Music Editing Software

It was Music Editing Software that started the boom of recording audio on PCs

First a little history of music editing software. This software category started as mono and later stereo editors. You could listen, cut, copy and paste. They also offered some rudimentary functions like merging (mixing but not in real-time), normalizing, fade in, fade out etc...

The real goodies came with the development of plug-ins. Suddenly you could execute such functions like compressors, limiters, reverbs, delays, sophisticated filters etc... After a while you could create any imaginable effect and function by this kind of software.

Multitrack software is focused upon producing real-time effects. It more and more also offers most sound editor functions. But it still isn't the same. When you ever worked with the "audio editor" of a multitrack application you know what I mean. It is simply not made for going too much into detail and you easily loose overview where you are now.

So, why do we still need dedicated music editing software?

  • The application of the highest quality effects on a sound file

  • For in-depth editing of a sound file

  • Extreme and special effects you cannot process in real-time

  • Trimming, processing and delivering samples and loops for hard and software sampler

  • Batch conversion (application of the same effect or algorithm to many usually rather small files)

  • Mastering (processing final mixes for CD or DVD burning)

  • For preparing multimedia-files

  • Professional CD and DVD burning

  • Basically any "non-multitrack" application when you deal with mono, stereo or surround files.

Now as you know how it should work, it's time to select a good sound editor and learn to handle it. There are a lot of features but you would put all your attention on those features that you really need often.

  • The handling has to be very intuitive and fast. You usually carry out the same actions over and over. Therefore any little inconvenience multiplies many times.

  • It has to deliver a good overview about the sound file and your position in it. It is easy to get lost when you zoom deep into the file so a second window with a good file overview is obligatory.

  • Zooming to sample level and out of the file has to be as fast and easy as possible - preferably via programmable key shortcuts and zoom factors.

  • The most used features have to be accessible via key shortcuts that are easy to remember and logical. If you can customize it...gooood! If you can save the customized key layout...even better!!!

  • Should let you mark definite spots in your sound file and easily go back to them. Some programs even let you remember the zoom level.

  • It should let you choose the part of your sound file between two markers to define it as region, save it as a new sound file or process it.

  • And of course it should be able to carry out all the tasks you need, either by the program itself or by additional plug-ins.

The most important music editing software for the professional league on the PC is Wavelab from Steinberg or Sound Forge from Sony (former Sonic Foundry). But the most popular editor on this platform is certainly Adobe Audition (it's better known as Cool Edit pro from Syntrillium Software Corp.). I have made up a very detailed comparison chart where you can see the features and differences at a glance.

On the Mac we still miss the good old Digidesign Sound Designer that we learnt so well :-( , but Bias Peak now does a pretty good job. I don't know any other serious audio editor on the Mac platform.

These are the programs that deserve your attention when it comes to professional sound editing. I personally prefer Wavelab, because it offers the most features and a really modern interface. Sound Forge has a very straightforward user interface and is rather easy to learn. Adobe Audition is also a good alternative if you are already familiar with it's user surface from Cool edit pro.

A very special kind of music editing software you might need is Recycle from Steinberg. Although you can find much of it's functionality already built into the above sound editors, you might be a little faster and more efficient with Recycle.

This is a software dedicated to loop editing. It makes loops "elastic". That means you can play them in any tempo you like, without changing the pitch and you can also put effects on them.

This should be about all you need for the moment. As you always work toward the ideal to only have one software that does it all perfectly you should just install what you really need. Of course there are zillions of other programs out there, but who cares?

To change from one music editing software you really learnt to another is a very unpleasant experience. You sit in front of the new software like an absolute beginner searching for each little function.

So, just don't do that. Choose the editor that you like most and stay with it. Learn the shortcuts well until you get real fast and people will recognize you as what you are. An unbelievable sound wizard.

Continue to the comparison chart of the best Audio Editors.