Acon Digital Acoustica 7 Review

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Acon Digital Acoustica 7 is an audio editor which comes in Standard ($59.90) and Premium ($199.90) editions and is available for 32-bit and 64-bit Windows and Mac OS systems. It should not be confused with the Mixcraft 7 DAW released by a company named Acoustica, which was previously reviewed here on BPB a few years ago. In this review, we’re taking a closer look at Acoustica 7 by Acon Digital and giving away one copy of this excellent audio editor to one lucky reader (scroll all the way down the page to enter the giveaway).

I’ve been using audio editors since back when Cool Edit was a shareware program, so I’ve done a lot of different things in those. Over the years, though, a lot of the tasks which I formerly did in audio editors, such as applying reverb to individual instruments, have migrated over to DAWs. The tasks for which I use an audio editor these days are basically just the following three:

  1. Cleaning up recordings of vocals and instruments.
  2. Splitting and tagging regions in samples.
  3. “Light” processing of voice narration.

Even though Acoustica does include effects such as reverb or chorus, as well as multitrack session support which essentially makes it a mini-DAW, the program is really focused on making the tasks of audio cleanup and tagging more efficient and streamlined. Acoustica 7 is rewritten from scratch and bears little resemblance to version 6 – although one difference of interest to BPB readers is that version 6 had a free Basic edition, which is still available, while there are currently no plans for a freeware cut-down edition of version 7.

Cleanup On Aisle 7

Cleaning up audio recordings is the most advanced and revolutionary aspect of Acoustica, so let’s discuss that first. The program includes multiple restoration tools, and they do one of two things. The first one is processing an entire file and removing certain kinds of noise, from steady background noise to pops and clicks. The second one is surgically cleaning up a specific noisy selection (such as Orson Welles’ “slight gonk“).

The Premium version includes Acon Digital’s complete Restoration Suite version 1.8, while the Standard has a “light” version of DeNoise with fewer parameters and no adaptive mode. Given typical home recordings, the noise removal tools are not just good at removing noise while preventing artifacts – they are also really fast and efficient. For example, removing plosives that weren’t caught with a pop filter worked perfectly well with just the default preset. I have not tested these tools on extremely low-quality audio, though, so I can’t say how well they’d restore a wax cylinder recording or cheap video camera audio. However, the Vitalize function is a very advanced (and natural-sounding) exciter, which is designed for filling out the missing highs in such cases.

Although the noise removal tools included in the Standard and Premium versions are (almost) the same, there is one huge difference in how they can be used. Premium adds the ability to apply a repair tool not only to a time selection but to a selection across both time and frequency. This is, in fact, a revolutionary feature! It means that, say, a low-frequency bump or midrange metallic noise can be cleaned up without affecting frequencies where the noise is not present. For things like cleaning little extraneous noises from the release tails of sustained instruments, this is an enormous time-saver. If you’ve ever sampled a cymbal which rings for about 30 seconds, you’ll know the pain of cleaning the background noise from it. In fact, you’ll be familiar with this time-consuming process even if you’ve cleaned up various little noises from a vocal take.

So, the most innovative, interesting and useful thing about Acoustica is its selection tools. On a spectrogram, there’s the ability to make rectangular selections, draw freehand selections (like Photoshop’s lasso tool), and there’s even a magic wand, which is extremely useful for catching a short sound together with its release and reverb tail. The selection tools are the thing that makes Premium worth the extra price. Sure, selection tools might not seem like the most important thing in the world, but they do indeed make a lot of work much easier. For people who use audio editors to creatively mangle sounds, this also opens up some new possibilities, especially with the ability to freehand draw some unusual selections.

Split Up To Cover More Ground

The other hugely streamlined aspect of Acoustica is finding, splitting, and tagging regions in audio files. This is something I often need to do when working on hundreds of samples of guitar notes, for example. An enormously uninteresting task for the most part, so the faster I can get it out of the way, the better.

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Acoustica 7 provides some specific features to automate the work. One is automatic detection of regions in files, which works very nicely at detecting hi-hat hits without too many false positives. The other big one is the ability to save all regions as individual files. The only thing I’m missing is automatic sorting of regions by volume, which would make splitting large amounts of files into velocity layers much faster – though there are some other tools for that.

Between splitting a file into regions and automatically saving those regions comes giving them names (unless you have reasons to delay naming files until after they’re saved). The naming workflow in Acoustica is not revolutionary (after all, it’s just typing characters into a list) but it’s quite streamlined compared to some other audio editors. It’s possible to type a region name and then navigate to the next region with the keyboard – no need for mouse clicks. If you’ve ever done this task hundreds of times, you’ll know how big of a time saving this can be. I did have one complaint here at the time of writing this review, though – I wished the list could be sorted by region name or start time. Thankfully, this feature was implemented in an update this week.

There’s A Lot Of Ground To Cover

There are a few things which Acoustica focuses on which I don’t personally do – digitizing LP or tape audio, and editing audio for broadcast. So, even though I’ve only taken a quick look and haven’t tested these features, here are a few words about them. The included cleaning wizard simplifies cleaning up audio recorded from analog media, which I haven’t tried because I don’t have any analog media on hand. For broadcast use, there’s extensive metering designed around broadcast standards, including EBU R-128 compliance. Normalization can be used to set the loudness to a specific LUFS level. The Premium edition’s support for multichannel audio means it can also do surround (or be used to edit multichannel drum recordings).

The rest of the editor is more or less standard. However, I should mention the GUI which is configurable to show the windows you need for a particular task, and hide the windows you don’t, with the ability to resize them all. So, if you need a long list of region names or a big meter, those things can be set to the size that’s needed, and the main waveform view (which isn’t always all that important) can be made small as you like. This, again, makes things more efficient and makes repetitive tasks easier to handle.

Typical effects such as pitch shifting, algorithmic and convolution reverb, dynamics processing, etc. are built into Acoustica as well. While I mostly use such effects in a DAW these days, the ability to compress and EQ a recording in the audio editor does come in very handy when preparing narration for a video. VST effects (or AU plugins on the Mac version) are also supported. Acoustica Premium edition includes Acon Digital’s full Verberate reverb, and multiband dynamics. The time stretch and transposition effects are also artifact-free, although I haven’t tried creating any extreme time stretches. When a singer wanted to try a slower tempo for a song, though, I was able to stretch a full mix by more than 10% with no audible loss of quality. Sure, if she decided she actually wanted this tempo, I’d re-render the track at the slower tempo, but for things like changing the tempo of vocals for a remix, this is by far the best time-stretcher I have.

There’s also a batch processor which can be used to apply effects chains to large numbers of files and convert file formats. Multitrack sessions are supported. Although not as full-featured as a complete DAW, the multitrack view does provide a quick and easy way to put together audio for something like a podcast (including adding background music, sound effects, etc.) or to create a quick rough mixdown right after a recording (singers like those).

The Verdict

I spend hundreds of hours per year using audio editors, mostly working on sample editing. Acoustica 7 is a major upgrade over the editors I’ve been using previously, partly because it does some important things (such as reducing noise or time stretching) with better audio quality. Its most important advantage, though, is that it makes repetitive, boring tasks more efficient. For someone like me, this saves many hours which can instead be spent doing something more interesting and musical.

For users who don’t use audio editors quite so heavily, the streamlining does not mean big time savings, but it does mean ease of use. Acoustica 7 is all about getting audio editing tasks done quickly, efficiently and with excellent sound quality.

More info: Acoustica 7 ($199 Premium, $59 Standard)

The Giveaway

Acon Digital is kindly giving away one free copy of Acoustica to one lucky BPB reader! To enter the giveaway, simply submit your name and email address in the form below. You will be subscribed to BPB’s mailing list, with the option to unsubscribe at any point. You can further increase your chances of winning by completing the bonus entries (such as subscribing to our YouTube account, following us on Twitter, etc.).

The winner will be announced on Friday, September 8th. We will also notify the winner via email (please double-check your email address for typos when entering the giveaway). Good luck everyone and thanks for reading BPB!

Acon Digital Acoustica 7 Review

95%
95%
Brilliant

Acoustica 7's main advantage is that it makes repetitive, boring editing tasks more efficient. For someone like me, this saves many hours which can instead be spent doing something more interesting and musical.

  • Features
    9
  • Workflow
    10
  • Performance
    10
  • Design
    10
  • Sound
    9
  • Pricing
    9
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About The Author

D Smolken is a musician, artist and a sampling expert. He creates freely downloadable SFZ libraries available on his website Karoryfer Samples.

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