Magix’s audio cleaning software is designed to freshen up the sound from your old records and tapes (or, for that matter, any sound file). It’s been a few years since we looked at the program – it was the 2004 version we last reviewed – so it’s interesting to see the changes that have been made.
One definite negative is the fact that we’re forced to start yet another review of a Magix product with a moan about the installation process. This installs two extra programs (a photo and music manager) without asking for user permission, and while these might well be useful to some folks, we didn’t want them on our hard drive. Nevertheless, they were loaded onto it. Never mind a clean record, we probably sound like a stuck one, but we’re going to keep whinging about this until the company stops doing it.
Right, let’s get on to some more positive news. The interface is certainly much neater and snazzier-looking now, although the basic cleaning process remains the same, consisting of three steps: import, edit, export.
The package includes a phono lead and adapter, so the user can plug his or her stereo straight into the sound card’s line in port and import music directly. A new feature for Audio Lab 12 is universal recording, which basically means you can record anything going through your sound card, whether that’s a record player, a Net radio station or the theme from a Web site. There’s no configuration necessary; it’s all done automatically when the record button is pressed.
Once you’ve got a source file, the editing suite is divided into two halves; cleaning and mastering. The cleaning process utilises a bank of five sliders which get rid of pops and crackles, white noise, humming and pretty much any sort of interference.
The DeClipper is a new slider that has been introduced, and this can be used to correct saturated and distorted music. It’s a useful addition to the cleaning library, and some judicious fiddling with these sliders can improve the quality of a poor recording noticeably.
After you’ve toned down any unwelcome noises, the mastering suite lets you play with a graphic equaliser and compressor effects. This section is particularly useful for making weedy and quieter recordings sound more substantial. A word of caution though – it’s easy to overdo the bass when trying to liven up a softly recorded song.
Overall, the end results are generally pretty impressive, although the program struggles with extremely poor sources (don’t expect miracles). One-click wizards are available to completely automate the cleaning and mastering processes, but we found these didn’t produce as good results as manually tweaking the sliders using our own judgement.
Other new features for version 12 include the facility to blend voiceovers with background music, and also to create and upload podcasts to the Magix online album (you can register for a free account which has 500MB of storage).
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