Amadeus II 3.7.2, by Hairersoft
Posted: 9-May-2004

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Hairersoft Type: SHAREWARE

Reviewer: Bill Teawell Class: MULTIMEDIA
     
$10 Upgrade User Perspective Download

Overview
Amadeus II, by Hairersoft, is an amazing piece of software designed to record, analyze, edit and even create sound recordings. It can handle one or two channels, stereo or mono, 16 or 24-bit, and a variable range of sampling frequencies.

Requirements
Amadeus II will run on 8.6, 9.x with CarbonLib 1.5 or higher, and OSX. For systems other than OSX, Martin Hairer (the programmer) recommends at least 20MB of RAM. There is no minimum CPU specification, although I can't see running this on anything less than a G4 (or high-end G3).

Setup
Amadeus II is shareware that can be downloaded from either
Hairersoft or VersionTracker. Unstuff it and copy the package to anywhere on your hard drive. Then, as they say in the record business, you are ready to "Rock 'n' Roll".

In Use
My need was to convert old cassette tapes and vinyl records to a digital format for storage on my computer and transfer to CD. I wanted a way to record, clean-up, edit, and save in a digital format. I wasn't going to spend a lot of money since this basically was going to be a "one time" thing. So that ruled out Bias Peak (either full or the lite version) or SoundEdit, or any other multi-track professional level sound recording/mixing piece of software. I had found freeware program - Coaster - but wasn't impressed or happy with it. When I went searching for SoundDesigner II on Google, after paging through 10 pages without finding the developer page (SoundDesigner II is not listed on VersionTracker), I gave up. In my search for SoundDesigner II, I did find many references to Amadeus II. I forget exactly which version I originally purchased, for a paltry $25US, but I installed in OS 9 on an old 9500 with a G3 upgrade card. The current version is 3.7.1 ($30US), and my current machine of choice is a PowerMac dual 1.25Ghz G4 with 1.25G of RAM, and two 120GB drives in simple RAID. I have a tape deck sending the signal via line-out RCA plugs into the "input" mini plug on the back of the PowerMac. A turntable can be interfaced the same way, but will probably require a pre-amp.

Launching Amadeus II opens an empty Sound document window with a set of menus and a navigation palette. On the Navigator Palette, just press the red "Rec" button to open the "Record Sound" dialog box. The Record Sound dialog provides three tabs for Record, Input, and File. The Record options includes the device buttons for performing the actual recording, including gain sliders for left and right channels, and an "alarm" button for scheduling a recording. The Input options let you set the driver for your recording device (e.g., CoreAudio or SoundManager, etc.). This is also where you would click on "Playthrough" to have the input always on. The File options let you specify a filename and format to save the raw recording, if desired (otherwise it's just kept in a temporary file and displayed in the sound document window). Typically you would just let Amadeus use the scratch disk to save the working file, and then use the Save menu option to save the final processed audio. However, you may wish to use the real-time save just in case something goes wrong while you are working with the audio (that way, you can re-open the raw audio file without having to re-record). Formats for real-time output include AIFF, Quicktime, AVI, µLaw, MP3, and others. For my tests, I did not make any changes in either the "Input" or "File" section, except to make sure the "Playthrough" checkbox is checked. The documentation indicated that using the real-time output option may crash your system due to heavy disk activity. Finally, in the Record options, click on the "Rec" button to begin recording.

Amadeus II does not control your external devices, so you need to ensure that your recording device is connected and started when recording. Before recording, I usually start the tape deck and monitor the sound for a few seconds. I use the two gain sliders to refine the gain for each channel. By default, they are linked; hence, they both slide the same for both channels. You can click on the link icon to unlink them and set them separately as well. There are also two LED bars that change from green to yellow to red depending on the intensity of the sound. This let's you determine the optimal gain settings to use. I then stop the tape, rewind, start the tape deck again, and press the record button. I record a complete tape (or vinyl) at once. I use the "Pause" button for when I have to turn over the tape cassette (or vinyl).

There are a few interface issues with the Record Sound dialog box. The gain sliders, when linked, slide together when you click on either one and drag it, as expected. However, if you click on one of the slider bars to cause the slide control to jump there, only the slide control in that channel jumps (the slide control in the other channel does not move, which is not expected behavior). NOTE: With version 3.7.2, the above and other slider issue bugs have been fixed.

Also, if using the schedule, once the schedule is set, you need to click on the pulsating "OK" button to activate the timer (this is unclear). Subsequent clicks on the OK button do nothing while the timer is counting down. It's not immediately obvious, but once a recording has been performed, the OK button is what tells Amadeus to take the recording and place it in the sound document window.
If there is a insertion point within the current document, the newly recorded sound will be inserted into the current document at that point. However, if there is no insertion point, then the new recording will overwrite the previous recording without a warning. This could be disastrous if you spent time and effort editing the previous recording and have not yet saved it. The best way to avoid this is to use the "Record to new file ..." menu item under the "Sound" menu.

In addition to live recordings, Amadeus II can open several formats, including AIFF, WAVE, MP3, MP4 (ACC encoded), SoundDesigner II, Ogg Vorbis, and even System 9 sound files. It also includes options for importing Raw Data and importing Dual Mono. I didn't get the chance to explore the Raw Data import option, but I did attempt to do a dual mono import (taking one sound into the left channel and another into the right channel). Unfortunately, I could not find any sounds files on my hard disk that Amadeus would recognize for this function. Amadeus did allow me to choose files (such as System 9 sound files), but choosing the item produces a "This file format is not supported" error.

NOTE: Quicktime 6.5.1 broke the capability to open (or import) ACC Protected files; however, there are ways around this issue using Audio Hijack, Wiretap, or JackTools.

Amadeus II sports a Mac OS X savvy interface, with window widgets and menu options, including an Undo/Redo option. Multiple Undo's are allowed up to a limit set in the Preferences. It includes a crop function, as well as a "Clipboards" submenu that lets you copy and paste from a multiple number of scraps (Amadeus II keeps up to three scrap paste buffers).

The "Selection" menu allows you to utilize the selection modifier functions in Amadeus II, such as extending the selection, zooming, splitting, joining, and managing marks. These functions act on the current audio selection (whether it be a portion of the clip, the entire clip, single or both channels). To start a selection simply click and drag in the lower portion of the Sound Window and a high-lighted selection is created (or you can just do a Select-All). By default, clicking and dragging highlights both channels at once, but you can select just the single channel by holding down the option key and clicking onto the channel.

The "Sound" menu provides the standard navigation functions, including variations on Play. If there is a current selection, only the selection will be played, otherwise the entire document will be played from the beginning. Pressing the SpaceBar is a nice shortcut for choosing to play. The "Play from Insertion" starts playing from the insertion point (which can be set using a mouse click), and it uses the Tab key as a shortcut.

The "Effects" menu is the heart of Amadeus II. Once I have captured a sound (using the example of a complete album), usually the the first thing I do is suppress any background noise. First select a piece of the sound that you think only contains noise. I usually select a section at the beginning or end of the recording. Then open the "Denoising" menu item and select the "Sample Noise" submenu. Then select the entire recording, re-open the Denoising menu item, and choose the "Suppress Noise" submenu. There are other functions in the Denoising menu that can be used to remove unwanted sounds, but they require a more extensive knowledge of signals analysis.

After denoising, I use the Sound Repair submenu to repair the audio. This function attempts to repair "cracks" in the recording (including spikes in the signal). This function can be accomplished manually or automatically. The manual method requires the user to manually search the waveform, make a very small selection surrounding the crack, then open the "Sound Repair" menu item, select "Open Repair Centre" submenu, then click the "Repair" button. You can compare the the results by using the "Preview Original" and "Preview Repaired" buttons. There are two other buttons that speed-up the repair process: "Find Next" automatically searches for the next crack, and "Repair All" finds and repairs all cracks. Depending on the the CPU and the condition of the sound recording, repairing can take some time. It is also one of the few functions that cannot be "Undone" with the "Edit" menu. The "Options" button allows the algorithm to be adjusted, but I just leave it in the default settings.

After denoising and repairing, I go back to the Selection menu to separate the songs on the tape or album. To break-up the recording into individual songs (or segments) I first use the "Generate Marks ..." Make sure the "search for silences" radio button is checked. The parameters for what constitutes silence can be changed, but I found the default settings to work fine. User defined text can be placed in the Text box and will be used in the marker name. Click "OK" to close the dialog box and markers will be placed in the recording wherever silence is detected. Sometimes markers are placed in pauses rather than song breaks, but you can easily remove these markers by clicking on them and selecting "Delete".

A really nice feature of Amadeus, especially with long recordings, is the "Show Whole Sound" option. By clicking on the triangle in the upper left, you can have the full length of the recording displayed in one window, with a selection box around the area that is currently displayed in the left and right channels. By using the mouse to slide the box, the working areas automatically scroll as the box is moved.

For processing albums, once I have the marks all in the correct places, I use the function "Split According to Marks" to split the recording into individual segments (songs). Selecting this menu item opens a standard save dialog box. The save prompt is somewhat confusing because what is really being created is a folder that you name in the "Save as" box, into which Amadeus II will place the segments. Each song will be labeled with the text entered in the "Generate Marks ..." text dialog box followed by a two digit number starting with 00. There is an "add extension" checkbox as well as a drop-down menu for selecting the file format. Important note is to NOT save your file(s) in any other format that AIFF until you are completely finished. The default is AIFF.

Once the individual songs have been created (segmented), I open each one separately and do the final tweaking. I trim any excess silence or "run-on" by selecting the section I want to trim and selecting "Clear" from the Edit menu. I then use either the "Fade in" or "Fade out" submenu options to smooth out the starts and ends. The "Amplify" option allows the volume to be changed by either a percentage or specific dB level. My favorite new feature of Amadeus II version 3.7.1 is the collection of 3, 5, and 10-band equalizers, much like iTunes, and RIAA Compensation filters (specifically for vinyl). These equalizers can be found under the Filters submenu (under Effects).

Once I have recorded an album, cleaned it up, cut it into songs, and tweaked each song, I then save the songs in their final MP3 format. Amadeus supports AIFF, AVI, WAVE, MP3, Quicktime Movie (MP4), SoundDesigner II, Ogg Vorbis, uLaw and others.

If you want to have some fun, try either the "Echo" or "Change Pitch and Speed" menu items. "Echo" allows you to apply a delay (echo) resembling either a stadium or mountain effect. With this filter, you can take a studio recording and make it sound like a "live" recording. "Change Pitch and Speed" let you create your own "Alvin and the Chipmunks" recordings. Many of the effect dialog boxes allow you to preview the effect (providing your CPU can handle the extra horsepower required). Two other "advanced" features of Amadeus II, that of "VST Plug-in" support and the "Analyze" menus are not covered in this review. These functions are reserved for someone more versed in signal analysis and sound engineering.

Support
Support by the programmer, Martin Hairer, has been outstanding. I have written him on several occasions, either asking questions or pointing out problems. He has always been responsive and helpful. He also moderates the Amadeus II group at Yahoo.

Summary
Amadeus II is a two channel sound recording, editing, and generation program that met my needs, and exceeded my expectations. I would highly recommend it to anyone seeking to convert old tapes and records to a digital format. If you have better knowledge of audio signals, then you'll discover many more features in Amadeus II that were beyond my understanding. The 16-page PDF documentation is minimal, and I really could have used better documentation to make better use of the software. If you already have a good understanding sound engineering and signal technology, the documentation may be adequate; however, if you're like me, some of the explanations of the more esoteric functions will be lost. Even with my limited understanding, I was able to use Amadeus II for everything that I needed to do to convert, edit and save my audio recordings. I highly recommend this title to anyone with audio recording or editing needs.

Pros

  • Excellent tool for converting old analog tapes and vinyls
  • Multiple undo's
  • Extensive support for sound markers
  • Fades, transitions, echo, change pitch and speed, sound repair and denoising functions
  • Support for the several formats, including AAC
  • Easy workspace navigation

Cons

  • Some interface anomalies
  • Poor documentation

Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice