"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, audio-software fans of all ages, welcome to Reviewer's Revival; one of North America’s most beloved audio-related web dugouts. Now batting for the Norwegian Acon Digitals, Acoustica 5 Prem-EEEE-umm."
Settle in with your favorite libation. We're in for an edge-of-the-bleacher, nine inning, exhaustive review of one of Europe's most underrated competitors. If you're an antsy, 5000 words-or-less review fan, then you may not have the endurance for this one. If you're in it for the joy of the audio game, you're gonna LOVE IT! Ready? Ok, let's go.
What if you ‘need’ professional features, but can’t quite bite off the ‘professional’ costs associated with the upper range audio-editing software packages? You take a look in the direction of team Norway. Since 1987, Acon Digital has been diligently refining their powerful, affordable product-line. Heading up the roster is team captain, Acoustica 5 Premium.
With a MSRP of only $119 (USD), it is entirely plausible that Acon Digital’s Acoustica 5 Premium is poised to win gold as THE BEST audio editing software package within its price range. Competing products (in this price range) DO NOT offer the extensive, powerful features that Acoustica 5 Premium provides.
It is also worthy of mention that Premium 5’s little $39 brother, Acoustica 5 Standard, is quite robust as well. It is comparable to Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio or Wave Lab Elements. However, this article will be focusing on Acon Digital’s worthy flagship, Acoustica Premium 5.
Since the Acon Digital Acoustica 5 requirements are so conservative, the application is blazingly quick on most nearly ANY Windows PC. The base system requirements are as low as a single core Pentium IV. This software is currently only provided in 32 bit Windows format. I use it on a 64 bit Windows 7 PC with incredible ease and have never once experienced any application instability.
In brief, Acoustica Premium 5’s ‘ALL STAR’ features may be bulleted as follows:
- 5.1 AND 7.1 Surround Sound capable.
- Up to 384 khz sample rate.
- 32 bit PCM/float capable.
- Ultra fast non-destructive editing engine.
- Pro-grade audio restoration tools. (Hiss, crackle, pops, & High frequency restoration)
- LP & Tape transfer wizards.
- Unlimited VST & DirectX compliant.
- Real-time peak, hold, and RMS analyzers.
- Fourier spectrogram.
- Pro-grade (polyphonic) time stretching & pitch shifting.
- High quality EQ, Reverb, Limiter, Dynamics, Multi-tap Delay, and Modulation effects (can be used in 3rd party DAW/Host)
- Test signal generator (white, pink, brown noise & sine)
- FAST, FAST, FAST!
- Did I mention that it is FAST?
Everything about Acon Digital’s software is FAST and efficient; including the simple, intuitive installer. On the six year old dual-core laptop that I used to bench-test this sweetheart of audio app, it installed in about a minute. No exaggeration – it only took about one minute. I had some experience with the FREE, basic version some time before and I was impressed with it. The flagship “Premium” version is an absolute treasure trove of audio editing goodness. Even though the downloaded installer is only a paltry 10MB in size, it can slam one out of the park like ‘Babe Ruth’.
Near the end of the installation process, a dialogue box pops up, displaying input fields for the username, company name, and serial code. The wonderful news is (DRUM ROLL, PLEASE) . . . good old-fashioned serial number protection is all that’s required here, sports fans. *Crowd cheers excitedly.
If you’re a programmer, or a code twiddler, you’ll recognize the DELPHI/Pascal-styled adornments and motif of this application’s GUI. Many, if not most, audio software applications and plug-ins are coded in C++. For good reason; C++ is fast, low-level and extensible. However, coming up the home stretch and quickly able to round 3rd and slide into home, even faster than C++, is the DELPHI programming environment. Borland’s DELPHI GUI component libraries are blazingly fast and responsive.
Ok, now that we have the ‘geek speak’ outta the way, what can this sinewy, Norwegian powerhouse offer us visually?
Quite a lot, frankly. Keep in mind though, If you’re looking for bloated, pretty graphics, you ain’t gonna find them in this bull pen. Acoustica Prem 5 is about power and speed; not fluff n’ cutesy-wutesy pictures. Don’t get me wrong, boys, it has a cool, stream-lined interface that’s easy to navigate and attractive in a minimalist kind of way. The blue-toned GUI is soothing on the eye-balls and won’t require you to spring for a new pair of Ray-Ban shades.
Subtle, mouse-over highlighting effects give you a clear indication of where your mouse cursor is. A popup description of what each icon does is also seen while hovering the mouse cursor over the various toolbar elements. The default toolbar icons are quite small on large, high res monitors. Fortunately, the icon size can be made larger and still looks great.
There are a total of seven toolbars, if you prefer toolbar buttons over menu navigation. These are:
- Standard Toolbar
- Transport Toolbar
- Vertical Zoom Toolbar
- Volume Toolbar
- Effects Toolbar
- Enhancement Toolbar
- Channel Toolbar
The bottom portion of the default workspace contains three sub sections. These being: File Browser, Effects Chain, and FFT Analyzer. If you don’t actually need to keep these “three runners on base”, and would rather dedicate the screen space to the waveform view, you can simply close the panels. To reopen these panels, go to the “View” file menu and re-enable them. Simple, eh?
All of the ‘panels’ can be placed or ‘docked’ wherever you want within the application’s work space. They can easily be placed on an extended desktop if you are employing a multi-monitor set up.
The level meters, phase correlation, and FFT Analyzer panels display their readings quickly and by my observation, accurately.
Overall, Acoustica 5’s interface is both attractive and functional. This reviewer did not take notice of anything that appeared to be disjointed or “patched in”. The workflow design is intuitive and becomes familiar very quickly. The actualization of each element and component, comprised in this rugged package, bear semblance to one another and remain visually cohesive.
“Ok, huddle up and fall in, guys. We’ve got some fierce competition in the league this year, but this club is well on its way to seeing this season through; past the semi-finals. With its speed, power and agility, it is not an unreasonable expectation that Prem 5 can take home the cup for MVP!”
To get the ball rolling, let’s first take a look at the obvious: basic audio editing. (As a quick sidebar note, these features are common to all three editions of Acon’s Acoustica 5).
Something about the editing of wavefom selection(s) that I’m particularly impressed with is the fact that volume adjustments do not result in annoying ‘clicks’ at the insertion points. With other audio editors that I have used, this has often NOT been the case.
For example, let’s say that an engineer would rather subdue sibilance on a vocal track ‘by hand’ rather than relying on a DeEsser plug-in. I have found that by carefully selecting the “SSSS” segments and lowering the volume of those segments, the integrity of a vocal track was retained without it suffering from annoying editing ‘clicks’. My experiences of performing these same editing tasks with other audio editors (including those costing $300+) were not as successful. The unwanted editing ‘clicks’ anomaly became pronounced once processing (such as compression) was applied to the track. 5 STARS to Prem 5!
Speaking of external DirectX/VST compatibility, Acon’s Acoustica 5 (all three editions) gives you a super-simple means of choosing your VST and/or DirectX plug-in folders. Have you more than one plug-in folder? No worries – go ahead and add as many as you need to. Depending on the number of plug-ins on your system, the initial scanning may take a few minutes. After the plug-in folders have been scanned, Acoustica 5 lists them grouped and alphabetized.
And yes . . . you can easily produce a “Live” CD without concerning yourself with pauses between the resultant tracks.
Blessings Come in Batches:
Well, in this case, they get exported in batches. I remember back in my Wavelab 3.x days that the batch processing feature was just too kool. What a convenient, time-saver it can be. If you have a selection of songs that you determine should all undergo the same processing, such as Brickwall Limiting with TB Barricade [INSERT SUBTLE PRODUCT PROMO HERE], then batch processing is for you. Simply add the files that you want to be processed into the queue, add the intended effects (built-in or external), choose the processed file destination, et voila!