Whenever I run into a piece of software or hardware that's powerful, easy to use and cost-effective, I become a walking, talking billboard. Such is the case with Syntrillium Software's Cool Edit Pro. This integrated stereo and multitrack (up to 64 stereo tracks) audio editor for the PC is one of the most straightforward, feature-laden Swiss Army knives that I have had the pleasure to use.
FAVE RAVESThe top of my "faves" list in CEP is its ease and speed in defining regions and navigating around in the 2-channel or multichannel waveform views. Defining a region is done by left-clicking and dragging the playbar cursor to the desired position. Right-clicking on a region's start or end boundaries lets you move the in/out points to a new location. Clicking on a Zoom icon lets you zoom in or out, view an entire file, view just the defined region, or jump to the region's start/end boundary points. Clicking again on either the start or end boundary icon will continue to zoom into that location, letting you trim edits with amazing speed and accuracy.
In addition to handling DirectX plug-ins, CEP includes more than 40 native effects for a wide range of processing/mastering needs. My personal picks include a graphic-based dynamics processor that actually lets you click and draw any amplitude curve you want. But I like experimenting with extreme settings that affect the frequency balance in cool ways that seem to defy logic.
FORMATS!For those of you who work in multimedia, CEP can read and write 23 different sound file formats (including Apple's .AIFF and RealNetworks' G2). Beyond .WAV files, I'm most impressed with the 24th format that can be bought from Syntrillium for $29: MP3.
I use the program's Timed Record feature to automatically record my favorite radio program on Saturday nights. When I get home, I simply edit out the news, encode the MP3 in mono 40 kb/s (that's how the music sounded in the '30s and '40s, anyway) and can store 32 hours of music on a CD-R, which would make CEP great for broadcast logging or storing airchecks.
LOOPS, LOOPS, LOOPS...One of the best ways to find a loop's in/out points is the Find Beats function. Manually place the play cursor at a point just before the loop's start point. Then, using the Find Beat Right from the Edit menu, press Play, and 95% of the time the cursor will have jumped to the beginning of the loop. If you've caught an earlier beat, just use Find Beat again. To catch your end point, right-click on the play cursor, drag the region to a point just before the loop's end, then select Find Beat either to the left or right until you're on it. Then, press the Play Loop button and you'll be amazed! It's uncanny how accurate this feature is at grabbing good, clean loop points.
Another helpful tip for defining loops that were recorded from a single source (or those having the same timing reference) is to set the time display readout to samples, instead of time. This works great when I record the various instrument parts from a groove machine into CEP. After defining the first loop and saving it to a directory, I copy the total number of samples (from the time display's sample length window) into the Windows clipboard (Ctrl-C). To make all of the loop times match, simply locate the in point for each loop and paste the number of samples back into the sample length window. The region out point will automatically jump to its proper length, every time. Because all the loops are equal, you can easily drop the various instrument parts into a multitrack session to create a song.