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Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio review: Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio

Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio

James Kim
Account in memoriam for the editor.
James Kim
7 min read
Editors' note: We have changed the ratings in this review to reflect recent changes in our ratings scale. Find out more here.
Creating and manipulating digital audio with a computer is clearly growing in popularity--and need. Whether you're recording audio via a microphone or trimming the annoying silence off the beginning of an MP3, there are a number of software options available on the market for less than $100. Perhaps the most complete and easy-to-use application for Windows PCs is Sony's $70 Sound Forge Audio Studio. This single-track audio-recording and -editing program includes more than 30 built-in effects, an intuitive and customizable interface, and compatibility with more than a dozen popular audio and video formats. Based on the more capable and, at $400, much more expensive Sound Forge application, Audio Studio is a solid performer that gets the job done efficiently and includes some nice extras, such as built-in burning and easy uploading to Sony's community site ACIDplanet.com. Windows XP installation is a breeze. Along with the main program, you have the option to install the Preset Manager, which offers a simple interface for managing and renaming effects and other plug-in presets. You can also browse the included 1,001 Sound Effects, a collection of royalty-free samples and loops that we recommend storing on your hard drive for easy access.

Like most audio-editing programs, Sound Forge Audio Studio has a utilitarian look and feel, with windows for sound-wave editing, volume levels, media library access, and track-transport controls, plus a window for viewing any video associated with an audio track. A convenient feature in this program is the high level of control the user has in customizing the interface. For example, you can resize any window and drag it to any part of the screen, where it will automatically conform to the rest of the viewable interface. Do you prefer the Explorer media library on the bottom or top of the screen or simply as an independent window? Is it easier for you to edit the track when it's maximized, or do you want to nestle it down below other open audio tracks? It's really up to you. You can even customize the various toolbars with more than 50 different functions.


Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio

The Good

Compatible with many audio and video formats; customizable interface; excellent real-time effects; abundance of export options; solid performance.

The Bad

Single-track editing only; no third-party plug-in support; no track indexing for CDs; no plug-in chaining feature as found in Sound Forge.

The Bottom Line

You can't find a more reliable and feature-filled audio program for less than $70.

Customize your interface by resizing or dragging any window to another part of the screen.

The Explorer window in particular deserves mention. It's organized like Windows Explorer, so you can preview a track, then drag files onto the interface for editing or even within an existing track to create a mix on the fly. Here, you can organize, rename, delete, and add tracks to the program's Favorites folder with drag-and-drop simplicity. You will also see all the technical information related to a specific file when you highlight it.

The Sound Forge Audio Studio interface is basic and extremely customizable. Simply drag and drop your media files from Explorer to any available space to open it.

The track view is pretty standard, with the typical right- and left-channel perspective and the ability to maximize the screen and to zoom down to the sample level. Overall, it's easy to select a portion of a track (either stereo or a single channel) to edit, process, or resize. If you open a video file, you'll get thumbnails of video that correspond to points in the audio, down to the sample and frame level. This view gives you the ability to precisely synchronize audio and video. Each track window has its own basic transport control, while the main transport toolbar includes record and loop buttons. You can also organize your tracks by a number of criteria, including samples, time, frame, measures and beats, and various SMTPE video formats (such as Film Sync 24 Frames Per Second). More-advanced features include frame numbers, play-level meter valley and peaks hold, setting regions, and animation of video frames/clips.

Edit stereo audio tracks at the sample level.

On the surface, Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio is a simple program designed for simple needs. Record your audio live using either a line-in source (your stereo, for example) or a microphone, then crop, normalize, and optimize the sound with a number of built-in effects, filters, and processes. Or import an MP3 file or a CD track, again crop or manipulate, then either save to a number of formats such as MP3, WMA, and WAV or simply burn the audio to a CD. What makes Sound Forge Audio Studio so powerful is the depth of its tools, such as delay and chorus effects or vinyl restoration, and the ease with which these are applied. Plus, everything is done in real time and in a nondestructive manner.

Sound Forge Audio Studio includes more than 30 built-in DirectX effects and processes, including delay, reverb, chorus, reverse, and a very nice EQ. Each plug-in can be tweaked in great detail by the user, and all come with useful presets. For example, the Flange/Wah-Wah effect has presets named Bouncing Flange, Mad Flange, and Slow Wah, while EQ presets include Boost Bass, Cut High Frequencies, and Cut Midrange. All these plug-ins can be previewed and adjusted in real time (typically there's a delay of a second or two), which allows you to efficiently experiment without applying changes to the track until you are satisfied with the results. The application even includes the popular vinyl-restoration plug-in that virtually eliminates pops and hisses from old records.

More than 30 built-in effects and processes help you mold sound to your liking, complete with real-time previews. Sound Forge Audio Studio also offers many useful presets.

Unfortunately, Sound Forge Audio Studio doesn't include Sound Forge's chainer plug-in, which allows you to join up and preview up to 32 DirectX effects for the ultimate plug-in mix-and-match party. The program also lacks compatibility with third-party plug-ins. However, there are enough track-tweaking tools included to keep most audio mashers occupied.

The built-in CD-burning application is basic but solid and helps make Sound Forge Audio Studio an ideal program for creating mix CDs. For example, you can import a couple of MP3s, two audio CD tracks, and several WMA files to the same track window; use the program's intuitive cross-fading tools to get a nice flow; add your own DJ voice-over; normalize the track; then burn it to CD. The only thing that users might miss is the ability to specify track index points, where the listener can skip to the next track on the finished CD.

The mixing feature is intuitive. Simply drag a file onto another open file, and apply a number of cross-fade presets or create your own.

Sound Forge also features the time-stretching and looping tools needed to create samples and loops for the popular ACID Music Studio software. Once the tracks are constructed and optimized, you can drop these files into ACID and create professional-sounding loop and sample-based tracks that aren't dependent on tempo or pitch.

With its ability to create ACID loops, Sound Forge Audio Studio is the perfect companion to ACID Music Studio.

While the program is compatible with more than 10 popular audio and video formats, it really shines as an export utility, though MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 are unfortunately compatible only when used with a separately purchased plug-in. Any file can be saved to formats such as RealAudio, RealMedia, QuickTime, AVI, MP3, OG, AIFF, WMA, WMV, and so on. Being a Sony program, Sound Forge Audio Studio can also export files directly to a Sony NetMD player/recorder but only if you have Sony's Open MG software installed. Likewise, Sound Forge Audio Studio includes an option to export audio as an MP3 to a CLIE handhelds. Perhaps the most empowering feature for novice users is the publishing option, which uploads musical creations to ACIDplanet.com, a vibrant online community of music makers spanning all genres. Here, members can publish their songs, bios, and commentary, as well as listen to and rate others' compositions. Users can also download more free samples, view homemade videos, join discussion forums, and enter contests.

One of the application's major strengths is its ability to handle almost everything that's thrown its way--in a speedy manner. It takes only a few seconds for the program to build peaks during the WAV conversion process or to apply an effect to the entire track. There's no waiting around. And the transport controls are instantaneous. The latency we've often experienced with computers and audio is a thing of the past. The program was also reliable; we experienced no hiccups or crashes on our Windows XP Pentium 4 machine with 1GB of RAM.

Taking only seconds to apply effects, the program is fast and reliable.

Sound Forge Audio Studio works on Windows 2000 and XP only. Sony recommends a 400MHz processor with 128MB of RAM and at least 60MB of disk space for the application. You should also have a sound card and a CD burner if you want to burn CDs.

Sony's free support options come in the form of a FAQ and Forums. The help files within the program are handy for the basics, although a built-in tutorial would have been nice. In a couple of instances, we were confused when a help file stated that Sound Forge Audio Studio had a specific feature when, in fact, only its big brother Sound Forge had it. Overall, the forums offer a well-organized source for general and more-advanced questions, but you must register to post. Phone support is available, but it will cost you $14.95 for a single call, $49.95 for 60 days of support, or $99.95 for 180 days of support.

Support for Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio is solid, but getting a person on the phone will cost you.


Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio

Score Breakdown

Setup 9Features 8Performance 8Support 8