TC Works Spark: Digital Audio Mastering Editor for Mac OS

May 1, 1999 12:00 PM, George Petersen


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After years of creating top-selling plug-ins for Pro Tools, VST and DirectX formats, TC Works has taken the next step with Spark[superscript]TM, a comprehensive set of audio editing, processing and mastering applications for Mac OS.

Spark works with any ASIO-compatible sound card (or Pro Tools via Direct I/O)-with up to 24-bit/96kHz resolution-and supports AIFF, SD2, QuickTime and .WAV files, as well as file export to an Adaptec-format playlist for CD burning. The system can also load audio data directly from a CD-ROM drive. Loopmeisters will appreciate Spark's support of Roland, Kurzweil, E-mu, Yamaha and Akai samples. VST plug-in support is standard; TDM plug-in support will be offered in a future version.

INTERFACE BUILT FOR SPEED To provide quick access to files and signal processing, Spark is divided into two main windows: The Browser View provides waveform editing, play listing and project file management; Master View offers master level controls, real-time signal processing and an innovative FXmachine[superscript]TM effects routing matrix. Spark's two-window approach to divide the production process makes for speedy operation, but users are not boxed into a structured system: The interface is easily configurable via movable borderlines to provide exactly what you want to see. Additionally, all files, FX, playlist and window settings can be saved as a Project file for recall at any time.

The Browser View combines the file database, audio editor and playlist into an integrated workspace, with all editing tools right in front. Any file can be instantly previewed by simply hitting the Play button, which also brings up a waveform in the editor screen. Here, the user again has the choice of working with single or multiple waveform windows. The Play List offers drag-and-drop creation from the File View, with variable crossfades. The Transport window has a location display, tape recorder-style controls and a jog/shuttle wheel for varispeed, scrubbing and timestretch operations.

The Wave Editor's advanced features include on-the-fly marker placement (even during record!), 2x/4x play for audio searching, a variety of offline processing (normalize, reverse, gain change, sample rate/bit depth conversion, fades and crossfades) and real-time +/-25% time stretch and pitch correction. Offline time stretch is also available, providing slightly higher quality and the ability to define changes in BPM, seconds, SMPTE frames or beats/bars. And when recording files, up to two plug-ins can be applied to the input signal.

MASTER VIEW The Master View provides all master controls, including high-res PPM and phase metering, a display of consecutive clips, CPU performance meters, integrated dither select (8/16/20/22-bit, uncorrelated) and access to the FXmachine signal processing matrix. One of Spark's most powerful features, FXmachine is a simple to use, real-time system routing up to four parallel streams with up to five VST-compatible plug-ins on each stream, offering fast and flexible effects routing for sound design, creative manipulation or mastering applications.

Included with the system is Spark: Native CL, a TC-quality dynamics processor with a single-band compressor/limiter, optimized for mastering. Although Spark: Native CL comes at no charge, this is no "stripped-down" pro-cessor; it offers full input, output and gain reduction metering, a visual histogram level distribution display and independent attack/release/threshold/gain makeup controls for the limiter and compressor sections. (The compressor also adds soft-knee switching, output gain and ratio controls.) As a bonus, Spark: Native CL can be used independently with any VST-compatible application, such as Cubase, Logic or Vision DSP.

Spark is slated to ship this month and will be priced at $499. For more information, contact TC Works, 790-H Hampshire Road, Westlake Village, CA 91361; 805/373-1828; fax 805/379-2648. Web site:

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