Review: BIAS Peak Pro XT 6.0.3

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



Education Guide

Mix is gearing up to present its longstanding annual Audio Education Guide in its November 2014 issue. Want to have your school listed in the directory, or do you need to update your current directory listing? Add an image, program description, or a logo to your listing! Get your school in the Mix Education Guide 2014.

EQ and compression are handled as insert effects — a flexible design that lets you create insert chains, audition them in real time and then render the result when you're satisfied. In addition to BIAS' own effects, which sound exceptionally good, Peak can host both Audio Units and VST plug-ins. Unlike a multitrack DAW, Peak can't automate effect parameters, but a multisegment wet/dry envelope can be used with an effect.

I was able to create a smooth loop for a rich harmonic texture very quickly using the Crossfade Loop command. A classic loop end/start edit window is also available. Sound library developers may appreciate Peak's support for both batch file processing and Apple Events. Peak's support for hardware samplers hasn't changed in years, primarily because the newer sampling instruments don't support anything like SMDI for sample dumps via USB. The program can still communicate with a variety of obsolete hardware samplers using SMDI (you'll need to use a USB adapter to attach a SCSI cable to a modern Macintosh), but to offload audio files to any of the modern multisampling synthesizers from Yamaha, Roland or Korg, you'll need either portable memory or an instrument that can see the computer's hard drive.

Among Peak's strengths is the choice of more than a dozen types of noise for dithering. These include DCAT (Dither Cloning Audio Technology), which offers access to a wide array of popular dithering options, as well as control of the frequency and attenuation skew, including POW-r dithering.

A Change in the Weather

To test SoundSoap (Fig. 2), I hauled out an old Weather Report LP. After a few nervous moments, my 25-year-old turntable got itself spinning and I transferred a track into my Mac.

SoundSoap operates as a plug-in within Peak. (SoundSoap Pro, which is included with Peak Pro XT, can also operate stand-alone.) It comprises four tools: a hum and rumble filter, a click and crackle remover, a broadband noise filter and a noise gate, each of which can be switched on or off as needed. Because SoundSoap operates as a real-time plug-in, A/B'ing the sound with and without each tool is a snap. In fact, “A/B'ing” is too simple a term: Peak provides four memory buffers for its plug-ins, allowing you to A/B/C/D the sound.

The manual gives instructions on how to zero in on hum, but SoundSoap couldn't find any in my file. By listening very closely, I could hear the rumble filter cleaning up the empty space at the start and end of the track. The click remover found and eliminated a couple of low-level, high-frequency clicks, but a loud LP needle pop defeated it. This pop happened to be in a gap between two phrases in a very sparse drum intro, so I could eliminate it using conventional editing, but it was just too loud for SoundSoap to squash.

The broadband noise filter has a Learn button, which is supposed to set its bank of 12 threshold and reduction sliders for optimum noise elimination. I selected a “silent” section at the start of the track and clicked the Learn button, but the sliders didn't move, so evidently there wasn't enough noise to worry about. The noise gate is a conventional type and a “tool of last resort.” The stock settings produced silent spaces between the phrases in the sparse drum intro, but I was able to adjust the release to get better results in the places where the reverb tails of the drums faded into the noise floor.

The improvements in the Weather Report mix were very modest, but this track was already in decent shape sonically, although the original engineering was pretty bad. Zawinul's electric piano was horribly distorted (possibly on purpose), and at one point someone audibly pulled back a fader because the synthesizer was much too loud. SoundSoap will produce more startling improvements when processing more problematic material, such as old cassette recordings and on-the-street interviews with wind noise. If I were transferring my LP collection to digital (not a bad idea, actually), I would definitely run everything through SoundSoap, and podcasters may find it a first-call plug-in for cleaning up source material.

Summit Up

Peak is a feature-rich stereo editor and seems very stable. While working on this review, I had only one nonrepeatable crash and noticed one trivial bug. I'm sure I'll put Peak to good use in other projects. Aside from a few minor UI tweaks, the main thing I feel is missing is support for multiple audio channels in the Playlist — and that's probably not a deal-breaker. If you're an audio professional and use a Mac, there's really no reason not to buy or upgrade.

Jim Aikin writes about music technology, teaches cello, and composes and records in his home studio.

Acceptable Use Policy
blog comments powered by Disqus

Mix Books

Modern Recording and Mixing

This 2-DVD set will show you how the best in the music industry set up a studio to make world-class records. Regardless of what gear you are using, the information you'll find here will allow you to take advantage of decades of expert knowledge. Order now $39.95

Mastering Cubase 4

Electronic Musician magazine and Thomson Course Technology PTR have joined forces again to create the second volume in their Personal Studio Series, Mastering Steinberg's Cubase(tm). Edited and produced by the staff of Electronic Musician, this special issue is not only a must-read for users of Cubase(tm) software, but it also delivers essential information for anyone recording/producing music in a personal-studio. Order now $12.95



Delivered straight to your inbox every other week, MixLine takes you straight into the studio, with new product announcements, industry news, upcoming events, recent recording/post projects and much more. Click here to read the latest edition; sign up here.

MixLine Live

Delivered straight to your inbox every other week, MixLine Live takes you on the road with today's hottest tours, new sound reinforcement professional products, recent installs, industry news and much more. Click here to read the latest edition; sign up here.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

The Wire, a virtual press conference offering postings of the latest gear and music news, direct from the source. Visit the The Wire for the latest press postings.