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Software Review: Sonic Foundry's Sound Forge XP (Part 2)

Apart from the easiest drag-and-select sound editing I've seen yet, Sound Forge XP gives you the following effect capabilities, which in most cases, you can apply to all of a file or a selected portion, on one or both channels:
  • Compression: this is what radio and TV stations use to make commercials sound much louder than everything else. But it's also useful for smoothing out the peaks in music, so the loudest sounds don't go "over the line" and distort, and the softest sounds don't drop too far down in volume. You get control over attack and release times as well as threshold and compression ratio.
  • Noise Gate: this allows you to "drop out" noise or hiss, based on the amplitude of the noise and the surrounding content that you want to keep. Controls are similar to those on the compressor.
  • Distortion: fuzz, grunge, and clip...just click the mouse and turn acoustic guitar into death metal!
  • Delay/Echo: you get lots of control over delay/echo characteristics here, including post- and pre-delay.
  • Chorus, Flange, Reverb: These are good effects, but each one is limited to five "canned" sounds.
  • Pitch Bend: Sound Forge actually lets you draw an "envelope" with your cursor to specify exactly how you want to adjust the pitch of a selected area.
  • Make Waves: generate your own sound waves by specifying them in a menu, as well as telephone touch tones to insert into a sound file (phone phreaks will love this feature :-).
  • 10-band Graphic Equalizer: lets you adjust the loudness of sounds by frequency.
  • Fade/Pan: you can change the channel separation or fade in/fade out characteristics of a selection by either a single click or by drawing your own "curve" with the cursor.
  • Time Compress/Expand: want to slow down a fast guitar riff to learn it, without changing the pitch? Or squeeze 27 seconds' worth of an interview into 25 without making it sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks? This is your function!
  • Normalize: this function is usually used to adjust the level of an entire sound file for the optimum volume, or to make sure that all tracks on a CD being mixed are about the same volume.
  • Reverse: ever wonder about those "hidden messages" in popular songs? Click the mouse and find out if they're really there...or make your own!
  • DC Offset: Sound Forge can automatically (or manually) remove a component called DC Offset that's often found in sound files. It's generally caused by using low-quality or poorly-grounded sound cards, and it's almost like a virus, because if it stays in a sound file it ruins the symmetry of the sound wave.
  • Ironically, a great place to see this last problem is The Microsoft Sound file in Windows' Media directory -- and the Windows NT Login/Logoff Sound files, as delivered, are perhaps the worst I've ever seen. Playing the original files through a high-quality digital sound setup made me think my speakers were going to come apart, but after 5 minutes with Sound Forge XP, I not only cleaned them up by getting out the DC offset and noise, but adjusted the fadein/fadeout and shortened them while I was at it. [ Click here to move to the next part of the article ]

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