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View Full Version : Sony's Acid Pro 5

Tim Adams
09-24-2005, 03:28 AM
<img src="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com/images/ta_ap5_box.jpg" /> <br /><br /><b>Product Category:</b> Software<br /><b>Manufacturer:</b> <a href="http://www.sonymediasoftware.com/">Sony Media Software</a><br /><b>Where to Buy:</b> <a href="http://thoughtsmedia.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=4814713/fd=1">Pricegrabber</a><br /><b>Price:</b> $178 to $249 USD<br /><b>System Requirements:</b> Microsoft® Windows® 2000, XP Home, or XP Professional, 800 MHz processor (1 GHz if using video), 200 MB hard-disk space for program installation, 600 MB hard-disk space for optional Sony Sound Series Loops &amp; Samples reference library installation, 256 MB RAM, Windows-compatible sound card, CD-ROM drive (for installation from a CD only), Supported CD-Recordable drive (for CD burning only), Microsoft DirectX® 8 or later (included on CD-ROM), Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1 SP1 (included on CD-ROM), Internet Explorer 5.1 or later (included on CD-ROM).<br /><br /><b>Pros:</b><li>Still very easy to use;<br /><li>Free weekly and monthly samples;<br /><li>Functionality improved in multiple areas.<b>Cons:</b><li>Much slower than version 4;<br /><li>Keyboard customization only works for specific areas;<br /><li>Only one project per program session.<b>Summary:</b><br />Just about one year ago, we reviewed <a href="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com/articles.php?action=expand,6588">Acid Pro 4</a> in all its looping glory. Shortly after that review was posted, Sony decided to release version 5. Curious to see if the differences between 4 and 5 are worth upgrading for? Interested in loop-based music creation?<br /><br />Read on for the review!<!><br /><PAGEBREAK><br /><span><b>New Features Abound</b></span><br />Thankfully, this new version of Acid Pro isn't just a tiny subset of upgrades and bug fixes wrapped up in a newly designed box. There are a lot of important upgrades in version 5 (the full list can be found <a href="http://www.sonymediasoftware.com/Products/ACID5NewFeatures.pdf">here</a> (pdf)). Of course, as with almost any software upgrade, things can run a bit funny. And I did experience a noticeable difference in speed (slower) from 4 to 5. Disabling some of these new features did bring up the speed a bit, but it still doesn't react as quickly as, say, version 3 originally did. Let's take a closer look at some of those new features.<br /><br /><span><b>Shortcuts, Plugins, and Colors, Oh My!</b></span><br />One of the first new features that caught my eye (because it was a Con in our last review of Acid Pro 4), was the inclusion of new customizable keyboard shortcuts (<i>Figure 1</i>). While a great start, it still doesn't allow for the ability to assign a specific key to a specific track for muting, playback, or control. <br /><br /><img src="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com/images/ta_ap5_shortcuts.jpg" /> <br /><i>Figure 1: The new customizable keyboard shortcut list.</i><br /><br />VST Plugins (<i>Figure 2</i>) are another newly available feature in Acid Pro 5. This means you can take advantage of any of the numerous VST instruments and effects and begin using them within your AP creations. Personally, I ran a couple of effect plugins that were included in my Cubase install, and they worked wonderfully (and even gave me some new ideas).<br /><br /><img src="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com/images/ta_ap5_vst.jpg" /> <br /><i>Figure 2: VST Plugins can help maximize your potential.</i><br /><br />I've always wondered why you couldn't customize the color scheme a little more in Acid Pro. Version 5 now brings that functionality into play (<i>Figure 3</i>). You can tweak the color, saturation, and tint of the tracks, icons, and envelopes.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com/images/ta_ap5_display.jpg" /> <br /><i>Figure 3: The new customizable color options.</i><br /><PAGEBREAK><br /><span><b>The Laughter and Tears Behind Loop Management</b></span><br />In an attempt to help you make better use of your entire loop library, Sony included a new Media Manager in this most recent release (<i>Figure 4</i>). Running Microsoft SQL, the Media Manager (after some configuration) keeps track of your existing loops and can even help you find loops from Sony's purchasable library online.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com/images/ta_ap5_mediamanager1.jpg" /> <br /><i>Figure 4: The new Media Manager interface.</i><br /><br />Type in your search criteria, and the Media Manager finds those loops with the text, tag, or details you're looking for (<i>Figure 5</i>). You can also create your own set of custom tags to make searching even easier. The only problem is, it doesn't run properly on one of my PCs, and when it does run correctly on my laptop, it bogs the system down immensely.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com/images/ta_ap5_mediamanager2.jpg" /> <br /><i>Figure 5: Enter your search criteria and easily find results.</i><br /><br />You can disable the Media Manager (found under Options, Preferences, and at the bottom of the General tab) to speed things up a bit, but a restart is required to take effect. Personally, I would rather see this as a separate module that you could run as needed. I like the functionality, but not the constant speed loss.<br /><br /><span><b>Still Tracking?</b></span><br />Track color customization isn't the only thing new on the track side of Acid Pro 5. There's also a new metronome (<i>Figure 6</i>), real-time loop reversal (<i>Figure 7</i>), and track folders (<i>Figure 8</i>).<br /><br /><img src="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com/images/ta_ap5_metronome.jpg" /> <br /><i>Figure 6: The metronome runs in real-time and can be used with loop and MIDI tracks.</i><br /><br /><img src="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com/images/ta_ap5_reverse.jpg" /> <br /><i>Figure 7: The quick and easy real-time reverse functionality can give loops new life.</i><br /><br /><img src="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com/images/ta_ap5_folders.jpg" /> <br /><i>Figure 8: Create a folder and start dropping in tracks, thus clearing up track clutter.</i><br /><PAGEBREAK><br /><span><b>Groovy</b></span><br />Another interesting feature of Acid Pro 5 is the Groove Tool (<i>Figure 9</i>). It acts essentially like a quantizing algorithm on loops, once again giving you the ability to extract the most potential out of your library.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com/images/ta_ap5_drumgroove.jpg" /> <br /><i>Figure 9: The Groove Tool in action.</i><br /><br />For example, in <i>Figure 9</i>, we've applied a Hard Swing groove to a drum loop. I've applied it to the entire track, but you can paint the groove however you like. Here is the original loop <a href="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com/images/ta_drumloop_normal.mp3">ta_drumloop_normal.mp3</a> (Size: <b>246.2 KB</b>) versus the same track using the Hard Swing groove <a href="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com/images/ta_drumloop_swing.mp3">ta_drumloop_swing.mp3</a> (Size: <b>246.2 KB</b>). While the change is a little on the sloppy side, the difference is quite noticeable.<br /><br />Want to customize your Groove? Using the Groove Pool (<i>Figure 10</i>, you can do just that. Or you can use the Groove Pool just to see how the Groove Tool is going to affect your loop.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.digitalmediathoughts.com/images/ta_ap5_groovepool.jpg" /> <br /><i>Figure 9: The Groove Pool allows you customize your grooves and view the inner workings of the Groove Tool.</i><br /><br /><span><b>Conclusions</b></span><br />While these are only a few of the new features found in Acid Pro 5, personally, I think even just these make the upgrade quite valuable. It would still be nice if you could open multiple projects in one session of Acid Pro, and expanded keyboard shortcuts could make Acid Pro 5 a great live mixing tool. All in all (even with the speed loss, which is manageable), I found Acid Pro 5 to be a great step forward in the Acid Pro line, and can't wait to see what comes next.