BIAS Peak 4

Dec 1, 2003 12:00 PM, By Laura Pallanck


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Besides getting a new look, the latest version of BIAS' 2-channel, Mac-only audio editor, Peak 4, includes a number of useful features, such as multiprocessor support, the ability to loop QuickTime movies and record audio while a movie is playing, and the ability to perform disk-at-once CD burning directly from the playlist or any audio document window. But let's move beyond the basics to see what else this program can do.


One of the most exciting new features in Peak 4 is ImpulseVerb, a convolution-based reverb that allows you to load impulse responses sampled from real 3-D spaces. Convolution is not new to Peak, but for use as a reverb, BIAS optimized the process to take advantage of the G4 and G5's AltiVec velocity engine.

Consequently, you can use ImpulseVerb as an expanded convolution algorithm rather than just a reverb plug-in by loading in files other than impulse responses. For example, you can select a small portion of a steady-state sound such as a drone or a gong roll.

To do this, copy a portion of the audio that you want to use as the “impulse” into the clipboard (short clips work best); make sure that the document you wish to apply the impulse to is selected. Choose ImpulseVerb from the DSP menu. Then, hit the Preview button and adjust the Wet/Dry slider while it's playing. Whether you're modifying a drum loop or a vocal part, the results can be surprising. But you're not done yet.

You can tweak things further by modifying ImpluseVerb's shape characteristics using the Space Envelope. Simply click on the line to create handles and mold it into any shape that you want.

If you've got the time to troll for sounds, then take your unusual impulse file and convolve it against a large number of target files using the program's batch processor. Many of the processing chores in Peak 4 can be done in batches, and this is a great way to look for new and unusual sounds en masse. New life for libraries!


Let's say that you have a project, such as a radio spot or a news feature, with markers in specific places, and you want to use the file as a template for future projects. Peak 4 allows you to copy the names and positions of the markers from one file to another.

Select the area in the file that has the markers where you want them and then select Copy. Go to the document in which you want to place the markers and do a Select All command. Then, hold down Option and choose Paste from the Edit menu. This will paste the markers onto the second file without overwriting the audio portion.


Another feature new to Peak 4 is a Vertical Lock button. This is a time-saver when you have, for example, a live recording that has no gap times and you want to adjust where the IDs will appear when it's time to burn a CD.

Begin by dropping standard reference markers where the index markers should be. Then, add beginning and end markers. Now, hit Select All and choose Markers to Regions from the Action menu. This will substitute region markers for the standard reference markers.

Where regions are back-to-back, click over the two markers that butt up against each other. Next, click Vertical Lock. The two region markers will now move in sync, allowing you to simultaneously adjust where one region ends and the next one begins.


There's nothing like having a few dozen key shortcuts under your fingertips to save time. Remarkably, all of the key commands in Peak 4 are completely customizable. Go to Preferences, select Shortcuts and Toolbar, and you'll see a list of the functions that can be assigned new keystrokes. You can also adjust the size of toolbar icons or save your shortcuts as text for later reference.

If you've worked with Peak often enough, then you probably already know that the greater-than (>) and less-than (<) keys (aka, the Shift-comma and Shift-period keys) allow you to shuttle the cursor point backward and forward through a file. However, if you want to move the cursor in smaller increments, then hold down the Option key while shuttling. If you zoom in as far as possible, you can move the cursor at the sample level.

The Tab key moves you forward through a file to each marker and selects the space between it and the subsequent marker. Hold down Shift and Tab together to select the audio between the next two markers while maintaining the previous selection. To back out of your audio selections incrementally, hit Option and Tab.

Command-Shift-minus sign places loop points around anything that you have selected in the audio waveform. To create a new region based on the loop, hold down Command-Shift-R. If you're doing a remix and you want to create a playlist behind the scenes at the same time, then hit Command-K. This creates a region from your selection and drops it into the playlist automatically. Now you're ready to burn a CD of your work when you're done. And thankfully, you can do it from within Peak 4.

Laura Pallanck is a Bay Area-based sound designer.

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