When you look at programs which can create, mix and master music, you think of offerings from Avid or Steinberg costing hundreds of pounds. But there are less expensive alternatives, which can do much of the same work. See all audio and music software reviews.
The German company Magix, perhaps best known for its sample-based consumer software Music Maker, offers semi-pro studio software, Samplitude Music Studio, for just £80. Take a look at our Reason 7 review too.
Samplitude Music Studio 2013 includes sound tools, a mixer which can handle up to 120 tracks at 24-bit and 96 kHz, and a new, version 4, of its Mastering Suite.
The other key new features are mainly down to instrument sounds, which come in separately downloadable modules for rock drums, ensemble strings, bass and world percussion.
There’s even a screen-based string tuner, giving you a red or green light as you tweak the tuning pegs.
The sampled voices for each of these instruments are of high quality, though the ensemble strings, as always, can sound a bit Mellotron-ish.
Using either the on-screen keyboards or a plug-in MIDI device, it’s easy to create multiple tracks to build a song. You can record live as well, of course, and synthesised sounds are available through the peculiarly named Revolta 2 module.
The multi-track sound editing display is much like that in a video editor, with waveforms showing on the track bars in the timeline. Simple edits, like fades and individual volume control, can be put in place by dragging handles on these bars.
Tracks can be split, joined and overlapped and dragged forward and back along their timelines.
Although the product’s advertising heralds 120-track recording, you can’t have that many tracks on screen at once, even on a wide screen monitor.
They can be switched in banks, so you can adjust levels and the stereo position of each instrument or voice. It’s still hard to see how you could use that many tracks, even if spot-miking an entire orchestra.
The new Mastering Suite module is composed of four tools. There’s a six-band equaliser for tone control, a stereo enhancer, a multiband compressor and a limiter.
Having control over these aspects produces a better end result than relying on, for example, the default settings in a WAV to MP3 converter.
There’s a good range of I/O on offer, with imports of WAV, MP3, CD-A, OGG Vorbis, AIFF and FLAC; and MIDI imports of MID, GM, GS and XG.
Exports can be in MID and WAV and there’s support for direct upload of finished tracks to Facebook, YouTube, SoundCloud and MAGIX’s own Online Album site. The program is also fully compatible with the sound facilities in Magix Movie Edit Pro.
As with most studio software, Samplitude Music Studio 2103 isn’t an easy program to come to afresh, as the sheer number of buttons and controls can be confusing. If you’ve ever used a physical mixer or sample recorder, though, the controls won’t seem that alien and are at least logically laid out.
It’s helped by having Easy and Power User views, so some of the more esoteric features can be hidden while you’re learning the basics. It would be helped more if there was a full list of keyboard shortcuts, too.