Spectralayers Pro for OS X review

Sections: Audio / Video, Mac Software, Reviews

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Provides: Sound editing/manipulation
Developer: Sony
Minimum Requirements: Mac OS X 10.6+, Intel dual-core processor (quad-core processor recommended), 2 GB RAM, 2 GB of free hard disk space (for temporary files), OpenGL 2.1 compatible graphics card with 256MB, 1280×720 display resolution, CoreAudio-compatible audio hardware
Price: $374.95
Availability: Now
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Of all the aspects of making a video, dealing without sound continues to be the most mysterious to me. I can grasp video, contrast, color correction, special effects, etc., but point me at a waveform and I start to shake, especially when it comes to eliminating or reducing a specific sound from a cacophony. Spectralayers Pro, new from Sony Creative Software, is a new piece of professional sound manipulation software that works in a different way to let you visualize and alter sound.

Spectralayers Pro

Rather than presenting the sound as a waveform, Spectralayers gives it to you as a frequency graph. This makes it somewhat easier to see different sounds, especially if they have a strong pitch. Why is this significant? Because Spectralayers includes a tool to let you highlight specific frequencies and copy them to another layer. Once you have the sound in its layer, you can adjust it or pull it out to its own file.

The really neat trick is that you haven’t removed the audio from the original file, but you can reverse the layer so that it cancels out the sound in the base layer without static. 

By adjusting the brightness and contrast of the image, you can see (and capture) fainter parts of the sound you’re trying to isolate. You can also shift the frequency graph into 3D to better visualize the sounds, and hunt down the one you’re looking for.

The purpose of Spectralayers Pro isn’t to edit audio—that is, chop and transition—but to enhance or suppress certain sections. While I found its new method to be innovative, in practice it was difficult to easily isolate a sound if there was too much noise; trying to eliminate laughter from a live performance of a song, for instance, was difficult because there wasn’t enough of a difference between the sound of the laughter and the music to make it easy to isolate. But if you have cleaner audio, say from a film where two people are talking outside and a plane goes by, ruining your take, Spectralayers works well to help you find and surpress those key elements.

Who needs Spectralayers? This isn’t an app for amateurs or even prosumers, but audio professionals who need to do precise tweaking and enhancement—the kind of people who love to get their hands dirty with audio, hunting down the peaks and valleys of a particular frequency to produce clearer sound. Those people will love having this new tool in their box.

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