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Sony Acid Music Studio 8 review

Verdict

Some powerful new features, but it's unlikely that the average user will appreciate them. Ultimately, this is a minor update to an application that's only suitable for casual use

Review Date: 29 Jun 2010

Reviewed By: Ben Pitt

Price when reviewed: £32 (£38 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
3 stars out of 6

Features & Design
3 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Ease of Use
3 stars out of 6

Inexpensive software can replace a room full of expensive recording hardware, but opinion is divided over whether software should emulate hardware visually and operationally as well as sonically.

Most of the major applications take a virtual hardware approach, with effects, virtual instruments and audio tracks plumbed into a mixer. Acid Pro and its consumer-oriented sibling, Acid Music Studio, take a different tack with an interface that's designed from first principles to play to software's flexibility.

Early versions had no mixer at all, with each sound appearing on its own track with discrete audio settings. Additional tracks appeared automatically when the user hit record or imported a sample, and samples were automatically stretched and tuned to match the project.

This streamlined approach makes Acid quick to learn and even quicker in general operation. However, it comes with a downside: how do you improve on an application when its key strength is operational simplicity?

Sony Acid Music Studio 8 plugins

Previous updates have seen Sony rise to this challenge with varying success. The integration of MIDI recording in version 5 was inevitable with the rising popularity of virtual instruments, but its implementation was, and remains, clumsy. On the other hand, when version 7 finally broke the golden rule of one sound per track, it did so in a way that liberated certain techniques without compromising its operational simplicity.

Version 8 is one of those updates that dilutes rather than bolsters Acid's strengths. Many of its new features are taken straight from Acid Pro 7, but while we welcomed them in the flagship version, here they work less well.

A good example of this is the Mixing Console, which brings together all the mixing functions in one place and opens up previously unavailable techniques: up to four submix busses for processing multiple channels as one, and four auxiliary sends for sharing effects over multiple channels.

This is all basic stuff, and on one level it's surprising how long it's taken to introduce these facilities. On the other hand, it chips away at Acid's streamlined approach. We wouldn't mind so much if the mixer helped users explore its new features. Sadly, though, its dense, text-heavy design does nothing to win over less experienced users. The otherwise excellent Show Me How tutorials don't help here either.

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