Adobe Audition 2.0 as Audio Editor Review

Adobe Audition 2.0 Sound Editor screenshot  click to enlarge

Does it still make sense to use Adobe Audition 2.0, the now fully fledged multitrack recording program as a sound editor?

Cool Edit Pro, the predecessor of Adobe Audition 2.0 was known as an excellent sound editor. We want to know if this is still valid these days.

Since the beginning of digital recording, the rule of thumb was, that good multitrack recording programs seldom have top sound editors. The were usually much too slow and resource heavy and  lacked essential functions too be a first choice for sound tweaking.

Do you open Adobe Photoshop when you just want to watch a picture? Probably no and even when you just have to perform a simple edit, you might be better off with a simpler and smaller program.

Adobe Audition 2.0 is a rather big program but it starts up in around 14 seconds and it loads a session in another 10 seconds. If you don't need a multitrack session its even faster. Loading a sound is lightning fast.

So, from it's overall handling it hasn't changed too much and it still qualifies for quickly editing a sound.

The Edit Window Displays of Adobe Audition 2.0

There are four different views in the Edit Window now. The following pictures show a stereo track of Toms to demonstrate all available views.

This is the usual Waveform Display, no big surprise:

Adobe Audition 2.0 Waveform Display  click to enlarge

Display options for the vertical scale:

Adobe Audition 2.0 vertical scale options for edit window

Next comes the same Tom stereo track in the Spectral Frequency Display.

On the right sight of the display in Adobe Audition 2.0 you can see the frequency scale from zero to 20kHz. The color shows the intensity of that frequency range. Bright means high and dark means low intensity (You can also edit the colors if you want).

In the picture below, this means that the frequency range of this tom sounds go up to 14kHz with most energy in the low frequency range.

Adobe Audition 2.0 Spectral Frequency Display  click to enlarge

Display options for the vertical scale:

Adobe Audition 2.0 vertical scale options for spectral frequency display

The logarithmic scale makes sense if you want to see a melody like in the example below. The lowest bright line is the basic tone of a male lead vocal line.

Adobe Audition 2.0 lead vocals in spectral view

And for stereo tracks like this, you have two more options:

The Spectral Pan Display lets you find the exact actual position of a sound in the stereo picture. The scale on the right shows you this in % left or right.

Adobe Audition 2.0 Spectral Pan Display  click to enlarge

Display options for the vertical scale:

Adobe Audition 2.0 vertical scale options for spectral pan display

The Spectral Phase Display is quite useful to determine if a sound is in or out of phase. The two white lines are the 90 degree margin. If a stereo sound is beyond that line to a marked degree it could have some unwanted effect on it's stereo image (unnaturally wide) or sound strange when played mono.

If a sound is totally out of phase you see two bright lines near the 180 degree margin. If it's totally in phase (mono) you see a bright line in the middle.

Adobe Audition 2.0 Spectral Phase Display  click to enlarge

Display options for the vertical scale:

Adobe Audition 2.0 vertical scale options for spectral phase display

You have also options for the horizontal scale, the time format:

Adobe Audition 2.0 horizontal scale options

A very interesting option is the 75fps Compact Disk setting. This shows you where you can set index points in a CD.

How to set markers in Adobe Audition 2.0

A marker labels an exact point (sample) within a sound file. You can give it a name and description. In Adobe Audition you can set five different markers. As all of them can be set as points as well as ranges, there are actually ten different markers.

  • Two types of cue markers. One for defining ranges (which are actually two markers) and another for defining locations.
  • Beat marker are set to define the beginning of a percussive sound like drums, percussion or similar.
  • Track markers are used only to define the beginning of tracks for CD burning.
  • Index markers set index points in CDs.
  • BWF-j markers are used for specifying marker points for Broadcast Wave files for the Japanese broadcasting environment.

You can always change the type of marker with this drop down menu in the Marker List.

Adobe Audition 2.0 Changing type of marker

The easiest way to set a marker in Adobe Audition 2.0 is by pushing F8. Just make sure that the play cursor is at the right position while pushing the button. You can also set them on the fly while playing.

Another way to set markers is by the Auto Mark Functions. This is used mainly for identifying beats within loops or to find phrases or songs in a long file and mark them.

Adobe Audition 2.0 Marking Beats

I was not very satisfied where Adobe Audition sets it's Beat markers. I tried some tweaking but it was often around 26 samples too early. Maybe there's a setting where you can change this behavior, but I couldn't find one.

Adobe Audition Beat Marker offset

Well, you might say 26 samples is not even a millisecond and this is nothing to care about. You're probably right. I just don't understand why this happens.

By right clicking the little triangle of a Marker, the following dialog box opens up and gives you instant access to these important actions.

Adobe Audition 2.0 Marker Dialog Box

How to make selections in Adobe Audition 2.0

The most intuitive way to make a selection is of course by

  • choosing the selection tool

    Adobe Audition 2.0 Selection Tool
  • left clicking at the starting point

    Adobe Audition 2.0 choosing start of selection
  • dragging to the end point

    Adobe Audition 2.0 dragging selection
  • releasing at the end point

    Adobe Audition 2.0 releasing at the end of selection

Attention! While doing this, you have to take care, that you really select both channels of a stereo sound file in Adobe Audition 2.0. If you are too far at the upper or lower margin of the edit window, a small L (for left) or R (for right) appears at the cursor to indicate, that you've now selected only either the left or the right side.

By shift-clicking you can change either the beginning or the end of the selection.

You can also set a different behavior in the preferences.

Adobe Audition 2.0 edit view right click function

If you choose the "extend selection" option, shift-click and right click produces the same result. That can be very handy if you don't need the right click Popup Menu.

If you don't make a selection, per default the whole file gets processed though no selection is visible. You can also change this in the preferences to the visible part of the sound file.

Adobe Audition 2.0 default selection range settings

If you double click within the edit window, the visible part of the file gets selected.

Well, how else can you define a selection? What I often need is to drop some markers at exact points in the sound file and then selecting the range between them for processing.

At some editors you can just double-click between the markers to select the range between them. With Audition it's a little more complicated, but also quite easy to perform.

After dropping your markers you can select them in the Marker List window and apply "Merge Selected" to it.

Adobe Audition 2.0 merge selected

That means that the space between them is now defined as range and by double clicking the marker in the Marker List, you select its range for processing.

Another way to perform the trick of selecting the audio exactly between two markers, is to turn on the "snap to marker" option.

Adobe Audition 2.0 Snap settings
Actually it's turned on per default so don't turn it off.

Now you can click at, or very close to a marker and drag the right margin of the selection to the next marker. It snaps to the exact sample value of the markers and your selection is made.

Cut, Copy and Paste

Even if you cut a selection Audition tries to prevent clicks by making a short crossfade. I cut out the white selection and you see the result below.

Adobe Audition 2.0 Sinus

Adobe Audition 2.0 Sinus cutted

You can see the short crossfade instead of an almost vertical line.

A very good thing about Adobe Audition is it's clipboard. You can use the Windows clipboard and five extra clipboards from Adobe Audition.

Adobe Audition 2.0 Clipboards

When pasting audio clips into a sound file, Audition makes also a short crossfade to prevent clicks. What's strange however is that the crossfade time seems to depend upon the length of the pasted sound file.

But in practice this works quite well.

You have also options when you paste a sound.

You can choose between the paste, paste to new and mix paste function. Paste just inserts the range at the cursor position. Paste to new makes a new file with the clipboard content and mix paste let's you choose from the following options.

Adobe Audition 2.0 Mix paste functions

What I really miss in Adobe Audition is a nondestructive Playlist where you can dump your pieces (selections, sections, regions,...however you name it), and then play around with the sequence, different cross fades, tweak the cut points etc...

Of course you can transfer those pieces to the Multitrack view of Adobe Audition 2.0 and arrange it there, but if you've ever tried to cut mixes that way, you know that it's not the same and you easily loose control.

Frequency Space Editing

Adobe Audition 2.0 has brought up this kind of editing. This is something really new and just at it's beginning. You can realize things quite easily that would have taken hours and quite some equipment before.

The principle is simple. You can apply any effect but only in the time and frequency range selected.

To apply effects only in the time range selected is nothing new. You draw your selection in the waveform view and apply the effect you want only within that selection.

That stays the same when you edit a sound file in spectral frequency view, but there's an new dimension added now. You can also specify a vertical range that means the frequency range that gets affected by your operation.

As you can do that not only by a rectangle but also with free form shapes using the lasso tool, the frequency range affected can wildly vary as time goes on.

What can you do with it?

Well, besides restoring audio by identifying and erasing noise or other unwanted sounds, a wide field of experimentation opens up here.

Think of a vocal track and adding delay just to specific overtones of that voice and another delay to other overtones. Or pitch shifting just part of the frequency spectrum of the voice.

Or applying reverb to a certain frequency spectrum of a snare drum.

Possibilities are endless especially for creating interesting, never heard effects with ease.

How do you start experimenting?

  1. Take a sound file (I started with a vocal track)
  2. Switch to Spectral Frequency Display (shift+F)
  3. Right click at the scale on the right side of the window and select the logarithmic scale.

    Adobe Audition 2.0 scale selection
  4. Make the following settings in the preferences to better see what you are doing.

    Adobe Audition 2.0 Frequency Space Editing Preferences
  5. Choose either the rectangle or the lasso selection tool

    Adobe Audition 2.0 SelectionTools
  6. Make a selection within the sound file

    Adobe Audition 2.0, selecting a region in frequency space editing mode
  7. Apply an effect (for the beginning it should not be a subtle effect but something you will notice). I applied "delete selection" in the example below.

    Adobe Audition 2.0 after frequency space editingYou see that the specified frequency range is just filtered out almost completely from the sound.
  8. Listen how it sounds and how sound changes when the cursor enters the processed area.

That was just a crude example but you get an idea of what happens here. Continue with applying other effects on other frequency ranges and you will soon produce unbelievable new sounds.

Applying Effects in Adobe Audition 2.0

Here you can see all the effects that come with Adobe Audition 2.0 grouped in categories at a glance. The grayed out effects are only applicable at stereo tracks.

Adobe Audition 2.0 all effects at a glance

You can also group them in "Real-Time" or "Process" effects. Though the VST effects are labeled "Real-Time" they can also process a sound file.

Adobe Audition 2.0 Effects grouped by Realtime effects

I do not write about every single effect here a this would be beyond the scope of this review, but you should get a general feeling about the quality and handling of the effects.

A typical VST or "real time" effect would look like this:

Adobe Audition 2.0 VST Plug-In  click to enlarge

You have the presets in a drop down menu, a save and a delete preset button and the help button on top.

A bypass or "power" switch, play button, and a checkbox for Pre- and Postroll Preview at the bottom. Once you have selected a button, you can toggle it on/off with the spacebar.

The design is very simple. No 3D racks and no blinking buttons but very useful for everyday work.

There is one module that looks a bit more sophisticated, the new multiband compressor. But even that plug-in uses color in a very useful way and not to impress your graphic designers.

Like most of the effects in Adobe Audition 2.0, also the Multiband Compressor is not top notch but quite useful. I wouldn't use it to master a track that should have maximum power with minimum loss on clarity.

There are better plug-ins for that purpose like TC Electronic's finalizer plug-in MasterX or Wave's C4 multiband compressor. But if you know what you're doing and combine it with other plug-ins it can be quite a tool.

Adobe Audition 2.0 Multiband Compressor  click to enlarge

Most of the "process" effects look even simpler than the VST effects. But what do you need for simple task like normalizing?

Adobe Audition 2.0 Normalize function

Beside the "standard" tools for the daily work, there were some plug-ins that need to be mentioned in Adobe Audition 2.0. One that positively surprised me, was the noise reduction. While you can pay a lot for some plug-ins that let you fight with settings and unwanted artifacts, this one gives you a lot of bang for the bucks.

You just capture the noise reduction profile from a little sample of noise and than you can start the noise reduction process. It works very clean with very little strange artifacts.

Adobe Audition 2.0 Noise Reduction  click to enlarge

Another effect of Adobe Audition 2.0 that stands out of the crowd is the pitch correction. While the automatic mode is just average, the manual mode lets you change the pitch in a very useful way.

If you look at the screenshot below, you see a red and a green line in the upper display. The red line represents the pitch of the recording as it is and the green line shows the pitch after pitch correction.

The correction is done by a curve that you draw in the display below. See the blue line, that can be bent in order to change the pitch.

If you check the "splines" checkbox, you can draw smooth curves, if you uncheck, you draw straight lines between the white points.

The only drawback and the reason you can just make subtle corrections is that formants are not preserved. That means you get the well known "Mickey Mouse" effect if you pitch high and the "Frankenstein" effect if you pitch low in Adobe Audition 2.0.

Adobe Audition 2.0 Pitch Correction  click to enlarge

A tool that really flubbed in Adobe Audition 2.0 was the clip restoration tool, that is expected to repair clipped recordings. I could not make one repair that sounded better than the clipped file, so I had to classify it as totally useless.

The Mastering Rack of Adobe Audition 2.0 lets you apply effect-chains of up to 16 different VST or DirectX effects. You cannot use "Process" effects here. That means that you have to apply process-effects like pitch correction or the noise reduction separately.

Adobe Audition 2.0 Effects Mastering Rack  click to enlarge


Summary of the built in effects:

The effects that come with Adobe Audition 2.0 let you perform most of the tasks that you would expect from a professional Sound Editor.

Some of them are better, some are worse, but most of them are pretty average stuff. So, if you really want to work with the best plug-ins on the market, you have watch out for third party offers.

Which third party plug ins are now supported?

With Adobe Audition 2.0 you can use VST and DirectX plug-ins. As most plug-ins are available in both flavors, I would seek for maximum compatibility with other programs. If in doubt choose VST because of a slightly better handling.

It is not difficult to implement the VST and DirectX plug-ins you own. Just tell Adobe Audition where they are, refresh the effects list and off it goes.


Once you applied an effect you may want to undo it. Well, if you haven't checked the Enable Undo/Redo function in Adobe Audition 2.0, you have to reload the original file.

adobe audition 2.0 enable undo/redo command

In case you want to undo all your processing at once, click the revert to saved option. This loads the original file again and you can start over.

Adobe Audition 2.0  "Revert to saved" screenshot


If the system has crashed, it asked me at the next start if I want to continue the session or not. This is a convenient feature that let's you save most of your work in case of a crash.

Crashes of Adobe Audition 2.0 were quite common, especially when I was testing CPU hungry plug-ins, so this function was quite useful.


Adobe Audition 2.0 has a new help file. Actually it's the new "Help Center". It fits to the Adobe product line now and looks way better than before.

You can also get help from Experts by buying a support plan.

But you will probably come along well without it, because the Adobe Audition help is not only an emergency rescue, but more like a tutorial. Not only for Adobe Audition but for tweaking audio and recording in general.

It has also a very useful glossary for digital recording terms.

Also the search function always got me what I was searching for.

Wish list for future versions

Though Adobe Audition 2.0 boasts a lot of functions, there's still room for improvement. Especially because the look and feel of that software is such a pleasant experience, one would like to see all the functions implemented, that we need to make life easier.

1. Adobe Audition 2.0 is certainly one of the best Audio Editors around. There's just one thing I'm still desperately missing and what I consider as a "must have" in a sound editing program. A separate overview of the whole sound file. It's so much easier to work if you always see where you are in a sound file.

Therefore, my single biggest wish for version 2.5 would be a second display of the whole file you are working on with a cursor where you are now, a visible selection of the section displayed in the main window, and maybe also visible markers or defined regions of the file.

2. The other thing a professional sound editor should have (in my humble opinion) is a window with a undo history. Though you can undo any step until you saved the file it's not very comfortable without a separate list of all the actions performed, like in almost all other Adobe programs.

3. Adobe Audition 2.0 could be better integrated with the Adobe family because of missing Surround functions that Adobe Premiere already has implemented.

4. I would like to have a nondestructive Playlist for rearranging tracks or pieces of them, defining cross fades, setting cutting points etc...all that you need for final arrangement of songs or cutting mixes.

Conclusion for using Adobe Audition 2.0 as an Audio Editor

Though Adobe Audition 2.0 boasts a lot of functions, there's still room for improvement. Especially because the look and feel of that software is a pleasant experience, you don't want to change the user interface for other tasks.

But the naked truth is that you cannot do everything with Audition as with any other program to date. You could however use it as a host for your VST or DX plug-ins if you like the user interface.

It is well suited for tweaking or batch processing sound files for music or multimedia purposes.

I would not recommend it as software for professional mastering and CD creation there are just too many functions missing (see above).

As it goes more into the direction of a multitrack recording program it seems to be a bit heavy for using it just as a sound editor.

To see how it performs against it's competition, take a look at this detailed comparison chart of the best sound editors. It gives you an instant overview about all the functions and features of this kind of software.