Voyetra Audio View
PC sample editor
Voyetra Audio View is a neatly laid-out, keenly priced sample editor for use with PC sound cards. But does it have enough features to make it stand out from the pack? Ian Waugh gets a-samplin'...
One day, computers will run every recording studio in the land. This much we suspect. They already run quite a few. This much we know. But while this quiet revolution gathers pace, as much attention is being focused on the audio limitations of computer hardware as it is on its benefits.
Those built-in DACs, for example, may be fine on paper, but their seductive specs may conceal sonic inadequacies which serious studio use will soon expose. And add-on sound cards, while theoretically using the 'technology' of dedicated synths, seldom have the editing options which demanding synth programmers require. When it comes to computer-based sampling, most PC sound cards include a waveform editor or recorder - and if they don't there's always Windows' own Sound Recorder. None of these, however, tend to be particularly sophisticated, and if you're at all serious about recording and editing digital audio you'll have to invest in something a bit more comprehensive. Something like Audio View, for example.
The manual says Audio View requires a 'Multimedia' PC and although it doesn't make a specific hardware recommendation, by definition we're looking at a 386 with 4Mb of RAM. If you haven't yet bought a PC, save a bit more dosh and go for a 486 - 386s, alas, are already going the way of the 286, the dodo, and the National Health Service.
You also need Windows 3.0 with Multimedia Extensions or Windows 3.1. If you haven't yet got 3.1, do yourself a favour and buy it. Faffing about with 3.0 is for anoraks only.
Finally, you need a sound card. The program supports the CD standard of 16-bit stereo recording at a rate of 44.1kHz, but only if your card supports it, too. It will work quite happily with 8-bit mono samples.
A CD-ROM drive is an optional extra, but these things are the future of software distribution (and to think no one believed me two years ago), and you can play audio CDs on them and record samples from them, too.
The program works on traditional sample waveform editor lines - a large waveform display area, tape recorder-type controls, and several processing functions.
Installation is easy, although if you're still running Windows 3.0 you'll have a few parameters to set. There are actually three programs: the Audio View editor, a CD Player, and a Mixer. However, the Mixer requires a Voyetra driver for Windows 3.0 and didn't install under 3.1. No matter.
In the absence of a mixer, you can use the one which came with your sound card - most packages include one - or one of the Windows mixers. Alternatively, you can balance the recording input and playback output manually.
A VU meter gives you a visual indication of the volume level. It's a single horizontal bar with a division down the centre running along the top of the waveform display window. A stereo signal activates the meters both sides of the division so they fly outwards from the centre, while a mono signal uses just one side. It all looks quite flash but in practice it's not easy to compare the relative volumes of two sides of a stereo signal.
The other thing you'll notice is that only one waveform is displayed, even if the recording is in stereo. You can't edit just one channel of a stereo recording (this would be useful for special effects, where you could have two separate sounds coming from either side of the stereo image), but Audio View is not alone in not offering this facility.
It's easy to navigate your way around the system. As well as the record and playback controls, there are zoom in and out buttons, plus buttons for commonly used transform and edit functions. Range buttons let you home in precisely on a specific area of the waveform, and the Status bar at the bottom of the screen gives you information about the sample rate, resolution, and length of the recording.
"There are no fewer than 14 Transform functions and few fall into the category of gimmicks"
The marker positions and file length are given in minutes, seconds, and hundredths of a second, which is probably the most useful format although some editors can show this information as number of samples, beats or in SMPTE time.
Before recording, you set the sample rate and resolution in the Setup window. Next, check the recording levels with the VU meters. If they go into the red there's a good chance the signal will distort.
The program writes audio data direct to disk but stores it in a temporary directory. If you make another recording this will be overwritten, so you must save the original if you want to keep it. Likewise, edit processes are written directly onto disk, although you can usually get back to the previous condition with the Undo function.
Audio View is quite house proud and deletes the temporary files when you quit the program. The default temp directory is the Windows directory but I have so much junk in mine that I prefer to use a separate one. It makes files much easier to track down and delete if necessary.
You can use edit functions such as cut, copy, paste, and paste mix to assemble a long recording from several shorter recordings. Other useful edit functions include Trim, which deletes everything except the selected area, and Insert Silence which does as its name suggests - useful for inserting gaps between sections of a soundtrack, for example.
You can also load a file into the clipboard ready for pasting into the current file, or alternatively run several versions of Audio View at the same time (memory permitting) which may be useful in some circumstances.
Audio View lays down the data it is going to play in a single file. Some d-to-d programs use a system of cues which does not alter the original data. This involves setting up markers or pointers - the cues - to sections of the data and reading them in real time during playback. This is known as non-destructive editing, and very handy it is, too. The drawback is, it requires a lot of processing power and a reasonably fast hard disk. The destructive edit method used by Audio View - and other programs of its kind - is faster. It makes permanent changes to the file, so you have to tread with care, but it doesn't require as much power.
There are no fewer than 14 functions in Audio View's Transform menu, and refreshingly few fall into the category of gimmicks. Among the most useful are as follows.
Normalize adjusts the sample's volume to make it louder and improve its signal-to-noise ratio; Find Peak locates the loudest section of a selected area (if the peak is causing problems such as distortion you can Scale it or delete it); and Scale adjusts the volume of a selected range useful for balancing the volumes of different samples when cutting and pasting between files.
Fade lets you create smooth fade-ins and fade-outs using linear or exponential curves with a varying curve rate; Echo adds reverb and echo effects; and the Noise Gate removes background noise from the quiet parts of a selected range by deleting amplitudes which fall below a specific peak amount - this is most effective on recordings which have pauses between sections.
The transforms work well and most can be undone so you can experiment with them fairly freely. But, while no piece of software can be all things to all users, there are a couple of notable omissions. Like EQ, for example, and time compression. If you're fond of showing off your latest acquisition to your friends you may also be disappointed at the lack of a FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) display, although I've yet to meet anyone who has found a practical, non-hedonistic use for this.
The program supports .WAV and .VOC files which will probably be a .VOC file more than most people need although if you want to work with other standards you'll need to look for an editor elsewhere.
"The VU meter display looks quite flash, but in practice it's not easy to compare the relative volumes of two sides of a stereo signal"
The program also supports Windows' OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) which lets you share and transfer a sound file within other Windows applications. If you embed a file you actually create a copy of it and transfer it to the host document. The advantage is that you can edit the file within the application without affecting the original. The disadvantage is that the file is saved with the document. And in the case of sound files, this can add megabytes to the file size.
Linking, on the other hand, simply points to where the file is on the disk. The benefit is that you can link several files to a document and any changes made to those files will automatically appear in all documents it is linked to.
As I've said, the Mixer didn't install onto the review machine running Windows 3.1 - but the CD Player did, and actually turned out to be a rather neat and comprehensive utility.
When you insert a CD it scans the disc and creates a track list. Initially this will be the track number and the running time but you can quickly insert track titles. You can save this to your hard disk and the program generates a unique code number for the CD so when you pop it in the caddie again, the track list and titles automatically appear.
You can create a playlist from the tracks and play it by selecting the Playlist button. The Shuffle button causes the tracks in the playlist to be played in random order. The Loop button causes the current track or playlist to loop until you press stop. You can, of course, simply play the tracks one at a time.
Another interesting feature is the ability to play just a part of a track which the program calls a range. You can select the range on the fly, too. This is particularly useful if you want to record a section of a track into Audio View - which, in a studio context, is probably the single biggest advantage of having a CD-playing utility built into a package such as this.
Audio View has few major shortcomings, and the features it lacks are not necessarily found in other packages. Like many other programs of its ilk it has no way of synchronising with a MIDI sequencer. It can't handle waveform formats other than .WAV or .VOC, and some users may want a wider range of built-in effects.
But for all that, the program is extremely usable and eminently suitable for creating soundtracks, multimedia presentations, constructing sound effects, and so on. And by now you will have noted the price, which is somewhat lower than either your or I have a right to expect.
If you need a good range of recording and editing facilities at a budget price, Audio View will deliver. And you won't lose any sleep over the features you may have missed out on.
Price inc. VAT: £59
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Review by Ian Waugh
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