Review by Katie Tarrant
Sound Forge Pro 12 is an audio waveform editor originally developed by Sony, but was acquired by MAGIX in 2016. Since its acquisition, MAGIX have now released the biggest update to Sound Forge Pro in over 25 years ago. As suggested by the name, Sound Forge is on its 12th version, and continues to go from strength to strength thanks to MAGIX’s push to keep up with the curve. One of Sound Forge Pro 12’s biggest advantages is that it officially comes in 64-bit, bringing it up to the common standard and giving more power to your workflow. It also offers the ability to integrate VST3 effect plugins, and several more features that I’ll talk about in this review.
Sound Forge is probably one of my quickest audio editor, both when it comes to getting started with a project, and in my overall workflow. It’s quick to boot up and even quicker to load or create a session. As soon as you drag an audio file in, Pro 12 will open your waveform viewer in a wide and easy-to-read window, so you get an overview of your audio in an instant. It automatically splits your file in to left and right channels with the ability to lock, minimise, and solo these channels with the click of the buttons next to them. As you drag in or import additional audio files, Sound Forge will open them in additional windows that you can easily move between and organise to suit.
Admittedly, Sound Forge has never been one of the most aesthetically pleasing programs, but its layout is clean and wonderfully efficient which is what makes it such a pleasure to use. The icons are easy to read, and all your frequently accessed features are within quick reaching distance. It would benefit from a modern makeover, similar to what MAGIX’s smaller rendition of the software, Audio Studio 12, looks like, just to make it feel a bit more fitting in the current day.
Sound Forge Pro 12 comes with five main windows: your standard toolbar, transport bar, your main workspace window, your channel meters, and your data window, which is another term for your audio file window. Your transport bar is available both at the top and at the bottom of your window, allowing you to quickly stop, start, and navigate through your audio as necessary. This is ideal for checking and monitoring edits at regular intervals. Above your transport is the main tool bar with your save, open, undo, redo, and so on, as well as your meters on the right-hand side which are always visible.
Your main workspace is where any audio files or tool windows you have loaded are held. The layout that Sound Forge utilises means that your focus is always on one window at a time. Although you can have multiple windows and multiple tracks open in your project, your editing is focused on individual tracks in turn which is a workflow I really enjoy when I want a clean and reliable editing process. Sound Forge has always strived to keep your project setup as clear and transparent as possible and I find it one of the more intuitive programs to work with as a result.
Monitoring is one of Sound Forge’s many strengths as it’s so easy to do. As aforementioned, you can drag an audio file in and it loads instantly with a clear view of your waveform. Your meters are always visible on the right-hand side. You can adjust the playback rate of an audio file if necessary with the slider underneath your waveform. You can also reach several features, such as starting, saving, opening, or closing projects, as well as arranging your windows and accessing your preferences with a handy right-click drop down on your main window screen.
Although Pro 12 is not a multi track editor, it does work with multi-channel audio files. These can be opened in the same manner as any other audio file and the waveform viewer will preview it similar to what can be seen below. This is where Sound Forge’s straight-forward design thrives as it brings everything together as a cohesive view of your session. When working with multi-channel formats, Pro 12 offers the use of mono compatibility which can be used to detect potential phase issues with down-mixing to mono.
For me, one of Sound Forge’s most valuable features is ‘Statistics’ which will give you an in-depth breakdown of the current level status of your track, including sample values, positions, average values, RMS level, true peak level, LUFS, loudness range and so much more. I use it frequently when I need to get a quick overview of an audio file as I know I can open Sound Forge, drag my file in and do a ‘Statistics’ check in a matter of seconds which is something I cannot do as quickly anywhere else. It’s invaluable for knowing exactly what level your track is at and this information can also be copied to clipboard in the event of needing to store or send the information elsewhere.
There are five main tools available on your default toolbar: the edit tool, magnify tool, pencil tool, event tool, and envelope tool. For ease of use, you can use the keyboard shortcut ‘D’ to cycle through your Edit Tools. This is a huge timesaver as it means that any navigation or editing you need to do can be done without having to move your mouse away from your selection point.
The magnify tool is probably one of my favourites as it’s so quick to zoom in to the finest of details in your waveform. You can either use the scroll wheel to rapidly zoom in and out of the entire track, or get specific by clicking and highlighting the section you want to zoom in on. The smaller the selection you make, the more it will zoom in meaning you can view fine details within as little as two selections. You can also quickly zoom back out a in stages by double clicking your mouse. All of these combined makes intricate and extensive editing an absolute breeze.
As with most software, Pro 12 gives you the option to completely customise your layout and save presets. It also offers a few suggested layout presets for things like Stereo Recording, Red Book Authoring, and 5.1 Video. Sound Forge Pro 12 also comes with an extensive number of plugins. It has also had some new additions, including a DeClipper, DeHisser, and DeClicker, and WaveHammer 2.0 which is the latest version of Pro 12’s own mastering plugin, comprised of a compressor and maximizer.
As well as Sound Forge’s in-built plugins, it now comes with a copy of iZotope’s basic audio repair toolkit RX Elements, as well as their basic mastering plugin Ozone 8 Elements. As if this wasn’t enough, Pro 12 supports the use of VST3 effects so you can now incorporate your own plugins into your Sound Forge workflow. These additions are enabling Sound Forge to become an ever-improving powerhouse for editing audio, and all your plugins can be managed with the plugin chain window that will show your active plugins, as well as the plugin manager which will list all of your available plugins. However, it is not the most efficient manager I’ve used as it gives you little ability to organise or search through your plugins which can be difficult when you have a lot of plugins in your possession.
Recording with Sound Forge is as intuitive as everything else. It’s instant, and with a matter of clicks, you can set markers, loop regions and quantize your audio. The navigation is blissful as you can set the snap to grid, markers, zero crossings and more, and coupled with some keyboard shortcut familiarity, I can make edits and adjustments in seconds. The thing that I love most is that Sound Forge is incredibly precise and makes it effortless for you to be as hands on or as hands off as you want to be. There is also an excellent feature called Find Dialog which will seek out pops, clicks, breaks, sudden volume changes, and silences in your audio files. This makes detecting and fixing any unwanted blemishes achievable regardless of how well-trained your ear is.
As well as audio, Sound Forge Pro 12 is compatible with video. It comes with a video player that allows you to edit your audio to footage. The video preview allows you to broadcast to an external monitor, and allows you to copy frames to the clipboard should you need to screenshot anything. It can also be used with a MIDI keyboard, and even offers a script editor for those that want to script their own features into the software. Pro 12 enables you to automate some of the more repetitive tasks in your workflow which goes a step further to making it a fantastic go-to for quick and easy editing. While it’s not possible to go in to every feature, Pro 12 also has some other features worth mentioning, such as the ability to burn discs track-at-once or disc-at-once, Red Book CD mastering/burning, and new and improved dithering algorithms with POW-r.
Sound Forge Pro 12 has many uses from general editing and audio clean up, mixing and mastering, to burning CDs or working with video. Sound Forge possesses a lot of the features of a standard DAW and is probably the most competitive audio editor out there with its price tag of £299. For anyone that has used Sound Forge before, the Pro 12 release will be familiar in its functionality, but bigger and better than it was before, making it well worth the upgrade price of £149.
Additionally, for those on a smaller budget, MAGIX also have Audio Suite 12 available for a mere £49.00, and you can read our full review of it here. Alternatively, for those keen on making a greater investment, Sound Forge Pro 12 Suite is also available and comes with an array of additional plugins, as well as an impressive spectral analyser. Finally, for those that prefer short-term commitments or just want a taster, MAGIX offer 12 and 3-month subscriptions for £14.99 a month and £11.99 a month respectively, as well as a free trial to see if Pro 12 is right for you.
Overall, MAGIX have done a fantastic job at revitalising an essential tool for any audio professional. It has everything in an audio editor that I need: efficiency, transparency, ability to customise, speed of workflow, in-depth editing and monitoring tools, and so much more. Thanks to the inclusion of MAGIX’s own new and improved plugins, as well as iZotope’s mastering tools, it makes Sound Forge through every step of the production process. With the price hierarchy available, it’s a worthy option to consider for anyone working in audio. As MAGIX say on their product page, Sound Forge is back and it’s better than ever, and I most definitely agree.
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The Sound Architect