03/08/15 19:00:31

The Sad Hole Soundtrack Pro Left

Soundtrack Pro is not even mentioned on Apple’s webpages anymore by now. And although it is gone from sales, it is still on my hard drive. And I still use it to this day.

Why? Because it had such a good Denoiser, that other tools of similar price and feature rich-ness just couldn’t compete. There were other things where Soundtrack Pro excelled, and I just like to briefly write about them, because I have big big heart, and Soundtrack Pro is gone, and that makes me sad.

Soundtrack Pro was not just an app, its file format had some nifty features up its sleeve. A Soundtrack Pro Audio Project (.stap) was presented to the file system as a flat “.aiff" file, but also had all the editing information in it. What does that mean? Well, basically, you could double-click it, and play the file through QuickTime Player, with all the edits you’ve made, intact. But you could also open the file in Soundtrack Pro again, do more edits, save again, and the flat file would update. And that was seriously cool!

The app saved all (destructive) edits in a “history”. Many modern DAW’s do this now, but Soundtrack Pro was one of the first. Essentially what this does is, it saves edit points and effects, like a reverse, denoise, equalize, etc., to a list. The app would “render” all those edits, on top of an existing audio file. You were able to drag edits above or below others. This means you could do stuff like: “let’s do a filter first, then a bit crush. Oh, no, doesn’t sound good, let’s try it the other way around.” The beauty was that all of that dragging would be rendered to that “flattened” audio file. So if you imported the .stap into a Logic project, you could update the original file, and it would update in Logic.

This all basically changed one thing for the editing process: edits that were once considered destructive, i.e. non-reversible, were all of a sudden reversible. Not only that, but it was also possible to delete them — freely at will. Others caught onto that feature, and Soundtrack lent it from somewhere else, but the way the app implemented it, especially in regards to the operating system and third-party apps was just amazingly beautiful, from a technical perspective.

Soundtrack Pro also had a very nice denoiser. I still use this denoiser to this day. It’s not the most miraculous thing in the world anymore, by a 2015 standpoint of view, but the combination with the non-destructive destructive editedness and this relatively good denoiser makes Soundtrack Pro the weapon of choice for me. STP is a great pick, because when later in the process I realize that something gets compressed so heavily that suddenly the denoise artifacts are audible, I can simply re-edit and export and everything’s fine. The power of STP really shows up when used as external editor. That’s why the app was Logic’s external editor by default. And it made sense, by the time…

As you can read from my words, I’m a little sad that Soundtrack Pro has vanished. It was the app to use for podcasts. It was able to export “enhanced” podcasts, with chapter markers. It was a full blown surround mixer for movies. It had so many good things. But… I think what caused Soundtrack Pro’s inevitable death was that users didn’t grok how it worked. I think sound folks don’t get how computers work. I can tell from the work that I’ve done in the past, with students, that’s true. Users didn’t get that the same file you clicked on in the Finder would be able to play in QuickTime, but also would be the same thing that contained all the editing information. I think that some other concepts were also incomprehensible. Soundtrack Pro also crashed, a lot. And I mean a lot. You had to know its quirks to know what kind of steps to do in which order to make it not crash. Once you’ve figured it out, though, it was fine.1

Man, and all I did was look at the icon.

  1. Still stupidly annoying to reverse a two hour edit.