|Issue: March 1, 2009
REVIEW: SONY CREATIVE SOFTWARE'S ACID PRO 7
By: Max Holland
|PRODUCT: Sony Acid Pro 7
PRICE: $314.95 (packaged); $299.95 (downloaded)
- new, dedicated mixer
- create music tracks easily
I took some time to put Sony’s new Acid Pro 7 through its paces over the past month. I have long heard from a few of my electronica-minded friends they preferred Acid to other more expensive programs available for their loop-based productions. But lack of a full-featured mixer window and video sync capabilities kept me away, considering most of my work focuses on post production mixing.
The latest version of Acid Pro looks to address some of these issues and pushes Sony Creative Software’s professional audio and video product line forward into the post houses and studios of the world.
My initial endeavor into Acid revealed that, out of the box, it is tailored for music production. The general window layout and default conventions or workflows were slightly confusing to get around in the beginning. It does not rely on the traditional large mix window and large timeline window that most pro audio programs employ. Instead it seems heavily focused on drawing your eye to the timeline or edit window. In here you will do most of your audio editing of loops and live recorded instruments.
Beyond that there is also the Chopper and Clip Properties window, where you can fine tune samples and the beat markers within audio files to create Acid Files that you can stretch and compress to different tempos within a certain threshold. This capability is what Acid became famous for, and while other products have come to the market that do the same thing, it is still the cornerstone of the program.
Beyond the editing features in the timeline is the new, dedicated mixer, which functions pretty much as it would in any other program, emulating an analog mixer and its routing functions, although my first major gripe occurred with the mixer and its somewhat confusing operation. There are a lot of different icons in here representing traditional functions such as solo, mute, automation etc., but none seem to be labeled clearly. I got more used to the controls as time went on, of course, but it seemed a little needlessly difficult considering comparable programs have more clearly laid out control schemes.
One very interesting feature I found within the mixer was the ability to change how it handles its pan controls. An issue I have always found with Pro Tools is the way it handles stereo tracks, files and their pan functions. Acid Pro addressed this by providing multiple approaches to the concept of panning. Think of it as selectable divergence and stereo imaging. I did appreciate the functions to show and hide track controls and types across the entire project; it made navigating large sessions very easy on the mixer.
CREATING A MUSIC TRACK
The bread and butter of Acid is its ability to create a music track from the ground up very easily. Whether tweaking out a music sample in the Chopper or using the Groove tool to provide different feels to drum loops, you can get things up in the air very easily. I was able to take the large library of included loops and lay down a cool groove.
Next, I added some layers of drum loops from my own collection that I cut up and twisted around, and added some guitar that I laid in with the included Native Instruments Guitar Combos plug-in.
Once I got my feet wet I was able to do some particularly cool stuff with a video that had very rhythmic cuts. I used the timecode to define my tempo and was able to lock in a groove on the frame edits that pushed the videos graphic effects without ever having to use actual sound effects. It also includes a few different soft synths in the package that, while they probably don’t get as much acclaim as packages from Native Instruments and the like, they will get you there. I did find the synths to be adequate, but lacking compared to Apple’s Logic.
I was a little dismayed there was no sheet music editor for MIDI editing. I know many composers who prefer to write a score, not play it in, or tick off “dots” on a MIDI timeline. For myself, who couldn’t write anything to sheet music, I was able to hook up a few different MIDI controllers and devices from Akai, MOTU and M-Audio with no problem and had similar success with a few different FireWire and USB audio interfaces after tracking down the correct drivers.
Overall I was pleased in this capacity to create music in the program, but I found it was best suited for electronic or synthesized music styles, after all, many of its fundamental features are based on the DJ and remix world.
This is where the program started to show its biggest weaknesses for me. My day-to-day business is mixing for television.There is no way to import OMF or AAF sequences from video editors, which to me simply means it could not handle my day-to-day workflow.
[Editor’s Note: Sony’s Rick Hoefling says, “Although Acid does not offer this type of post workflow for video, it is positioned as a full DAW and MIDI sequencing application and is used frequently for video scoring and music creation in that environment. It also supports numerous video formats in the timeline without conversion, so users can create music alongside the video track.”]
I also found working with plug-ins more difficult overall. There was no familiar drop down menu of plug-ins when selecting an insert an audio track, instead I had to select from a large unsorted list or create a processing chain. While I understand the developers intended for this to be easier for me, it breaks the accepted concept that so many other DAWs use.
With its highly competitive pricing and the added video capabilities offered in this version, Acid Pro 7 makes a good suitor for composing to picture, if you prefer to work with loops and samples. But it’s capabilities as a program to edit and mix to picture were not enough to sway me.
Max Holland is Chief Audio Engineer at LA Digital (www.ladigital.com ) in New York City.