Review: Sound Forge

Alistair McGhee reviews Audio Studio 12, the latest update to this DAW from German-based developer Magix.

Sound Forge has been around since 16 bit windows stalked the earth, which is a long time. One problem facing such long established software is what to add in a new version. Well, new owners Magix have done the latest version of Sound Forge – Audio Studio 12 – proud by adding 64bit operation and some new edit features that lift the performance of Sound Forge into a new realm of sophistication.

And it’s the new edit features we will mostly be concerned with here. Variety is the spice of life, and it’s great to have a variety of tools in our audio toolboxes. Multi track DAWs ready to do heavy lifting in recording and mixing – performance software that majors on real time control, and surgical editing and mastering software that allows us to concentrate all our attention – one file at a time. And it’s in that last category that Sound Forge has built a formidable reputation over many years.

My main beef about some products in the editing and mastering category is the reliance on range based editing as the only way to make edits. With this approach, if your range edges are not quite right – you can end up in a tweak/listen/undo loop that gets old really quickly. And with no visible indication of where previous edits have been made and a strictly linear undo model editing can be frustrating. If you make edit A then twenty five other edits to Z – then if you want to adjust edit A – you have to undo 25 other edits to get at it. I’ve always found this a bit strange because DAWs have long since offered a virtual editing model where all edits remain visible and editable as you work through the song.

And in Audio Studio 12 Magix have brought their virtual editing chops to Sound Forge, note the Pro version is still on 11 and doesn’t have some of these features. You can slide your edit back and forward and of course return to it at any time to do so. You have a simple cross fade editor that allows shape selection and position and duration alteration – and if you are a long time Magix user you’ll recognise some of these dialogues from the Samplitude stable. I was pleased to see that if you slice two ends of a clip then Sound Forge allows you to roll either the in point or the out point or both – effectively moving an entire segment within your overall audio.

Quite simply this is how editing should be done – it’s not that you can’t achieve the same results in range editing – it just takes much longer and is much less flexible. And if you are completely happy with your edits then you can render all your crossfades with one function. With Slice Editing and Soft Cut – soft cut puts a crossfade by default at every cut point – Audio Studio 12 gives you heavy duty features at a giveaway price. One thing I do miss is the option of a clip based volume handle – it would be nice to be able to reach out and drag the volume of the clip but this feature is rendered rather than applied real time.

The new editing features raise the Sound Forge game to new levels"

An additional bonus in Audio Studio 12 is the included licence for Ozone 7 Elements. Ozone 7 is a heavy duty mastering plugin from iZotope that has a great reputation and a significant price tag. Elements is a simplified version with limited controls but a tonne of presets. You can manually adjust the maximizer limiter, the input gain and there are macro settings for EQ and a wet/dry dynamics mix but that’s it. But on the other hand there are tonnes of presets to get you started and as a free plug in Ozone Elements is a great leg up in mastering if your dipping your toe in for the first time. You get level matching bypass mode for checking your processing an undo history that means you never lose ‘that great sound I had five minutes ago’ and the plug in supports outputs up to 24 bit and 192 kHz.

I think the new editing features raise the Sound Forge game to new levels – if stereo editing is your bag then I could recommend Sound Forge Audio Studio 12 as the best place to start and an absolute steal. Ozone 7 Elements is nice to have and the rest of the features like 64 bit operation, VST-3 and CD burning provide a solid working platform. Splice, splice baby.

Key Features

  • 64-Bit architecture
  • Record high-resolution audio at 32-bit/384kHz
  • LP and tape digitization, repair and audio conversion
  • Slice Editing, Soft Cut, Crossfade Editing

RRP: £49.99

Alistair McGhee began audio life in Hi-Fi before joining the BBC as an audio engineer. After 10 years in radio and TV, he moved to production. When BBC Choice started, he pioneered personal digital production in television. Most recently, Alistair was assistant editor, BBC Radio Wales and has been helping the UN with broadcast operations in Juba.