Adobe Soundbooth CS3 [Mac] full review

The premise is simple: you shouldn’t need a heavyweight audio engineer to be able to add or edit sound to your Flash or other rich media. The software knows that you probably need to make your vocal beefier, and eliminate distracting background noises from your audio, and enables you to do so with the click of a button. And that’s why Soundbooth has ousted Audition in the creative suite line up: it keeps it simple, stupid.

Soundbooth can be used as a standalone package or slot into the CS3 Professional workflow, importing and exporting between Premiere and After Effects via Adobe Bridge.

Adobe has been crafty in terms of Soundbooth’s usability. The simple toolset comes straight out of Photoshop – marquees, lasso and hand tool, for example – and the package’s capabilities are dubbed ‘Tasks’. The most standout of these is the Clean Up Audio selection. If, for example, you were to interview somebody and a car horn sounded at an inopportune moment you might be tempted to rerecord your audio. Soundbooth provides an alternative. As you’re provided a spectral display of your audio, you can see a print of the offending sound, which you can lasso or marquee and reduce to zero with a simple slider: job done. It is most effective on simple sounds pitched out of the vocal sonic range: telephones, mains hums, whirring hard drives and the like.

There are one-click options to rid yourself of Rumble and Clicks and Pops which are fairly straightforward to use, although on the beta version, trying to eliminate rumble made all vocals sound like Cylons from the original Battlestar Galactica on our test footage: a bug to be fixed by the mid-summer launch, no doubt. Also, a Capture Noise Print button evens out background ambience, especially handy if you’re combining multiple takes.

It should be mentioned that Soundbooth is not the stuff of 24; it will not turn audio captured in the middle of a rush hour traffic jam into crystal clear surround sound. It is clean up of already well-recorded material, so stick to the usual standards.

Soundbooth’s beauty lies, or belies even, its simplest features. For the typical complaint of voices being too quiet, a ‘Louder’ button applies normalisation and a hard limiter, getting maximum volume with neither clipping nor pussyfooting around. Similarly, fade in and fade out sliders are clever enough to deliver natural sounding ramp up and decay at the top and tail of audio, again, with a drag and drop slider.

To add music to a clip, you must use one of many ‘Scores’ that will ship and be regularly updated in association with Soundbooth.

Essentially, these are ‘smart’ sound templates, characteristics of which you can alter as your clip plays out. These Soundbooth score files are divided into parts, intros, middle sections and end sections. They can be clicked and dragged to the necessary length; the scores will add or subtract sections and subsections automatically. You can also key frame several score characteristics, including volume and intensity. There are other customisable elements: a ‘rock’ sounding score will enable you to key frame the amount of guitar in the mix: a more orchestral one will do the same for melody. It means you never just get a repetitive loop cycling away under your work. It is a powerful capability.

It’s disappointing to find that there is not even a rudimentary multitrack optionl. Therefore you couldn’t use Soundbooth to add a voice over to a piece of video playing out, for instance, or to use your voice and some music of your own composition; you’re stuck with the scores. We’ve all at least used Garageband; we understand the multitrack concept. Speaking of which, some simple podcaster-friendly tools – simple markers in the timeline to trigger stills, could have made this the only audio product most people would ever need. That said, a potential second market for Soundbooth beckons as audiophiles digitising old VHS, cassettes and vinyl collections recognise its ease of use and power.

Soundbooth CS3 is an excellent product. Its benefits greatly outnumber its few weaknesses. Within the video production creative suite, it is an integral part, and it’s no standalone slouch either.

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