Steinberg Wavelab 7 review
A long-overdue overhaul of the interface, but overall the results are mixed
Review Date: 8 Nov 2010
Reviewed By: Ben Pitt
Price when reviewed: £373 (£438 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
Ease of Use
New versions of Steinberg WaveLab are few and far between, but even by its own standards this one has been a long time coming - it's five years since version 6 was announced.
There are two ways to look at this. On the one hand, WaveLab users have been left in the doldrums while those using its main rival, Sony Sound Forge Pro, have enjoyed new features such as high-quality mastering plugins, non-destructive editing, surround-sound support and multitrack editing. On the other hand, WaveLab 6 already had many of these features, and £70 plus VAT for five years of updates is pretty good value.
It's certainly a big upgrade, as demonstrated by the move to Windows 7 or Mac OS X 10.6 only - no earlier versions of Windows are supported. There's a lot that's new, including podcast publishing, improved pitch-shifting and time-stretching, background batch processing, DDP file export for sending to disc-replication facilities and plenty more besides.
Our main criticism with the previous version was its clunky, dated interface, so we're happy to see a thorough redesign this time around. The tabbed docking-panel approach has been done many times before, but this implementation is particularly impressive. Panels slide across the screen to make room as you drag others around, and there are numerous shortcuts for arranging them neatly.
A new Workspaces feature lets you save and recall panel layouts. It could be more streamlined, though, with numerous mouse clicks required to recall a workspace. There are four editing modes - audio file, audio montage, batch processing and podcast - and each has its own set of workspaces. While each of these modes appear to operate independently, certain features such as the Master Section remain linked. There's some sense to this, but it isn't the tidiest approach.
One further workspace type - Control Window - saves and recalls layouts from the software's comprehensive range of metering, analysis and metadata panels. However, the option to launch a Control Window disappears from the main menu when working in Audio File mode.
These interface niggles, along with the sheer volume of panels and toolbar buttons, make it an intimidating application for new users. However, at this price we suspect they'll be willing to confront the steep learning curve in order to enjoy the eventual reward of having so many tools close to hand. Existing users may feel a little lost, too, but there's a well-written PDF document at tinyurl.com/sixtoseven to help you make the transition. Then again, Sound Forge offers much the same set of features and doesn't feel nearly as disparate and complex.
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