A long time standard of most Windows-using audio professionals, Sound Forge Pro has finally come to Apple OS X. While there have been functional audio editors on OS X for a long time: Wave Editor (now Triumph), the ill-fated BIAS Peak, Adobe Audition and even Audacity but these don’t seem to have the name recognition and user-numbers that Sound Forge has held among all audio professionals.
Many Sound Forge fans (including myself) were hoping this new Mac port would be Sound Forge Pro 10 with OS X style buttons. Instead, Sound Forge Pro MAC has been touted by Sony Creative as “Built on a clean slate for OS X, Sound Forge™ Pro Mac provides a contemporary application environment that’s perfect for recording, editing, processing, and rendering broadcast-quality audio master files.” Sound Forge Pro MAC seems to be an entirely different application than Sound Forge Pro 10, which could explain the different version numbering conventions as well as different price-points. (Windows version = $374.95 and OS X version = $269.95).
All that said, this new MAC version does look pretty. It looks like an OS X application and seems to behave like one as well. While playing around with it I have access to all of my Audio Unit and VST 2’s, and there are little differences/improvements I have seen so far over SF 10 such as Fade-ins/Outs having their fade types right in the submenu is super cool (although having to go into a menu at all is tedious). Also the Media Browser which by default is on the left side of the screen is cleaner and nicer than SF 10’s Explorer. Be warned: Pro MAC requires OS X Lion or Mountain Lion, which may be a deal-breaker for some Snow Leopard holdouts.
The list of features missing from Pro MAC vs Pro 10 is quite extensive: no batch editing, no key command assigning, no crop ability, no surround output, no auto-regioning, no video support, and even a lack of editable toolbars. I have heard this app compared it to an Alpha version of software as opposed to release. I have also read about the app crashing frequently, which I also experienced. One issue I had was I brought in a 96/24 .wav, saved it as 44/16 and then Sound Forge would not play it, followed by multiple crashes. I got a consistent crash on trying to play other files saved in the same manner even on reloading the entire app and file(s). Oddly, the same task works just fine in OS X running Sound Forge Pro 10 through Windows 7 from Parallels Desktop.
I also noticed mono tracks are only played through one speaker which is not terribly ideal or expected. In addition I was able to get a consistent crash when simply dragging a stereo wav from Finder into waveform view on top of a mono wav (normal function I have done many times in Sound Forge Pro 10). Upon reopening my progress was oddly saved.
Another big difference between the two versions I noticed was in the variety (or lack thereof) in saving options. For example: saving MP3s. The Windows version has 42 presets ranging from 20 Kbps/8,000 Hz to 320 Kbps/48,000 Hz whereas OS X version has only 11 presets ranging from 96 Kbps/44,100Hz to 320 Kbps/48,000 Hz with no customization options for anything lower than 32k sample rate and 96k bit rate. While perhaps not everyone needs to save MP3’s at low-quality bit rates like I do for some Flash games; Sound Forge is the program that does that for me.
Sound Forge Pro MAC also doesn’t seem to have any way to save .OGG format, or many other formats for that matter. Pro MAC has 13 format options whereas Pro 10 has 28. While no one will mourn the loss of Real Media 9 format; no options for .OGG or .FLAC is a let-down (it can’t even read .OGG or .FLAC files, among many others including video formats). Also seemingly missing are a few of Sound Forge Pro 10’s built in Effects like Delay, Flange, Pitch, and even Wave Hammer. Some of these options still exist in the same menu we’re all used to, many are populated with AU plugins you already have like Apple’s AU Pitch and third-party plugins like Waves, etc.
All that said, parts still feel like Sound Forge. Time and Event Edit modes are still present, although hidden in a menu as opposed to selectable on the toolbar. Sony Creative also hasn’t gotten rid of Pencil Mode, Regions, or the iZotope Mastering Effects Bundle. The Plug-In Chain feature is still present and can be used with all of your plugins as well as the iZotope Restore and Repair tools that comes with SF Pro MAC. Most functions are where you expect, and it is pretty easy to pick up Sound Forge Pro MAC the first time if you have had previous experience in Sound Forge Pro 10.
I would have liked this review to be a bit more in depth and cover some more of the features, but anything I want to try either cannot be done in this app, or it simply crashes. As I have spent more time in Pro MAC the more unstable it seems to have become, to the point of some files consistently crashing the app when imported, whereas others of the same type, and sample rates, created at roughly the same time on the same recording device work just fine.
Like many OS X users, I had high hopes for Sound Forge Pro MAC and have been seriously let down. The surprising number of features this app does not have is rather unfortunate and does a disservice to Sound Forge as a brand. Personally I will keep updating my review copy from Sony Creative Software and hope missing features get added back in. I cannot however recommend Sound Forge Pro MAC to even an amateur or beginner working with sound. There are way cheaper and more stable options for OS X and even the possibility of simply using Sound Forge Pro 10 on a separate partition or emulated. Sound Forge Pro 10 is a wonderful application with a vast number of professional users, perhaps one day Sound Forge Pro MAC will catch up and be a viable tool in their workflow. Unfortunately that day is not here yet.