM and a single card with the serial number printed on it. Installation on a 2.3GHz Pentium 4 PC went off without a hitch, and throughout testing, SoundSoap 2.0 worked flawlessly with the system's consumer-grade SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ZS Pro PC sound card.

7.5

Bias SoundSoap 2.0

The Good

Mac OS X and Windows XP-compatible; functions as standalone application or as a plug-in for DirectX, VST, RTAS, AudioSuite, and Audio Units-compatible host applications; effectively reduces noise problems in digital audio files.

The Bad

Cumbersome authorization code system; not compatible with MPEG-2, MPEG-1, or DivX files in standalone mode; slight learning curve; users can't save corrected files as MP3 in standalone mode.

The Bottom Line

If you want to clean up noisy audio files or improve rough sounding camcorder footage, Bias SoundSoap 2.0 fits the bill.
Bias SoundSoap 2.0
Back in the analog days of home recording, using noise reduction meant switching on Dolby B and hoping for the best. Today, you can do a lot more, thanks to software applications such as Bias SoundSoap 2.0 ($99), which precisely isolates and eliminates digital-audio-file noise problems such as clicks, pops, electrical hum, rumble, and background hiss. SoundSoap 2.0 isn't foolproof, and mastering it takes a little practice, but if you want to clean up digital recordings made from vinyl or cassettes, improve rough-sounding MP3 files, or enhance the audibility of dialogue in camcorder footage, SoundSoap 2.0 is a great choice.

We tested SoundSoap 2.0 as a standalone application, but it can alternatively be used as a plug-in with compatible host programs, including Apple GarageBand, Adobe Premiere, MOTU Digital Performer, Steinberg Cubase, Digidesign Pro Tools, and Sony Sound Forge. In fact, SoundSoap 2.0 can run from within any recording, editing, or mastering application that supports DirectX, VST, Audio Units, RTAS or AudioSuite plug-ins. In comparison, the original SoundSoap offered only DirectX and VST compatibility.

The first step to using SoundSoap 2.0 is to select an audio or audio/video file that you want to fix. When used as a plug-in, Bias says SoundSoap 2.0 is compatible with any file format that the host application can play. In standalone mode, SoundSoap is compatible with all the file formats you'd probably expect, including AVI, WMV, WAV, MP3, MP4, WMA, SDII, and AIFF, except for MPEG-1 and MPEG-2. DivX fiends will be disappointed by SoundSoap 2.0's incompatibility with that format.


SoundSoap 2.0's well-laid-out interface makes it fairly simple to use.

The SoundSoap 2.0 interface, which contains more than a dozen controls including knobs, sliders, and buttons, is uncluttered and generally well designed. But unless you read the user guide, you may not understand a few of the controls such as the 60Hz Remove Hum button, which specifically removes electrical hum. Other controls include a Remove Click & Crackle slider, which is designed to fix pops associated with recordings made from vinyl; a Preserve Voice button, which bypasses vocal-frequency processing to preserve a natural sound; a Remove Rumble button, which removes low-frequency rumble; and an Enhance slider, which attempts to restore the tonal quality of recordings made from degraded media. The standalone version of SoundSoap 2.0 also includes transports (play, pause, and so on) and user-selectable in and out points to allow processing specific sections of files. You can apply different processing settings to separate sections of any file, then select Save As to save the changes as a whole. The standalone version saves audio files to hard disc in WAV, AIFF, or WMA formats--we're a bit disappointed that MP3 isn't available as an option, but if you use SoundSoap 2.0 as a plug-in within a program that has MP3 encoding, this won't be an issue. You can also save SoundSoap 2.0 presets, which could come in handy if you're processing separate tracks recorded from the same LP, for instance.

Impatient types can jump right in by clicking SoundSoap 2.0's Learn Noise button and firing up file playback. The Learn Noise function analyzes a few seconds of the file's audio, then automatically sets the Noise Tuner and Noise Reduction controls to zone in on and remove hiss and background noise. The feature works especially well with audio files that have a silent passage for SoundSoap 2.0 to analyze. In some cases, you can get the best results making manual adjustments to the Noise Tuner and Noise Reduction controls after having used the Learn Noise function to get in ballpark range.

To fix a file, Bias recommends methodically adjusting the software's controls one at a time from left to right across the interface until you're happy with the results. If you're too heavy-handed with the controls, you'll introduce audible artifacts or diminish the natural quality of the sound, but if you're too conservative, the file's original noise problems won't be eliminated. Although trial and error was an integral part of the process, improving most audio files proved relatively easy during testing.

With Bill Monroe's 1947 recording of "I Hear a Sweet Voice Calling," the Learn Noise function effectively removed most of the hiss, but we had to pull back on the Noise Reduction knob a bit to preserve the vocal's natural sound. We didn't find the software's Preserve Voice function to be especially effective with music, but it worked a bit better with video files. With snap-, crackle- and pop-infested audio files that had been recorded from vinyl, adjusting the Remove Click & Crackle slider reliably took the edge off the offending elements, making the sonic gremlins seem further in the background and far less obvious. By adding extra sheen to treble frequencies and making the bass pop out a little more, the Enhance function spiced up dull-sounding files such as an MP3 of the Jackson Five's "I'll Be There." On the other hand, it tended to make rougher vintage recordings such as the Bill Monroe track sound too processed.

When used as a standalone application, SoundSoap 2.0 automatically displays video files in a window to allow monitoring footage while you fix their audio. We tested SoundSoap 2.0 with an assortment of different clips we'd captured with a digital camcorder, using its crappy, built-in microphone. The clips were recorded at a resort's noisy pool and featured different groups of adults acting out fake commercials at a cheesy corporate retreat. In the original footage of one group, the dialogue we'd intended to capture was intelligible, but the recording also had excessive background noise, including hiss and voices. To its credit, the Learn Noise function radically improved the sound. The subject's voice seemed more focused, and the background noise was greatly diminished. In the original footage of another group, the subject's dialogue was barely intelligible, and the noise problems were nearly deafening. That file was too far gone to fix, which illustrates the point that you can't make gold out of pure sonic trash, even with digital wizardry such as SoundSoap 2.0.

A well-executed and thorough user guide is included on the SoundSoap 2.0 software CD-ROM. The Web site houses a few FAQs pertaining to SoundSoap 2.0, as well as a user forum with numerous posts, some by very knowledgeable users. Technical support is available via e-mail and by phone. Within the first 90 days after registering the product, you can get help with one incident for free. After that, tech support costs $30 per incident or $3 per minute. Support is available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT.

In the final analysis, SoundSoap 2.0 provides pro features in a format that amateurs can readily digest. Professional users might consider stepping up to SoundSoap Pro ($599), which has more analysis and processing tools but is also stunningly pricier.

7.5

Bias SoundSoap 2.0

Score Breakdown

Setup 7Features 8Performance 8Support 7
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