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Product Review: Sonic Foundry's Acid Pro 4.0

November 15, 2002

This is not your momma's Acid Pro. The last time I took a good look at Acid was version 2.x, and while the looping creativity was inspiring, I felt it lacked some of the strong points that full MIDI/audio sequencers have. Version 4.0, however, is so packed with features that it's hard to ignore. The incredible loop flexibility that has made Acid famous is back with a vengeance, and there are a host of new features that make Version 4.0 exciting and intense as an audio tool, regardless of what project you're working on.

Acid Pro 4.0 comes packed with hundreds of loops and material to use as a starting point or an addition to your own projects. The backbone of version 4.0 includes an easy-to-learn interface, real-time tempo and pitch matching, unlimited audio and MIDI tracks (limited only by your computer's capabilities), video scoring, 5.1 surround mixing, DirectX effects, support for VST instruments, tempo and key mapping, locking envelopes for effects volume and pan, a wide range of file format support, 16- and 24-bit audio, and the ability to read/generate MIDI time code. But wait, there's more.

Important new features include plug-in automation, ASIO support, MIDI piano roll and step recording, loop cloning, Master, Aux, and Effects "bus" tracks, autosave for crash recovery (this has proved itself useful already), and Windows Media import. Stack all of these atop Acid's already capable feature set and you have a program with more bells and whistles than nearly anything out there. However, all the bells and whistles in the world do not a perfect program make. With all of its good points there's still room to improve.

Installing Acid Pro was a snap, as was loading and playing a project file. Loops rule in Acid, and I'm still impressed with the speed with which the program changes tempo while maintaining pitch across multiple tracks of sampled audio. This feature alone may be worth the price of admission. While the Piano Roll editor is a welcome addition and shows that Acid is getting serious about MIDI, MIDI is where Acid needs work. After half an hour of serious digging around, I still couldn't figure out a simple task like switching a MIDI patch (using the built-in Sonic Foundry soft synth). Even scouring the help file and following instructions to the letter left me hanging. Trying to add some of the cool VST instruments, like NI's great B3 and DX7's emulations, also proved to be more difficult than I'd like. Acid handles its MIDI tracks well once preferences and settings are together, but getting them there proved less intuitive than most sequencers.

For those loop masters out there who use Acid daily, 4.0 is an extensive upgrade that leaves little to be desired when working with audio and loops. There are a million ways to chop, slice, dice, and mix those samples. Playback response and overall program speed was good even on my elderly PII 400. The interface, while different from mainstream sequencers, is easy to use, and yet it masks the power of Acid in its simplicity.

There are a million parameters, plugs, and envelopes in 4.0, but strangely enough, getting to them all is the hard part. The program's menus are almost barren. Where are all those cool plug-ins? You'll have to dig through the channels, mixer, and other areas to find them. And while MIDI is not Acid's strong point yet, I'm sure future versions will improve. The level of creativity Acid Pro offers for remixers, sound designers, and composers who do loops is unequaled, and when MIDI catches up, the whole package will be an indispensible tool.


Acid Pro 4.0

Sonic Foundry
Madison, WI

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