ACID Pro vs. Sound Forge

by Craig Anderton

How to decide which application is right for you

ACID Pro and Sound Forge software both deal with digital audio and have several features in common, so perhaps it's not surprising that people just getting into music software wonder why they should choose one over the other. So, let's find out.

The biggest difference is that Sony ACID Pro software is designed to create complete musical productions from the ground up, using any combination of audio, virtual instruments (plug-ins), and MIDI. Sony Sound Forge software is optimized to edit existing pieces of audio, whether narration, sound effects, a finished stereo recording of a band, surround video soundtrack, etc. There is some crossover, as you can record into Sound Forge software and edit in ACID Pro software. But in both cases, they do so with less sophistication than the other program.

Figure 1

Sound Forge software (left) can zoom in on a waveform down to individual samples, and includes several file repair and restoration tools. ACID Pro software (right) lets you build up complete musical compositions, a track at a time, and mix them into a final result.

Consider navigation: With Sound Forge software, it's optimized to get you around a file quickly, and to compare different parts of a file. One of my favorite Sound Forge navigation shortcuts is when cutting part of a file—if you select the region to be cut, then hit Ctrl-K, Sound Forge will play from before the cut part, ignore the cut part, then pick up instantly at the end of the cut. This lets you know how the file will sound when the part is cut "for real." With ACID Pro software, navigation is all about getting around the project fast—moving effortlessly from one verse to the next, or jumping to the solo.

Why not just add features to ACID Pro until it can do what Sound Forge software does? It's not that simple. Sound Forge software provides really precise editing, so a lot of computational effort goes into generating extremely accurate graphic waveform representations. On the other hand ACID Pro software may contain 20, 40, or even more tracks. Multiply the effort to create a highly accurate waveform graphic by 40, and you're spending a lot of computer power on graphics. What's far more important is to spend that power on plug-ins and virtual instruments, as you'll likely be using quite a few of them in a project with so many tracks.

Another difference is file translation. ACID Pro software can import and export several formats, but as it mostly creates music from scratch, the emphasis is on making it easy to record tracks into a project. Sound Forge software may be editing audio generated on a Mac, from an MP3, the soundtrack from a WMV movie, etc. As a result, it can import and export just about every known file format—you can even take a file generated on a 1987 Amiga computer and clean it up in Sound Forge software.

Speaking of cleaning up, Sound Forge software includes Noise Reduction and various analysis tools, and excels at repairing and restoring files. With ACID Pro software, because you're recording tracks into a project, you can "get it right the first time." (If you're recording tracks into ACID Pro software that need to be repaired, then you need to look at your recording process!)

There are other differences too—but if you have any doubts as to which is right for you, there's a definitive answer: Trial versions are available for download so you can experience both, and decide which one best meets your needs.

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