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Acid Pro 6, the awaited comeback

Dec 15, 2007
There's now several software trying to build up a clientele among DJs producers, and in this market, great things are expected of Acid Pro's new version. Version 5 has led to deep changes, and Acid Pro 6 seems to follow the same philosophy. With more functions than ever, the most famous tracker makes its comeback.

As it could claim now to be a serious rival of Ableton's Live, Acid Pro 6 should take a place of choice, next to Cubase, Pro Tools and others in numerous home-studios.
    Acid Pro has become a well-established software : update after update, the tracker, originally made by Sonic Foundry then bought by Sony Media Software, has tended to proove that easiness and seriouness are not paradoxical. Acid editors have been working for years to improve quality of signal processing ; these PC specialists are also the makers of the essential Sound Forge and of the remarkable Vegas, their software solution for audio and video editing.

    If we had to summarize Acid, maybe can we say that it is one of the few pro software that could be used without further difficulties or training period by a total newbie.

    As usual with a Sony's software, the install CD does its job automatically, you just have to insert it in your CD/DVD reader. Installation is a no-hassle process, you just have to follow the few instructions appearing in the successive windows. The serial number is written either on the thick manual or on the CD. You just have to write it in the suitable window and validate online your Acid Pro 6 activation.

    Don't forget to download the latest update (6.0b during the review). And there we go, deep in Acid Pro 6. First comment : the GUI doesn't show too much changes, and it's lucky because you can immediately work with your habits.
Audio novelties

    We won't summarize or explain again the concept behind Acid, so let's go straight to the point. First workflow enhancement, the multitrack recording, audio as well as Midi. As Acid can now manage all the I/Os of a soundcard, its status changes from a "simple" tracker to a genuine DAW, thus being on an equal footing with Cubase, Sonar and others.
    This new function is completed with vumeters allowing accurate metering in order to avoid numeric distorsion. You can now record in Punch in/out mode, in loop mode, and Acid will keep all the takes. Event handling is not as sophisticated as in the big audio sequencers, but, frankly, here it's a lot easier... Regarding this "weakness", Acid Pro 6 is far from supplant Pro Tools or Cubase, but for a first attempt, it's quite a success.

    Another improvement : now, you can use several audio files on the same track. I know that other DAW's users will be astonished, but before version 6, Acid needed a track by object, either it was a loop or a one-shot. If, in regard to debutant users, this logic was understandable, it significantly complicated the handling of huge projects : a solo lasting only a few measures could be spread out over twenty tracks. Hence a real nightmare if you want to apply an effect or automate a pan change. Furthermore, working with a "normal" monitor make things even worse.
    Therefore, this evolution is more than welcome and it should, in addition to the Folders tracks that came out with version 5, clear up the mess within huge projects. To put a damper on our enthusiasm, you can't directly slip a file from a track to another : you have to make it by cut/paste...
    File's superimposing is handled with automatic crossfades. If it is always easy to manage and ajust selected loops, it is now possible to prelisten sample in the current arrangement. The best way to harmonize or adapt the tempo of a sample.
    You have to also notice the considerable improvement of the 5.1 panner, its intuitive use, and its power management. As Acid Pro 6 is highly valued by soundtrack composers and sound designers, this new feature must be emphasized.

    Regarding the audio functionalities, Acid Pro 6 has serious assets. Let's have a look on the MIDI side.
On the MIDI side

    As Sony seems to launch an attack on the main DAWs, Acid Pro 6 has to improved its MIDI capacities. Developers have ameliorated lots of Acid parts, and have included new tools and interfaces. In addition to the import/export of MIDI files, we finally have all the essentials to easily record, write and edit MIDI sequences : step by step functions, merging recording, etc. Furthermore, the commands and actions have been greatly simplified.

    Acid Pro 6 now offers compatibility with Mackie Control and other control surfaces, allowing the composer to assign its own mapping to up to 5 peripherals. Automation can be directly recorded from faders and knobs movements, and has been deeply improved. Two functions have been added : Keyframes, allowing SysEx handling or patches changes, and one tool to draw envelopes with the mouse, an ideal way to add audio (volume, pan...) and MIDI automation.

    Acid Pro 6 also manage mappings of plug-ins and rhythm machines, thanks to two editors disconcertingly easy, Patch Maps and Drum Maps. These very useful editors are working together with the new In-Line mode. You can now edit a MIDI sequence without leaving the Arrange window. When you press the G key, a little keyboard is added to the MIDI tracks, allowing to add events or summarily edit a sequence. For a complete editing, the good old Piano Roll is still the best tool. Even if it's hard to understand why Drum Maps don't work in Piano Roll (no displaying of the names).

    Other improvements ensure rapid production, giving helpful tools to the composer. For instance, you can now define sections within a project (chorus, verse, bridge...), then multiply, copy and move them in a wink of an eye. Thus, a simple click'n'drop let you easily repeat a section. Of course every information such as markers, regions, envelopes are kept if you clic/hold the Ctrl key. As a result, it's a child play to modify the structure of a song.

Final report
    With all these assets (old and new), Acid Pro 6 becomes one of the leading software. Actually maybe the one you'd like to use if your music is loop-oriented, but also needs virtual instruments, effects processing, automation, etc. All the more so as this update includes a surprise : a special version of Native Instruments Kompakt, with its own 2 GB library for 120 instruments. A gift is always welcome.

    I could easily write again and again about Acid Pro 6. This software is a digest of good ideas : first, the audio engine, which adapts on the fly to all kind of files. Then the virtual instruments handling, with considerable improvements of MIDI controls. Also the section dedicated to the music for video, movie, soundtrack and sound design, handier and handier. On the other hand, chaining and assigning effects could be easier and more functional.

    Let's say it : Sony has made a great job on version 6, the overall progression of the software being huge. Adding again and again new functions is always welcome, but there's a corollary : Acid perceptibly lose its simplicity. Thus, the numerous functionnalities complicate the user interface.

    But version 6 is the one making Acid realize its full potential. Now it can without difficulty compete with major generalist DAWs, designed for the neophytes as well as for the power users, while always being the king of the trackers : you can't make a mistake, regarding loops, Acid's environment is still the most attractive and complete, far from its contenders.

    translation by sleepless
This article has been proposed to you by PcMusic in association with Nushock Music
Recording studio located in Bidart (porte de Biarritz -64- France) managed by Roby.
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