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SoundTrack Pro review

Sep 29, 2005 - by MacAudioGuy
A review of Apple's Soundtrack pro by our friend Jay Shaeffer from
    I finally got Soundtrack Pro. I've been expectantly waiting with high hopes that this was a program that could compete with Pro-Tools in the audio post-production arena and become my main axe. So is STP a Pro-Tools killer? It saddens me to report that the answer is No, at least not yet. While STP has many features that should blow away PT for post, The problem is that Version 1.0 was buggier than a Volkswagen convention, crashed more often than NASCAR's Robby Gordon and was missing several essential features. Thankfully version 1.01 fixed a lot of bugs and stability issues.

    Don't get me wrong, STP is miles ahead of the somewhat ill-conceived consumer level Soundtrack. And STP has added a ton of useful features that really do work. It combines a multi-track DAW with a very competent non-destructive waveform editor, You can do all kinds of neat stuff that that used to require $500 Pro-tools plus the $995 DV Tool-Kit ; like automate effects parameters, do dynamic tempo changes, stretch audio to fit video, record multiple takes on one track. assign tracks to busses and output multi-channel files. Add the fact that for $299 Apple even throws in Apple's Compressor 2 video compression utility and a new Apple Loops utility and the program seems like a bargain, All well and good until you realize that you paid $299 for a version 1.0 that is so unstable as to be unusable. I had just written a totally scathing review when the Software Update notified me that V1.01 was available, Luckily, I downloaded the update and did some testing and this is the rewritten article (call it version 1.01.). Version 1.01 of Soundtrack Pro is what version 1.0 should have been . Version 1.0 was a beta candidate at best. My theory is that it was rushed into production to ship with the Final Cut Pro Studio HD Suite. Shame on Apple for charging people money for an application that is not fit to be released, let alone be called Professional!

    Version 1.0 had disturbing bugs like serious lagging when doing even mildly complex task, 32 bit floating files getting corrupted, audio rendering problems, performance degradation as you worked and, most damaging, issues with moving Multi clip projects between Final Cut Pro. Which is Soundtrack Pro's primary raison d'Ítre. I tried to use STP's send to external video device feature and it slowed playback to a crawl just before it crashed. It crashed so often that I was almost afraid to do anything beyond the most basic task. The good news is that version 1.01 killed most of these bugs and hopefully STP will follow in Final Cut Pro's tradition of improvement over time.

    Version1.01 still seems to have issues moving crossfades, markers and automation data back and forth between Final Cut Pro. I have been trying to use STP 1.01 to produce a weekly Podcast and I have problems with STP handling long files, lots of edits and playing back automation. Stuff that GarageBand handles easily. I still use STP to edit sound files however I use GarageBand or Cubase to assemble the Multi-track project. Also I've produced a couple of 30 sec. commercial soundtracks in STP despite extremely poor video and audio playback performance (640X 480 video playback was 10-50 FPS at best.) What about features? You just scratch your head. Thankfully Broadcast Wave time code support was added in V1.01. it should have been in V1.0 What about ReWire? ReWire is a technology that is essential to my work flow as a sound designer and composer. Why no ReWire support? Even Garageband has that. I realize that STP is not a MIDI sequencer but why can't you freeze and import GarageBand and Logic project files? FCP can output OMF files (The industry standard way of moving multi-track sound files), Can STP import or export them? 'fraid not. How about if I nudge an audio region. Does it's automation move with it? Sorry Charlie. What about the highly touted (and mildly useful) MIDI Time code synchronization features? The Manual spends an entire two sentences on this feature. I did finally get Cubase SL to sync to via MIDI time code but only as a slave and only after several crashes.

    Bottom line? Soundtrack Pro V1.0 was a non-starter, not even close to being professional grade software. Version 1.01 stops most of the bleeding and gives us a glimmer of the STP's potential. Let's hope that it continues to improve. On the bright side, for your $299 you get six more gigs of AppleLoops, a bunch of new AU effects including Space Designer and Compressor 2 out of the deal, DigiDesign can't compete with THAT! . C'mon Apple, Let's make a program that can really compete with Pro-Tools in the post-production arena! Thank you for giving us a quick bug-fix update and please give us a free version update with performance enhancements, Logic import and ReWire at the very least.

About the author: MacAudioGuy
Mac Audio Guy, Author of "The MacAddict Guide to Making Music with GarageBand" Video and sound editor, producer, music composer and Sound designer
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