Steinberg Wavelab v4 Issue 5
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Steinberg Wavelab v4
Wavelab turns 4 and Adam McElnea is there to celebrate.
S
ince its inception in 1995, Wavelab has seen some
considerable additions to its feature set and (now) its
appearance. We’ve seen sampler support introduced
in v2.0 and then the formidable introduction of the Audio
Montage feature in Wavelab v3.0. Now Wavelab v4.0
continues Steinberg’s goal of becoming the most comprehensive PC-based audio editor available. Boasting a new
user interface, increased file format support, data and
audio CD burning and label creation, enhanced archiving,
additional real-time analysis tools and packaged highquality virtual effect processors, v4’s new feature highlights are not to be sneezed at.
Lab Test
I must begin by acknowledging the work gone into the
642-page manual – nice job Steinberg. As with any
software install I recommend reading (at the very least) the
fundamental
‘getting
started’
section...
followed by
the
remaining
637 pages at
your leisure!
After taking a
few minutes
to familiarise
myself with
that part of
the manual,
installation
was a breeze.
With no
serial numbers required, the upgrade easily installed ‘over
the top’ of my existing v3 application while still preserving
my original settings and presets. However, the original
install CD should be kept nearby, as it maybe required for
future authorisation confirmation. It’s also important to
Some Additional Enhancements
Optional Audio Files now saved in the background while you work on other projects
– ie. Enhanced multi-tasking.
Multiple instances of Wavelab can now be opened from the Tools menu.
Enhanced batch processing of multiple files including a ‘Meta Leveler’ plug-in for
raising multiple file levels by the same amount, without clipping.
Enhanced AutoSplit tools – batch processing, converting stereo to dual mono, and
removing silence from ‘head and tail’.
New pitch identification and correction dialogs.
Loop Tone Equaliser for smoother sampler-based looping.
Introduced ‘Plan Schemes’ for managing multiple work environments.
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note that Wavelab 4 will not run on Windows 95 or NT 4.0
platforms – Windows XP is the recommended platform.
Once the installation was finalised my soundcard was
immediately recognised, drivers were chosen (v4 now
supports ASIO, WDM and MME) and I was up and
running. The first noticeable difference can be observed
in the graphics. Although the overall feel of Wavelab 3 is
preserved, the slick new graphics take v4 to a new level.
Wavelab 4 now incorporates new ‘metallic style’ front
panels, enhanced icons and buttons, outlined waveforms
with colour-selective graduated backgrounds and intuitive
workspace layouts. Version 4’s user-friendliness and
‘handling’ has also been dramatically improved. The
online help files have been re-designed, and many menus
and layouts now contain multiple docking features, associated icons, keyboard shortcuts and customisable options.
So let’s look a little closer...
Master Section & Analysis
One of the most noticeable makeovers has occurred in the
Master Section. Predominately used for selecting and
applying real-time plug-ins, adjusting master levels and
applying dither, the Master Section now offers three collapsible panes – thus better utilising screen real estate.
Plug-in support has grown from six available slots to eight,
and you can now freely drag and drop loaded effects in
different orders... in real time! Furthermore, there are now
provisions for extensive post-master fader dithering options
and/or applying a post-master fader effect.
Wavelab 4 happily operates in the world of 32-bit
(floating point) internal processing and the Dithering
function (through reducing quantisation errors) ensures
that this audio quality is maintained when burning Red
Book (16-bit) CDs or rendering files. Version 4 offers a
wider choice of dither algorithms than before, including
Apogee’s UV22HR (High Resolution) algorithm, which is
a real ‘plus’. I recall when Apogee’s original UV22 standalone hardware unit was released and would have set you
back an arm and a leg (or at the very least about eight to
ten grand!), but now you get the new and improved
software version thrown in for free!
A Render option has also been added for bouncing
down the audio output to a file on disk – great for saving
on processing power and mixing down effected files.
Output meters, a mono button and a dropout indicator
are also present.
Wavelab’s analysis functions have been enhanced, with
new options available for detailed metering of monitor
level, phase, pan, bit depths and spectrum (to name a few).
A dedicated toolbar provides access to the individual
metering functions that can be launched in customisable
floating windows. Preset ‘Config’ views can be stored for
convenience. Version 3 included such analysis tools as a
sixty-band real-time spectrum meter, Peak and RMS (VU)
meters, Phase Meter, Error Rate Checker, 3D non real-time
FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) analysis and on-board multiformat tone generator, and as you’d expect, Wavelab 4
packs an even greater analytical punch. You’ll find a Pan
Meter function incorporated with the Peak and RMS
Meters (useful for determining channel balance); a Wave
Scope (useful for showing magnified channel level views of
the current waveforms around the cursor position – either
individually, L+R or L-R); an FFT Spectrum Analyser for
displaying a continuous frequency graph over a true 24-bit
dynamic range at sample rates up to 96k; and a very useful
Bit Meter for determining the resolution of the audio that
is being monitored – ie. how many bits are actually being
used. Any level of real-time processing such as plug-in
insertion or level alteration will show up on the Bit Meter
as bits becoming active, often moving well past the 24-bit
mark. However, in practice, I found the Bit Meter
uncovered more than just the ‘measured resolution’. There
were instances where well-known plug-ins (advertised as
32-bit processors) fell short in the headroom department,
weighing in at only 16 bits. Work that one out?!
Plug-ins, Montage & Backup
Version 4 now includes even more processing plug-ins than
before. As mentioned previously, Apogee’s UV22HR is now
included, as are some high-end plug-ins that have been
directly lifted from Steinberg’s Mastering Edition suite of
plugs. New real-time effects include: a five-band compressor, the Spectraliser (a second and third harmonic
generator/enhancer), a Denoiser and Declicker (powerful
restoration plug-ins), a high quality four-band equaliser with
two fully-parametric mid bands, a NaturalVerb reverb, a
Voice Attenuator for removing vocals from recorded music,
and a 192k Resampler (for playing back files at differing
sample rates in real-time up to 192k). Without going into
the specifics of each individual plug-in, it is important to
note that up until recently, some of these plug-ins were
sold individually for hundreds of dollars. So, you’re not
only getting professional plug-in solutions straight out of
the box, but your getting them for nothing!
The function that sets Wavelab apart from its competition is Audio Montage. Essentially, it’s a multichannel
(unlimited tracks) non-destructive editing workspace that
includes CD-burning facilities. Version 4 has added some
new features and made some minor tweaks to Audio
Montage. Let’s run through the enhancements.
Syncing to external hardware is now possible via Midi
Time Code (MTC). Right-clicking speed menus have been
added for enhanced functionality and convenience. CD
transport controls have been improved on the CD page for
greater auditioning possibilities. Mixed-Mode (data/audio)
and CD Extra format CDs (audio/data), as well as ‘Audio in
Pauses’ are now supported (subject to your CD-R drive’s
support), allowing you to burn multi-format CD-Rs, create
hidden tracks and or insert pauses in any type of recorded
material. Burning standard Red Book-compatible audio
CDs has been greatly simplified using the Basic Audio CD
format, rather than requiring the Montage functions – a
great option for speedy, out-the-door projects.
Professional track sheets can now be created in RTF
(Rich Text Format) via the new ‘Audio CD Report’ function,
which has replaced the ‘Generate Cue Sheet’ function.
Additionally, Version 4 now includes a reasonably comprehensive Label Editor for designing and printing custom
labels for your CD projects. This function imports your
track details from the Montage or CD Project.
Version 4 now supports even more file formats than
before. Digidesign users will be happy to know that
Sound Designer II files (up to 24-bit) are now supported
as are Ensoniq Paris (16-bit) and U-law (8-bit telephone
encoding format) files. Additionally, Wavelab now has its
own proprietary loss-less compressed audio file format
called ‘Original Sound Quality’. OSQ files provide a considerable saving on disk space when backing up audio
files – you can expect to save around half the space of
the original sound file. Decompression is extremely fast
(CPU-dependent) and for the sceptics out there, decoded
OSQ files can be easily checked against the original via
Wavelab’s Audio File Comparer.
Version 4 now includes a new ‘Backup Plan’ function
for comprehensive Audio and Data backups. Multiple
archiving destinations are supported, including CDs and
hard drives. You can archive files either compressed
(Zip/data, OSQ/audio) or uncompressed, and multivolume CD archives are also supported – a fantastic
option for backing up 24-bit audio files to CD.
Crest of the Wave?
I have been using Wavelab 4 for several weeks now in a
mastering capacity and it has been a pleasure to look at
and work with. The enhanced menu design and customisable features have increased the software’s speed and
functionality considerably. The extended file format
support has allowed me to easily import multiple file
formats and even play them back at multiple sample rates
with the use of the new real-time effects processors. The
new audio analysers (especially the Bit Meter) have
become invaluable tools. The backup and database
options have provided greater flexibility for archiving
projects, especially those beyond standard CD quality,
and the stability of the software has been faultless.
Wavelab 4 caters for many applications from standard
multitrack and stereo editing, sampled sound designing,
multimedia authoring and mastering. Its Audio Montage
function was a revelation in v3, and v4 continues to keep
Wavelab a step ahead of its competition. Wavelab 3’s
professional feature set and sound quality was enough to
win me over two years ago, and so it was with considerable pleasure that I realised my investment would
continue to bear fruit into the foreseeable future.
A
T
Manufacturer Info
• Steinberg
Web: www.steinberg.net
See our Contact Directory for local contact details
Price Guide
• US$599 (less for upgrades from v3.0 and v2.0);
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