The main competition is BIAS Peak, which doesn’t have the effects-routing feature but is compatible with Pro Tools TDM systems. I prefer Peak, but appreciate the power of Spark’s Master View routings and Batch Conversion facilities – which justifies buying Spark by itself.
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TC Spark 1.5
TC|Works has upgraded its digital-audio software, Spark, to version 1.5. It takes care of editing, processing and mastering of audio files normally created elsewhere – for instance, using Cubase or Pro Tools. Spark has two main windows, the Browser View and the Master View. The Browser View is divided into three sections containing the File View – listing files you have imported – the Wave Editor, and the Playlist. The Playlist lists the tracks that are ready to burn to CD – although you have to transfer to Adaptec Toast to do this. A Cut editor, accessible from the Playlist window, allows the fine adjustment of transitions between files. The Wave editor cuts-&-pastes regions within audio files, and applies all the usual processes – such as Normalize, Reverse and Fades. A selection of plug-ins is provided, including basic filters, delay and reverb, and the Native Compressor/Limiter and MaxIt mastering plug-ins. These are not the most exciting plug-ins I have ever encountered. Still, they work well enough – and you can always add more in the popular VST format. The Master View is for realtime processing using the FXmachine. This works with up to four parallel streams of audio, with up to five plug-ins in each stream and allows audio processing in realtime. These streams can be split and merged to create the most complex routings you could need. The Master View can be used as a plug-in itself – it works with Steinberg VST- or MotU MAS-compatible software, such as Cubase or Digital Performer.
Jam packed Spark is chock full of other features. It supports up to 24-bit/96 kHz audio files, and can work with AIFF, Sound Designer, WAV and Quicktime formats. Files can be opened or saved in MP3 format. Any QuickTime movie can be opened and the audio stripped out for editing, the file can them be re-saved in the QuickTime format. The Batch Processing Converter converts files into other formats in one batch – while applying any required processing along the way.