is Apple's premier sound design application bundled in Final Cut Studio. Soundtrack
Pro features over 5200 royalty-free audio loops and sound effects that can be put
together in any fashion, tempo, or musical key to create unique musical scores. Plug
in a microphone, MIDI instrument, or other recordable device and add your own sounds
or vocals to the music. You can then take your creation and add any of over 50 customizable
audio effects to parts or even the whole song. Soundtrack Pro is integrated with
Final Cut Pro 5, a video editor included with Final Cut Studio, to enable you to
add your song to your latest film project. Or, take any audio from Final Cut Pro
and import it into Soundtrack Pro. You can edit out any pops, squeaks, airplanes,
or any funky audio that occurred while filming.
$1,299 as part of Final Cut Studio; various upgrading prices are offered. It is not offered
as a standalone product.
- PowerMac G4 or G5
Processor at 450 MHz (for dual processors) or 500 MHz. 733 MHz or faster recommended
- 512 MB of RAM. 1
GB or more recommended
- Mac OS X v10.3.9
or later with QuickTime 7.0 or later
- 8 GB free disk space
required for complete installation
- DVD drive required
for complete installation
Soundtrack Pro is available as an Universal application to those with Intel Macs.
It is available with Final Cut Studio 5.1 or as an Apple "Crossgrade" option.
Universal Soundtrack Pro will run on all current Intel Macs with Mac OS X v10.4.4
I reviewed Soundtrack Pro on a PowerMac G5 with dual processors at 2 GHz, 1 GB of
RAM, and running Mac OS X v10.3.9.
Soundtrack Pro and all of its included content comes on 1 CD and 1 double-layer DVD.
Soundtrack Pro and an additional program, Apple Loops Utility, are installed with
a standard Installer Package on the CD. The DVD contains over 5200 royalty-free audio
loops and sound effects for use with Soundtrack Pro and is also installed with an
Installer Package. After installation, there were 2 updates for Soundtrack Pro via
The first time Soundtrack Pro runs it requires a serial code for activation. The
additional application, Apple Loops Utility, does not require activation.
Soundtrack Pro automatically sets the audio input to the System's default. A different
input can be selected in Soundtrack Pro's preferences. MIDI, USB, and Firewire control
surfaces can also be configured in Soundtrack Pro's preferences.
Soundtrack Pro features an interface common and consistent to Apple's other professional
applications, such as those bundled in Final Cut Studio. This consistency allows
those with previous experience with Apple professional applications to be familiar
with several aspects of the interface. The standard interface layout features the
main project window, a window of 4 tabs that monitor Soundtrack Pro, and a window
of 5 tabs that allow you to add or store content to your project. Soundtrack Pro
comes with 3 different interface layouts that can be chosen under the 'Window->Layouts'
menu. Soundtrack Pro also allows you to arrange and save your own layouts.
Soundtrack Pro Interface
Soundtrack Pro's interface is pretty straightforward. For example, if you need to
monitor or adjust the audio levels during a recording session, you just click the
'Recording' tab. Click the 'Crossfade' button to add a crossfade to one or more audio
files, use the Browser tab to find and use files on your Hard-drive, and so on.
The down side of having crammed so much in to the main interface window is that many
of the applications buttons are too small, making it sometimes difficult to click
the intended button. For example, the Close/Minimize/Expand buttons in Soundtrack
Pro are only 10 pixels by 10 pixels. This is about 1/2 the normal size of these buttons,
and make for a very small target to click.
In most applications with timelines, I click on or near the playhead and drag my
way through the timeline, or click on a spot in the timeline to skip to that particular
spot. In Soundtrack Pro, it works much the same way except for a thin line that splits
the timeline in half. Click above the line and everything works like you would expect.
Click and drag below the line, and instead of moving the playhead, you select that
part of the timeline. When playing through a project, Soundtrack Pro will infinitely
repeat that selected section. I found this difficult to get used to. This is great
when you meant to make a selection, but more often than not, I was doing this on
accident. This may be something that becomes more of a feature than an annoyance
as you grow accustomed to the way it works.
I found that I became quickly familiar with Soundtrack Pro and had a good grasp of
what I could do within a few minutes of use. Typical of an Apple product, Soundtrack
features a simple interface, drag-and-drop, presets, and sensible keyboard shortcuts.
Much of what can be done in Soundtrack Pro needs little or no prior musical/audio
experience. An extensive 311-page PDF manual is included with the installation of
Soundtrack Pro, and covers the basics of Soundtrack Pro, keyboard shortcuts, and
an interesting section on how sound and digital audio work.
The first thing I had wanted to do with Soundtrack Pro was to plug in my new M-Audio
USB Midi keyboard and start composing my own music. I had expected Soundtrack Pro
to work much like Apple Garageband, sort of Garageband's "big brother".
In some ways, Soundtrack Pro is similar to Garageband, but in many ways they are
quite different. While Soundtrack is an excellent sound designer, Garageband gives
more options as far audio creation. Garageband comes with virtual software instruments
that allow me to use my keyboard to synthesize an instrument. Soundtrack Pro lacks
virtual software instruments, so my keyboard was useless as far as an audio device.
I was, however, able to use my keyboard as a control surface in Soundtrack Pro. This
allowed me to assign certain keys and sliders to different actions, such as adjusting
volume or going to the start of the timeline.
In addition to the professional editing features of Soundtrack Pro, Apple also includes
a collection of 5200+ loops and sound effects. Some of my favorite sound loops included
in Soundtrack Pro are the Designer Synth loops, the Modern Rock Guitar loops, and
the always useful Music Bed loops that work great alone or as filler music.
With so many loops at your disposal, Soundtrack Pro provides a 'Search' tab to sort
through the audio files. To find a specific loop or sound effect, you have a few
options. If you know the name of the file or instrument, you can use the search bar
by typing in what you're looking for. Or you can select categories based on groupings
of genre, instruments, or sound effects. Soundtrack Pro also allows you limit your
search on specific tempos or wether its in the minor or major scale. You can preview
the audio file by pressing the spacebar or clicking on the Play arrow. Once you've
found what you're looking for, drag it onto the project window to add it to your
mix. The audio file appears as a green rectangle in the project window. You can then
drag either end of a looping audio file to make it loop as long as you need. Those
familiar with Apple Garageband will feel right at home when doing this with Soundtrack
Searching for Loops
Soundtrack Pro also allows you to create your own loops with Apple Loops Utility.
Open any recording or other audio file in Apple Loops Utility to begin the process.
You can add any information that you want to be included with your loop, such as
the music key your loop will be in, copyright info, genre, and descriptors. Once
finished, you may save your new loop and import it into Soundtrack Pro's collection.
Soundtrack Pro features seamless integration with Final Cut Pro 5, and allows you
to add synchronized music to your latest film project. While I do not own Final Cut
Pro 5, I was able to test many aspects of this integration with Final Cut Express.
After I had edited and exported a section of my film from Final Cut, I was able to
use the Soundtrack Pro 'Browser' tab to find the exported video and drag it to the
project window. I added special effects and loops to the project window and could
align each sound, such as a gun shot, to the exact frame in the video. If I found
that the loops were too loud, I could then adjust their volume accordingly. Once
I had enough gun shots and guitar loops at the right volume, I exported the entire
video file uncompressed, imported that file into Final Cut Express, and replaced
my original, sans-Soundtrack video with the new video. Without Soundtrack Pro, this
process could have taken hours instead of minutes, plus I may have never found acceptable
sound effects and music (which I had no problem finding in Soundtrack Pro). (describe
Adding, Editing and Mixing Loops - Integrating with Video
You can edit any audio file with Soundtrack's built-in audio editor by double-clicking
the audio you want to edit in the project window or by choosing File->Open. The
audio editor allows you to add effects to your sound, such as adjusting the EQ or
adding distortion, or otherwise modify your audio with edits and filters.
When you choose
to edit sound in Soundtrack Pro, Soundtrack Pro presents you with a dialog-box that
allows you to choose whether you want to edit non-destructively or not. Deciding
to edit non-destructively will save a copy of your audio file and edit the copy,
so that the original sound is never modified. Because Soundtrack Pro gives you the
option to edit nondestructively with any audio file, there is no reason to worry
about the original file being changed.
Soundtrack Pro supports the 20 audio effects that come built into Mac OS X (part
of CoreAudio). These effects are also available in Garageband. Soundtrack Pro also
includes an additional 30 audio effects and filters. These range from the swiss-army
knife-like Compressor effect to the Vocal Transformer filter. Most audio effects
and filters come with a list of presets to help you fine-tune your audio.
The audio editor in Soundtrack Pro is very capable, and allowed me to do things I
could not have done before, such as creating music in-sync with my video projects
and editing sound files non-destructively. My favorite feature of the audio editor
is its actions list. Soundtrack records all actions performed on the audio file,
such as adding audio effects or editing the file, and lists them with a check-mark
box next to each. If you end up with a large list of actions and wonder what the
audio would sound like without a certain effect that you added 4 actions before,
simply uncheck the box next to the effect's name. Soundtrack will re-sample the audio
as if the action never took place. If you change your mind, check the box and Soundtrack
will add it back in again.
Editing Audio in Soundtrack Pro
Soundtrack Pro's editor also has the ability to analyze audio for such audio annoyances
as clicks and pops, power line hum, or clipped signals. To use this feature, click
the 'Analysis' tab in the project window, check the boxes of what you want to analyze
for, and click the 'Analyze' button. Soundtrack will find and list each of what it
considered a problem. You can preview each problem by selecting it in the list and
hitting play. To fix a problem, click the 'Fix' button, or click the 'Fix All' button
to fix all found problems.
Other great features in Soundtrack Pro's editor were the 'Ambient Noise Print' feature
and the 'Set Noise Print' feature. By selecting a section of ambient noise in your
audio and choosing 'Set Ambient Noise Print' from the 'Process' menu, you are able
to replace any section of your audio's unwanted noise with ambient noise. You do
this by selecting the unwanted noise and choosing 'Replace with Ambient Noise' from
the 'Process' menu. I found this helpful when taking out off-screen coughs and sneezes
in my film project. However, this does not help if the unwanted noise takes place
during something significant, such as dialog. With Soundtrack you can reduce this
noise with the 'Set Noise Print' feature. Isolate just the unwanted noise in the
audio, select 'Set Noise Print' from the 'Process' menu. Select the section where
you want to reduce the noise and select 'Reduce Noise...' from the 'Process' menu.
Soundtrack presents you with a couple of sliders that allow you to adjust how much
of the audio will be reduced. It is important to notice that the more you reduce
the unwanted noise, the more you will also reduce the "good" audio. With
this method, I was able to take out airplanes from my audio with ease, and still
retain the dialog.
Soundtrack Pro performed exceptionally well during my review. I was blown away on
how fast it was able to render audio. I had several complex effects on different
portions of the audio and it was able to render these in seconds. There was only
one instance when Soundtrack crashed, and it occurred at a point when I had tried
to undo an audio filter.
Soundtrack Pro also includes a mixer with options for working with multiple audio
outputs. While I was not able to work with the mixer on an entire project like I
had with the rest of Soundtrack, I found the mixer to be a great asset to Soundtrack
Pro. The mixer works like any real-life mixer, with sliders to adjust volume and
pan of the audio. By adding multiple audio outputs, you are able to assign certain
audio to different outputs. You can control the outputs in the mixer, which affect
all audio assigned to that output. This would be great if you were to have 1 output
with dialog and another with music, so you could adjust each independently. The mixer
also allows you to assign outputs to different channels. The default output channels
are the 1st and 2nd channels, which creates stereo sound. There is the option to
change outputs to a set of 3 different channels (1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6) to allow
you to create surround sound. You can also create mono sound by selecting to output
from only one channel. Note that in order to export surround sound, you must have
Apple Compressor, a compressing utility that comes with Final Cut Studio.
Soundtrack Pro Mixer
While Soundtrack Pro is designed with professionals in mind, it is so easy to use
that hobbyists like myself could have a lot of fun with it. Below is a short clip
from a project that I created using Soundtrack Pro and Final Cut Express that illustrates
some of the capabilities of the software. I did not spend too much time perfecting
the audio, but in a very short period of time I did significantly improve the sound.
In about an hour, I had filtered out a passing airplane, the director talking off-screen,
and most of the noise from an air conditioner. The music and the sound effects were
also added using Soundtrack Pro. Click the picture below to view the clip.
While Soundtrack Pro
does offer many professional-quality features, Soundtrack Pro is not a replacement
for high-end programs like Logic Pro or DSP-Quattro. For example, recording in
Soundtrack Pro does not allow you to record more than one sound source at a time,
whereas other sound recording apps allow you to record from multiple inputs to different
tracks simultaneously. Soundtrack Pro also has a steep learning curve before you
can get the most out of the program. For just sound editing, for example, Amadeus
II is more intuitive and easier to use.
Given that Soundtrack
Pro is only available as part of Final Cut Studio, that presents a huge price tag
for a consumer who may only be interested in Soundtrack Pro. For someone in that
position, using Amadeus II and Garageband is far more economical. Soundtrack Pro
will appeal to hobbyists and professionals who are interested in Final Cut Studio
and want to be able to edit, record, and design audio along with the other capabilities
Final Cut Studio provides.
My use of Soundtrack Pro is strictly as a hobbyist, but there is another aspect of
Soundtrack Pro that will have great appeal to professionals in sound and video. Soundtrack
Pro provides powerful integration with other Apple pro apps, creating a bridge between
video editing departments and sound editing departments. Because Soundtrack Pro is
so easy to use, it enables an editor to quickly create his concept of what the audio
should sound like and share it with others. Others can then take this concept and
expand on it with their own tools. This allows for a smoother, quicker completion
of video and audio projects.
Pro is a full-featured audio design program that allows a user to create impressive
musical scores and audio for integration with Final Cut Studio, for use with other
applications, or just for fun. Soundtrack Pro ships with over 5200 royalty-free music
loops and sound effects to be used in any way imaginable. To fine-tune your audio,
Soundtrack Pro includes a superb audio editor with over 50 audio effects and filters
to enhance your audio, or to remove audio problems common to recording. I enjoyed
working with Soundtrack Pro (52 different "Impact & Crashes" sound
effects can keep you well occupied), and found that it is a great productivity boost
to my hobbyist film-making workflow. While Soundtrack Pro does not provide every
feature that one might need in a sound editor, it does include some powerful and
unique features for both the professional and consumer markets.
- Interface is straight-forward
and will be familiar to those with experience in Apple's professional applications
- Library of 5200+
royalty-free audio loops and sound effects
- Ability to create
your own loops
- Seamless integration
with Final Cut Studio
- Non-destructive editing
prevents harm to original audio files
- Impressive built-in
- Stable performance
- Is not a stand-alone
program; as part of Final Cut Studio, costs $1,299
- Small annoyances
with interface, such as timeline control
- Does not include
virtual software instruments
- Unable to record
from multiple inputs
4 out of 5 Mice