Sony Acid Music Studio 9 review
Higher quality and more polished recordings than before, but the ease of use runs only skin deep
The Acid Pro was a revelation when it first appeared in 1998. It rejected the virtual hardware concept that dominated music-production software at the time, and presented a set of tools that played to software's strengths. It automatically matched the tempo and key of samples, letting users throw arrangements together at breakneck speed. Tracks to record appeared automatically as soon as you hit record, and mixer controls were integrated into the track headers.
Acid Pro 7 is still an accomplished application, but after a gradual cross-pollination of ideas, it has more similarities than differences to Cubase and Sonar. However, the cut-price Acid Music Studio is closer in spirit to the original release. It has also expanded in scope but its fast, intuitive operation is especially welcome in a low-cost package.
This update removes the 16-bit, 48kHz limitation that made previous versions unable to exploit the full potential of high-quality audio interfaces. Recordings are now made up to 24-bit and 192kHz, audio hardware permitting. It took us a while to find these options, though, as they're undocumented in the Help section and tucked away behind a tab in the Project Properties. By default, the software still runs at 16-bit and 41kHz.
Another major development is automation for VST effects and virtual instruments. Previous versions supported envelopes for the volume and pan on each channel, but it's now possible to draw envelopes with the mouse for virtually any parameter. Oddly, the bundled Acid FX plugin doesn't support automation, so you'll need to install VST equivalents to use the feature.
Automation isn't in keeping with the immediacy for which Acid is known. It must be enabled for each parameter in a pop-up window that casual users may never find. It isn't possible to add automation simply by recording fader and knob movements - you have to draw them as envelopes. Confusingly, it's possible to adjust the controls for parameters that have been automated, but they jump back to the automated values when playback is resumed.
New Folder Tracks are used to pack tracks into folders and sub-folders to tidy up the arrange panel. These folders can still be moved around but their behaviour is unwieldy and could cause problems.
An easier way to move large chunks of music around is by using the new Sections feature. A Section is a vertical stack of audio and MIDI objects, which is given a name, and can be dragged left and right to perform quick rearrangements. Other parts of the project shuffle along to close gaps or make space, similar to ripple editing in video-editing software. It feels a little strange in this context but it has its uses.
|Price ex VAT||£32|
|Price inc VAT||£38|
|Ease of Use rating||3|
|Features & Design||3|
|Value for Money||4|
|Software subcategory||Audio production software|