Steinberg WaveLab 5 Issue 35
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Steinberg WaveLab 5
WaveLab goes multichannel surround with DVD-Audio mastering and authoring
facilities. Adam McElnea is there to experience the new soundstage.
S
ince its inception in 1996 WaveLab has had a
distinguished career in the field of PC-based
digital audio editing and mastering. It’s been well
supported by Steinberg and has enjoyed continual
development, allowing WaveLab to keep pace with the
increased demands on it in the studio.
WaveLab 4 gave v3 an Armani makeover with a newlook interface, increased file support, data and audio
CD burning, analysis tools, and included professional
plug-ins (check out AT Issue 22 for the full review).
WaveLab 5's main screen user interface.
What WaveLab 4 didn’t address when it was released
was multichannel mastering and authoring, but with
v5 that’s all changed. In fact, WaveLab 5 is arguably
the only current application that affordably combines
all aspects of high-resolution stereo and multichannel
The structure of a DVD-Audio project & its contents
A single sided DVD-Audio disc can contain one album
An album can contain up to nine groups (basically a group corresponds to a
Montage)
Each group can contain up to 99 tracks
A given track may be referenced by more than one group
A DVD-Audio project can contain: audio content, optional value-added content
such as real-time text and still pictures, a DVD-Rom sector for any type of data
files and optional DVD-V (video) content for producing video ‘hybrid’ discs
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audio editing and mastering as well as DVD-Audio
authoring/burning – until now you would be up for big
bikkies for this type of functionality.
Installation & Surrounding Montage
Installing the new version of WaveLab was a breeze
and the Overview section of the 700-plus-page manual
was a useful resource. In no time I was inspecting the
‘new look’ GUI. Actually, I was pleasantly surprised to
discover that version 5’s GUI is practically the same as
Version 4. No complaints on this front – I don’t know
anyone who likes to re-learn a revised program’s user
interface and menu system. In fact, all of Version 5’s
new features seem to have been seamlessly integrated
into the already familiar graphical interface. Let’s look
a little closer…
The changes may not have occurred in the GUI but
they certainly have in the Montage section. Essentially
the Audio Montage acts as a multichannel (unlimited
tracks) non-destructive editing workspace with a comprehensive Label editor and CD-burning facilities.
WaveLab 5 dramatically expands this section to now
include full support of multichannel surround data from
input to output (provided you have an ASIO-supported
multichannel audio interface). Eight channels can
be recorded simultaneously, with support for up to
six outputs in surround mode or up to eight separate
channel outputs. (One peculiarity: WaveLab only
permits the output of six channels [5.1] for multichannel work, but allows for the internal manipulation of
a complete seven-channel [6.1 centre-rear] surround
setup.)
Within Montage is a Channel Configuration menu,
which operates in two modes for multichannel work:
Surround Configuration and an 8-Channel Configuration. The 8-Channel mode (nothing to do with 7.1)
utilises mono or stereo tracks; while the surround
setups support both mono and stereo tracks set up
in a standard 5.1 configuration: Left/Right Front (Lf,
Rf), Centre (C), Left/Right Surround (Ls, Rs) and Low
Frequency Effects (LFE).
It should be noted that WaveLab 5 doesn’t currently
support mixed sample resolutions within the same
surround channel configuration. This is at odds with
the DVD-Audio specification, which does accommodate
mixed sample rates – you could have Lf/Rf (stereo)
channels operating at much higher sample rates than
the surrounds, for example. I suspect this anomaly will
be looked at in the near future as the ‘non activated’
menu facility is already present in this version to
accommodate mixed sample rates.
For those looking for further direction in sound
placement, Version 5 also incorporates comprehensive
surround panning for adding that extra imaging excitement. This of course can be automated using surround
pan envelopes.
A user-definable surround-to-stereo down-mixing
option is also available for testing and creating a
‘smart’ stereo translation of the surround mix – a nifty
and powerful feature, as stereo compatibility is an
important issue when creating a DVD-Audio.
Further enhancements of the Montage section
include support for DVD-A pictures and real-time text
tracks, as well as support for video data for editing
audio in sync with video. It should be noted that
DirectX 9 must be installed to be able to use video
tracks. Rudimentary editing is available to the above
options based on simple time-line parameters.
As with Version 4, the Audio Montage environment is the place to prepare DVD-Audio and CDs for
burning. You have everything you need to set up track
IDs, gaps/pauses, crossfades, hidden tracks and Audio
Title Sets (ATS) within the DVD-A view list. Manipulation of these parameters is intuitive and auditioning
alternate track orders is a simple drag-and-drop affair.
The next step is burning, but unlike CDs, DVDAudios cannot be burned directly from the Montage.
Instead, once your DVD-Audio preparations within
the Montage are complete, you then elect to create a
DVD-Audio project. At this stage you can specify final
authoring parameters such as volume ID codes, multisided DVD options, album names, auto play facilities,
picture video standard protocols and optional editable
DVD ‘visual menus’. However, before you can burn
a DVD you are required to render all contents of the
DVD-Audio project to an AUDIO_TS folder (look out
hard drive, you’re in for a pounding!). Once rendered,
a new Data CD/DVD window opens up containing
an AUDIO_TS folder (with all the audio, visual menu
content, still pictures, text data etc) and a (empty)
VIDEO_TS folder. Optional data created by third-party
DVD-V authoring applications can be added to the
VIDEO_TS folder. The entire project is now ready
to burn. With a click of the Write dialogue button, a
simple adjustment of some further settings and it’s as
good as cooked!
(A couple of pointers: hard disk real estate gets
eaten up when using high-resolution audio, so consider
your storage capacities. Also, please make sure you’ve
got something else to keep you amused when you’re
awaiting the finalisation of a DVD disc as it can take up
to 15 minutes just to close the DVD.)
Given a Plug
WaveLab 5 now has an expanded Master section that
supports surround plug-ins. The actual Master Level
WaveLab 5: a selection of key additional features
• Support for 8-, 16-, 20-, 24-, 32-bit files with up to 192k resolution
• Support for WAV, AIFF, AU, Ensoniq Paris 24-bit, Sound Designer II, Ulaw, MP3,
MP2, WMA, AVI Audio, Sun/Java etc
• Programmable screen layouts
• Various loop and crossfade tools
Audio-Montage Features
• Clips can be processed with up to 10 virtual effects
• Track-based effects with up to 10 virtual effects
• Any number of clips can be placed on any number of different tracks
• Superimposing two clips automatically generates a crossfade in real time
• Intelligent overlapping and positioning of clips to avoid phase cancellation
• Volume and panning can be automated for each clip
Off-Line Effects & Functions
• Time Stretching, Pitch Shifting, Pitch Bend
• Automatic pitch recognition and pitch adjustment
• Harmonisation, Chorus
• Compressor, Limiter, Gate
• Normaliser, Meta Normaliser, DC Remover
• 3D FFT
• WMA Pro export (incl. 5.1 and 7.1 surround)
• Compatible with XSend/XReceive for audio file exchange with video apps
• Drag & Drop file support
DVD Audio Authoring
• Full DVD Audio support including high resolution stereo and surround formats
(all channel modes defined in the DVD Audio specification are supported)
• 16-bit and 24-bit resolution with up to 192k sampling rate. WaveLab can
create DVD-A disks up to ‘stereo, 24 bit/192k’ and ‘5.1, 24-bit/48k’, and ‘5.1,
16-bit/96k’
• High resolution surround support with up to 24-bit and 48k for all six channels
(24-bit/96k 6-channel surround requires MLP encoding – currently not supported
by WaveLab 5)
• Instant non-destructive and reversible transformation from CD project to DVD-A
project
• Support for DVD real-time text and static text, still images, slideshows, and
graphic menus
• Support for gapless playback, audio-in-pause, hidden ‘bonus’ tracks
• DVD Audio grabber (for unprotected DVD-A only)
• Support of DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW and DVD-RAM drives
• Ability to import and burn DVD Video content
• Support for additional data content
• Supports up to 9 Groups with up to 99 tracks each
• Track sub-index support
• User-defined down-mix coefficients from surround to stereo with direct audio
preview
pane itself now displays multiple output metering
whenever the six-channel (5.1) configuration is
selected.
Version 5 comes bundled with high quality plug-ins
such as multi-band compressors, EQs, enhancers,
limiters, gates, delays, phasers, dither tools etc.
However, there is a caveat: many of these plug-ins
are not compatible with multichannel operation. The
currently bundled multichannel effects are: Peak
Master, Puncher, Leveler Multi, Noise Gate, EQ-1
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Hi 5?
WaveLab 5's comprehensive multichannel Level Meter display window.
and Silence. Although these plugs can be applied to a
multichannel session, they don’t allow for individual
channel tweaking, which is somewhat disappointing.
Also disappointing is the fact that the only dither you
can apply to a multichannel Montage is via Steinberg’s
‘Intern’ algorithm – the onboard (and superior) Apogee
UV22HR isn’t compatible. That’s the bad news. The
good news is that WaveLab 5 now incorporates
multichannel metering tools such as FFT, level and
spectrum analysis providing end-users with a detailed
view of their multichannel audio.
For true surround mastering and manipulation I
would advise checking out the optional eight-channel
Steinberg Surround Edition plug-in suite encompassing up to eight channels of professional compression,
equalisation, loudness maximisation, reverberation, and
LFE management.
In the Lab – Let’s Burn
I found WaveLab 5 a breeze to work with. The
program is intuitive and the familiar interface is a
major advantage. And Steinberg has really smoothed
the process of preparing DVD-Audio projects within
the Montage. In fact, it felt like I was working within
a familiar CD environment with a few extra preferences to consider. Although I did not actually utilise
any video data, I did experiment with a slideshow
image compilation with sound, and a text enhanced
DVD-Audio project. All went off without a hitch, and
I was amazed at how simple the entire process was.
Anybody already familiar with the Audio Montage
will feel completely at home with the new Montage
‘surroundings’ (sorry, had to get that pun in). Other
standout aspects of v5 include the surround-to-stereo
down-mixing, the automated surround panning, the
drag-and-drop simplicity and the funky CD/DVD
labelling software that lets you edit and print your own
professional looking CD/DVD covers etc. Oh, did I
forget to mention the sound? Yes, the sound: open,
detailed, musical, expensive!
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Once again Steinberg has come up with the goods – v5
is stable, functional, quick on its feet, sonically hard to
fault and well priced.
However, all of this doesn’t necessarily come about
without a few minor reservations. I would have liked
true high resolution surround support (six channels
at 24-bit/96k), however this requires MLP (Meridian
Lossless Packaging), which is not currently supported
within the program. The fixed sample rates within
a single surround configuration is a little restrictive.
Additionally, thanks must go to Steinberg for the juicy
looking optional suite of surround plugs on offer, but
how about throwing in a bunch of semi-professional,
(true) surround plug-ins just to get us up and running in
the world of 5.1 surround DVD-Audio?
Finally, the biggest question is: why upgrade to v5 if
you don’t need the multichannel features? It’s a good
question. Sure there are a number of other updates and
tweaks in v5 (see the Additional Features box) but the
draw card is the DVD-A authoring. And, like just about
every other mastering engineer in Australia/NZ I don’t
make my money out of surround sound formats – it’s
all stereo. But also like just about every other mastering
engineer worth his/her salt I have an eye for the future.
You have to be ready for what’s around the corner,
and what’s around the corner is more than likely to be
DVD-Audio.
In short, I think Steinberg has backed the right horse
here. Maybe v6 will include DSD/Super Audio CD,
AC-3 (Dolby Digital encoding) and DTS support. We
may well see 7.1 surround configurations for DVD-V
authoring in the future as well. In the meantime far
more expensive systems – such as Sequoia, SADiE,
Samplitude and the like – still have their place, and
rightfully so.
So even if surround sound isn’t on your radar,
upgrading to v5 offers you an incredibly cost-effective
way of preparing yourself for the future. You’re not
going to find another package that integrates video
functions, offers multichannel surround editing/
mastering support and allows you to produce fully
authored DVD-Audio discs at this price.
Distributed by
• Music Link
Phone: (03) 9765 6565
Email: atdept@musiclink.com.au
Web: www.steinberg.net
Price
• $1,499
$299 (upgrade from v4.0 purchased after 1/3/2004)
$399 (upgrade from v3.0 purchased before 1/3/2004)
$699 (upgrade from v2.0 or 3.0 to WaveLab 5.0)
$1,299 (upgrade from WaveLab Essential to Wave Lab 5.0)
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