With the economy fluctuating, software companies folding and products disappearing — this constant flux of life we're all caught up in — it's nice to feel like there is some stability in our lives. Peak from BIAS Inc. (short for Berkeley Integrated Audio Software) is a tool I have used regularly in the studio ever since I started producing music on a Mac. It might not be the most glamorous program in town, but like an old friend, its familiar and useful features have made it an application I return to day-in and day-out to get the job done. BIAS continues to push the program forward, adding support for OS X and cool new features like Vbox.
There are lots of software programs to convert audio CD tracks into audio files. Even QuickTime does it, albeit really slowly. The problem with many of these programs is that you can only convert one track at a time and you must take the entire track, even if you only want a short excerpt. Converting a five-minute track when you only need the first 10 seconds is a serious waste of time and hard drive space, especially when you have a ton of tracks to extract.
The Import CD Audio command is perfect for sound designers who need to pull in multiple tracks from a sound effects CD, or the music lover intent on archiving a CD collection to an iMac. With Peak's Import CD Audio command, you can convert several tracks from a single CD to audio files simultaneously. A Set Import Times button, found in the Import CD Audio dialog, lets you audition each track and set the exact section you want to import. Each track of the CD can have its own start/end import times. While you are importing tracks, you can also convert to a lower sampling rate or bit depth, or change to mono. Audio fidelity can be knocked all the way down to 8-bit/11.025 kHz for a really dirty sound.
A good batch-processing application is one of those indispensable tools that every studio needs to keep handy. The last thing any engineer wants to do is sit there processing a file at a time, especially when a wash of several effects need to be applied to a stack of files.
Peak's Batch File Processor is a snap to operate. You can set the order and types of processing you want applied, and each effect can be individually tweaked. All of the standard processing is available: convert sample rate, normalize, stereo-to-mono, remove DC offset and the like. There are also lots of interesting options such as Add to merge the contents of your clipboard, and Rappify to mix in a filtered modulation effect. If you create a long and complex batch-processing script, it can be conveniently saved.
With Batch Processor enabled, you can drag-and-drop an entire folder of audio files on Peak's program icon to begin processing. This is sweet because, instead of arduously selecting one file at a time for processing, once Batch Processor is set up, there's no need to return to its window except to turn it off. And it is important to remember to disable Batch Processor when you're done; otherwise, Peak will want to batch-process every file it opens.
Peak isn't only a utilitarian program — it has a glamorous side. It's long been an application well-suited to sound design, warping waveforms with its own set of unique file-based effects algorithms, and it also supports VST effects. In fact, it comes with a gaggle of stock VST plug-ins. Now with the inclusion of Vbox SE, the light version of BIAS' unique Vbox effects matrix software, Peak's sound-design capabilities have jumped up several notches.
Vbox SE allows a matrix of up to 99×99 VST plug-ins to be linked together in series or parallel to construct custom effects chains. The only limit to your processing power is what your computer can handle. Once you have cooked up a processing chain that you like, a Bounce command lets you write the effect to your sound file. Vbox SE patches can be saved for instant recall, making this app a wonderfully powerful addition to Peak's sound-design capabilities.
Visit Erik Hawkins' indie co-op label atwww.muzicali.comand check out his popular virtual studio recording book, Studio-in-a-Box (Artist Pro/Hal Leonard).