Adobe Soundbooth- First Impressions

I recently purchased Adobe Soundbooth for audio editing and sweetening of soundtracks. It’s normally a part of a large, and expensive, “suite” of Adobe programs. But Adobe recently made Soundbooth available as a standalone app at a lower price.

I’ve used Adobe software for many more years than I should admit, usually for graphics production… Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat Pro, etc. While their stuff has never been cheap, they have always produced pro-grade products that deliver real work.

Soundbooth is turning out to be a similar experience. Like the others I’ve used, it’s aSoundboothScreen good, capable program with lots of flexibility. I haven’t used it with video files yet, but just to get my feet wet, I decided to try some music remasters of old vinyl that I have, and see if I could transfer the result into iTunes. Vinyl records– especially the classics that I grew up with– were made with vinyl in mind as its final output. The format was part of the musical decisions the bands made, and it has a characteristic sound. And for those of us who are a certain age, we remember that “sound” of a vinyl record as part of the music. Old Beatles records sound better with some turntable rumble and a few crackles and pops at the head. It was all a part of the experience… the giant cardboard squares with all the groovy graphics, the bonus of a printed paper liner, or better yet, a separate sheet with lyrics, methodically cleaning the grooves and checking the needle for the evil dust, and then you “dropped the needle.” The resulting thud and the crackles that came just before the music only heightened the anticipation. The whole thing became a ritual. It made music more fun.

I used Soundbooth to import a record side– complete with the crackles and rumble– as an MP3 (though there are several other file formats that I can use), then cut each song out of the side and save it as an individual file. It was a simple matter to add fade ins and fade outs before program audio starts. Then, just for grins, I used the advanced graphic EQ to add a little “air” to the top end and a slight bump to the bass, while cutting out the freq beyond the range of the vinyl… at least the vinyl I have. Most of the records are somewhat worn, and my transfer process didn’t yield any audible program material much above 15kHz, so that was notched out, and the same with subsonic rumble  below 31 hz. Switching the EQ in and out showed a nice, though subtle, improvement.

 The parametric EQ and mastering screens in Adobe Soundbooth

The parametric EQ and mastering screens in Adobe Soundbooth

There are several otther “effects” that are available in this program, including parametric EQ, reverb, noise gates, compressors, expanders, etc. I haven’t had much of a chance to play with these yet, and most wouldn’t really apply to this particular job anyway. Being a former mastering engineer myself, I was careful not to change much of the EQ that the original engineers so meticulously set for each record.

After I applied a slight amount EQ and trimmed the heads and tails, I went through and fixed any particularly loud pops or scratches using a “reduce noise” command only at the offending sections. This leaves most of the program untouched.

After saving these doctored files, I moved them into the folders where iTunes stores its music. They appeared in iTunes as “unknown artist” and “unknown album,” but the song titles were there, and they played. I just had to “get info” about each song and manually add the album name and artist. Then iTunes moved the files into their correct folder, and the album appeared in the iTunes library. I even added the album artwork by dragging the image from Wikipedia articles.

All in all, I’m quite pleased and will probably look into buying the other Adobe production programs. That’s not to say I loved everything… there are a few odd bugs that need fixing, and this program could really, REALLY use a good printed manual. But I’m enjoying myself with it- BG

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