Online Review: sonicWORX Studio v2.0, Prosoniq





Prosoniq is one of those companies that take the creation of a new version of their software very serious. They do not go for quick result and profit, but work as long as needed to get their product in true professional shape and quality. Who benefits from this approach is clear: the customer, who gets real good value for his money, not digital garbage.

This approach is the reason it took more then a year before version 2.0 of sonicWORX Studio was released. The new version already was announced at Frankfurter Messe 1999, and it took up to this year's Messe to launch the product in its full shape.

Maintaining the high quality standard, sonicWORX Studio already showed in the previous version (if you missed, see online review), was one of the challenges Prosoniq had to cope with while implementing two really major steps forward in Studio:
real time processing, and VST support.

Real time processing.

To start with the major development in this version, we have a look at the Modular DSP Page. In this window, you chain plugins you want to process your audio file with. You can chain Prosoniq's plugins aside with VST plugins from Prosoniq and other companies like Waves.

Every module has an input level control, wet/dry balance, CPU load and clip display. You can save all settings for either a single plug in or even the complete real time page, copy plug in parameters to other modules in the chain and even drag and drop settings between modules. Four snapshot buttons (located at the upper right corner) let you instantly compare between actually four completely different real time pages. This enables you to quickly compare, and choose the best result in no time. Very handy feature, which helps you keeping your focus on the creative process instead of technique.

 The possible combinations and numbers of plugins are endless, up to the capabilities of your Mac of course. On my 9500/200, I managed to load up to 4 plugs that were not too processing demanding. With heavier plugs I can totwo or three at a time. On G3 and G4 machines, the number of plugs increases widely, among with the process power. At Frankfurt, Prosoniq showed with a G4/400, which was impressive to look at.



The audio file is processed "top down". In the example above, the audio first goes through the Small Room processor, then passes the Rubberband EQ, and finaly the WaveShell L1 UltraMax by Waves.

Making Waves plugins available in Studio 2.0 is very easy. Just drop  the WaveShell-VST in the sonicWORX Studio plugins folder, and here you go: the world of Waves VST works now in Studio 2.0 too.



Actually, all good stuff from the VST world can now be used in Studio 2.0. You can drop VST plugins from any other vendor directly into the plugins folder: they will work without problem. As an example we dropped a copy of WunderVerb3 by Steinberg, we use under Cubase VST, into the plugins folder of Studio. Works fine.

Does this mean you can forget about the plugins, Prosoniq makes? No, very certainly not. In the online review of the previous version of Studio, we already told you that these plugins are of a very high quality, and Prosoniq maintains this level of quality in version 2.0.  The great advantage is now that you can use this superb quality in real time mode. In the screenshot above you can see which plugins come standard with version 2.0 (the plugs with the dots). That is, except for the ones we yellowed out, like Pandora Realtime. On the 2.0 CD is a demo version of Pandora you will have to authorize (and pay) separately. The other plugs can be downloaded/bought online at Prosoniqs website.

Offline post processing.

Real time processing being the newest development in Studio, this does not mean that you should do all post processing in real time mode. Processes like normalizing and DC offset correction are typically tasks you will run offline. For those tasks, Studio 2.0 has a very nice and complete bundle, shown in the list left in the screenshot below.



These plugins were already there in the previous version, be it some with new refinements. The quality of these plugs was and still is superb, fit to be used in a true professional audio recording and post production environment. It goes too far to write about all details of these plugins. You've got to experience them to understand why I write "superb" here.

Prosoniq added a simple but very handy new window in version 2.0: the Control Room.



It gives you full control over the volume of monitoring what you're doing while working with Studio 2.0. You can check off left or right chanel, and check with one click on the mono button what the result of your work will look like in mono, often used for streaming audio over the Internet to reduce band width,  and in multimedia productions such as CD-ROMs to reduce storage needs.

Another new feature is the "speaker cursor", shown in the screenshot below.

 

It enables you to go directly to a certain part of the recording and listen. This way, you can quickly hop through the audio file, and check what the applied real time plugins will do to that part of your recording. Very handy feature.

Another nice new feature is the new audio file dialog, that now enables you to set several settings before recording, and determine where you want to save the new recorded file. A major enhancement compared to version 1.5, where directing the recorded audio was a hassle. File formats supported are AIFF, SDII and WAV.



sonicWORX 2.0 supports native playback and processing of AIFF, AIFF-C (uncompressed), WAVE (PCM) and RAW audio files. It can open and process files of any word length between 8 and 32bit, of any sample rate between 8kHz and 96kHz. It will import and export PARIS PAF, System 7 sound and split stereo files. It offers 6 different dithering/noise shaping options during save and has "playback from disk capabilities" to preview files before opening them (independent of system extensions and QuickTime). The new "transparent processing" architecture lets you play files and work on them while other files are being processed. Of course, this needs the more heavy equipped PowerPC to run smoothly.

ASIO-support.

sonicWORX 2.0 has full I/O support for all ASIO devices. This makes it capable of recording at the highest possible quality your hardware offers, and independent of the Apple Sound Manager. What's more, sonicWORX processing capabilities let you instantly compare processed and original version at full quality during processing. I do not know of other audio software that can perform this control function. You can even process several files simultaneously, and if your computer is fast enough all DSP processes automatically execute in real time.

Another enhancement is that now through the preferences page, you can determine where Studio 2.0 will store its workfiles. Version 1.5 had some minors here for which we found a workaround using aliases. Far from ideal that was. Now, the flaw has been resolved: you can direct the temp files anywhere you like. Good improvement.

Help features.

Studio 2.0 provides several help features. First of all there is Balloon Help, based upon the standard help feature of the Apple OS. It provides basic help information for almost all functions you can find in the Studio 2.0 windows and screens.



Then, under the Apple menu, you will find the option Tips & Shortcuts. When chosen, a bunch of popup screens give you a "on site" explanation of the major features in the major windows and screens. If you would like to see these screens in detail, click on the resized examples below. The screens appear in a new window, that you can close again to continue reading on this page.


wave editor shortcuts help screen


history help screen


modular dsp page help screen.

Other help screens are keyboard layout and a handy list with all keyboard shortcut commands. Nice work.

A detailed manual still lacks in the package. A basic handbook provides good basic info like for version 1.5, but that's it. At Frankfurt Messe,  Prosoniq admitted that this work still has to be done. However, I do not see this as a major disadvantage. A true semi-pro or pro audio producer will know what to do with the plugins of Studio 2.0. And as always, a good set of ears is absolutely required and more important than a manual.

The looks of Studio 2.0 had a very nice facelift, compared to version 1.5, but still is true sonicWORX Studio. The real time monitoring windows (Stereo Correlation, Analyzer, and Level meter are still there, all "coated" with the new more metallic like looks.

Speed.

Speed is always an issue when working with digital audio. Your harddisk should be a fast one (7200 rpm is OK), and the faster the processor the better the time performance. Somehow, Prosoniq managed to squeeze more speed out of their software. On my 9500/200 PowerMac, the processing time on the test file shortened quit a lot, compared to version 1.5. It is not documented how this was done, but I presume a major part of Studio's code was written native this time. Good.

Conclusion.

Prosoniq has been working on version 2.0 for more than a year, and the result matches the efforts: sonicWORX Studio 2.0 is very powerful, flexible and high-quality software.

Studio 2.0 combines ease of use, flexible  post processing and superb digital audio quality with a major step forward: real time processing with multi chained effects, VST support, and ASIO 2.0 support as well. You don't need an animal of a PowerPC to run it, but the more horsepower you can afford, the more plugins you can chain, thus reducing production time. And production time always is a hot issue in recording and production studio's, right?

So, if you're in for superb audio processing quality, software where important goodies of digital audio are combined (real time, VST, ASIO), and software that lets you go at work in no time: get sonicWORX Studio 2.0. You will love it.

In my country we rate from 1 (very bad) to 10 (excellent) in steps of 1. Studio 2.0 gets a royal 9.
And believe me: software vendors get my 9 only when I am truly convinced that they really deserve it. There is enough garbage in the digital audio software business. But Prosoniq absolutely is worth this high rating. Go get the software, available at URLs below, and get hooked just as I got. Have fun.

No more Steinberg.

Prosoniq tried Steinberg as distributor, but somehow that appeared not to work. Where did we hear bad news about the support by Steinberg before....?

Now, Prosoniq has found new more willing partners for selling their products. The first one is AudioMidi.com, the website to turn to if you live in the USA. And second there is The PlugIn-Shop.com, run by Prosoniq. At both web addresses you can order online.

More info.

More specific info on Prosoniq products can be found at
http://www.prosoniq.com.

We have for you a page with sonicWORX v2.0 specifications.

Online reviews of Prosoniq VST plugins can be found in the
review index.

Credits.

Testing of sonicWORX Studio v2.0 was performed by Peter J. Bloemendaal at BloWe Studio and Roel Toering at Stable Studio.


All reviews in AudioMac.net are written by Peter J. Bloemendaal. All rights reserved.

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24-04-2000