Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Syntrillium Cool Edit Pro 2.1

This is the modern world. By the time you read this review, Syntrillium’s multi-track recording software, Cool Edit Pro 2.1, could already be version 2.2, and I might have upgraded without ever having left home. That’s because, like Windows XP, Cool Edit Pro urges you to get online and check for product updates and add-ons at Syntrillium’s Web site. It’s a neat feature, even though it appears updates aren’t all that frequent and that this feature stands in direct conflict with an unwritten rule of computer-based recording: Keep your studio machine off the Internet. Still, it’s a nice feature in an audio-editing software program already loaded with plenty of them.

If you’re familiar with multitracking software applications, from the famous Pro Tools to the not-as-famous Vegas, you know that each works pretty much the same way: You send a signal (or signals) to the computer’s sound card, which turns it into a .WAV file (usually) and stacks a visual representation of it on top of the others you’ve recorded.

Cool Edit Pro lets you record up to 128 tracks-more tracks than even the most ambitious musical schemes will likely require-but this seems a bizarre limitation when many of the program’s competing applications boast an unlimited number of available tracks. Despite that strange inferiority, Cool Edit Pro also offers more than some of the competition at its price point: $249 as a download from syntrillium.com; $279 in a box by mail or at retail. It is both a multitracking application and a .WAV editing platform; you can bounce between the two functions as you work, such as entering the .WAV editing utility to silence a vocalist’s gasp for air, saving the change and jumping straight back to the multitrack side of things, with your changes recognized and playing back over the monitors. Both sides of Cool Edit Pro have effects onboard, from the slightest plate reverb to the wackiest, vertigo-inducing phaser, and additional plug-in effects can be installed later.

What’s most threatening about digital-studio software like this is that they present us with yet another application to learn. I could have spent less time adjusting to Cool Edit Pro if the interface were more like standard Windows-based applications: For example, the scrollbars used to navigate through a tune and its tracks weren’t of the usual Windows design but rather a sleeker kind I suspect Cool Edit’s developers thought were “cool.” Not so much. But after working for hours in the program, I adapted and came to work as quickly and confidently as I do on my beat-to-hell Tascam Portastudio 414 four-track-faster, even, as there’s no time wasted rewinding tape. Just know that it isn’t all that intuitive, especially if you’ve never had a computer-based studio, and that becoming comfortable and efficient in your work will take time and patience-which could be said for any music-editing software I’ve used.

Recording functions and convenience over tape aside, it’s Cool Edit Pro’s capacity as a composing tool that make it a smart choice for creative, improvising musicians who want the convenience of a computer-based studio but who either don’t want or, more likely, don’t need to make the major investment in a full-blown Pro Tools system. While Cool Edit has some MIDI capability (it supports MIDI files and triggering), it’s not a sequencer. For a lot of composers that limitation is a drawback. But the program’s looping features-a bit of functionality no doubt added for dance music producers-present a way to work out your musical ideas without your band, by putting parts together, rearranging them and letting them repeat until you figure out what to play along to them. This is no innovation: Sonic Foundry’s Acid has offered musicians similar possibilities for years, and there are plenty of devices out there that can repeat a groove infinitely for the purpose of working to discover the perfect melody to play atop it. Still, Cool Edit Pro is an inexpensive way in, and it’s a multitracker to boot. The loops you use could be homemade or clips from Syntrillium’s growing mound of royalty-free loops at loopology.com, or from the collections in various musical styles available from Syntrillium on CD.

On top of Cool Edit Pro’s abilities to help you write and record music in stereo, this latest version includes a multichannel encoding feature, meaning a mix can be designed for Surround Sound. Sure, you’ll need a special piece of hardware to encode a disc with this info, and you’d need even more equipment to hear it, but it shouldn’t be long until those are standard household equipment. This is, after all, the modern world. (At the time of publication, Adobe had announced an agreement to acquire Syntrillium’s technology assets, including Cool Edit Pro, which means a name change might be in store.)

Originally Published