Review: BIAS Peak Pro XT 6.0.3

Dec 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jim Aikin



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Figure 1: Peak’s Playlist editing window (background) and Vbox effects matrix (foreground, right)

Figure 1: Peak’s Playlist editing window (background) and Vbox effects matrix (foreground, right)

The market for multitrack DAW software is crowded. But if you're looking for a high-end stereo audio editor on the Mac, BIAS Peak Pro is the only game in town. The Version 6 release is not a breakthrough, but it provides some welcome enhancements: multisegment volume envelopes for the regions in a playlist; a broad variety of dithering, including precise clones of the most popular algorithms available; support for FLAC and MPEG-2 files; user interface enhancements, including improved crossfade modes; richer support for CD subcode data; and much more.

Peak Pro XT ships with plenty of extras, such as Peak Pro 6, SoundSoap Pro, SoundSoap, Master Perfection Suite and DDP Export. Features include a Metering window with seven displays called Reveal, a widget from Cycling '74 that can capture the output of other audio apps as new Peak files; a starter sound library with some loops and special effects; and more. For full details on the differences between Peak LE, Peak Pro and Peak Pro XT, check the BIAS Website.

Peak Experience

During the past few years, I've accumulated a variety of original music on my hard drive, so my first big project in Peak was importing the finished stereo mixes and creating a CD master. First, I copied the files from my PC to my new MacBook Pro (which was able to access the Shared folder on the Windows computer without trouble). I then opened all of the files and added Region markers at the beginning and end of each. Alternately, users can simply drag the files directly to the playlist and region markers are automatically created.

Importing the Regions into the Playlist was a snap, but after that the process got interesting. The Playlist (Fig. 1) is displayed graphically and as a database-style text list. I wanted to change the order of the tunes so I tried grabbing a waveform with the mouse and dragging it to the left as I would in a DAW. That didn't work. Next I tried editing the start-time field in the text list, but the Mac issued its “error” noise and rejected the new data input. [Editor's note: BIAS claims entering an illegal Red Book value would cause an error.] Eventually, I discovered I could change the order of the tunes by dragging one up or down in the list. Why the drag operation should be implemented in one interface but not the other is a mystery.

Adjusting the amount of time between CD tracks was a no-brainer. The intro of one track was too quiet compared to the end of the previous track, so I added a volume envelope to the intro and nailed the transition. Burning a test disc was easy, but when I listened to the CD on my stereo, it was clear that a couple of the tracks needed EQ. Rather than alter the original mixes, I decided to make the adjustments in the Playlist.

Peak allows effects, including EQ, to be added to single Regions in the Playlist using Vbox 3, a wonderful tool for complex series/parallel plug-in routing. When trying to set it up, I noticed the List View was off my screen to the right and required a scroll move to access. This would not be the case with a wider monitor.

Once I scrolled over, adding EQ to Regions with Peak's SuperFreq-10 10-band parametric was a point-and-click process. I could have added multiband compression just as easily with the highly flexible Sqweez-5 compressor included in Peak. It's advisable to choose silent spots for the boundaries between regions, as sudden changes in the effects plug-ins can cause pops. At the end of the day, Peak gave me a CD master that had well-matched frequency spectra for the tracks and just the right spacing between them.

The Playlist can also be used for constructing podcasts or assembling bits and pieces of multiple takes — for instance, a studio classical piano recording — into a composite. However, it can only overlap, at most, two stereo files at any given point. If you're working on a film soundtrack and need separate channels for dialog, Foley and underscore, all of them running at once, then you'll need to use a different audio application. Peak will play QuickTime movies in a window, but it's not surround-capable.

Creative DSP

Most of Peak's file-altering DSP functions have been around for a while. Rappify (whatever that is) dates back to V. 1, as do the convolution and phase vocoder. If you intend to use Peak for creative sound design, plan on spending a few hours exploring these functions. My first attempts weren't instantly inspiring, but as I dug deeper, I started to discover some exotic tones. (Check out my audio example of a drum loop treated with some of these effects at The usual utilities (normalize, swap stereo channels, etc.) are provided and work as expected.

The ImpulseVerb convolution reverb comes with dozens of impulse-response files, and it sounds terrific. It lacks separate control of predelay and early reflections, which are found not only on filter-based reverbs, but on some convolution reverbs. On the plus side, it can use the contents of the clipboard as an impulse, which opens up more sound design possibilities.

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