It’s not often that a manufacturer gets to claim responsibility for an entire genre of music and when they can, it’s usually by accident. The classic example is Roland, without whose 303 and 909 there would have been no Acid House…or trance…
Of course that was back in the day, since when, dance music has moved on and massive as it is right now, there’s something even more massive and that’s bootlegs aka mash ups aka bastard pop. In fact, Mash ups are such big news lately, that if you haven’t heard about them, chances are you’ve spent the last couple of years with your head buried in the sand…on Mars.
In a nutshell mash ups do what they say on the tin, that is, two or more songs are mashed up together to form a new one. Usually it’s the acappella vocal from one track fused with the instrumental from another.
When remixers (who shall remain nameless) first started releasing Mash ups, it was as illegal bootleg white labels (hence the term bootleg) and record companies weren’t happy (when are they?). However they quickly cottoned on to the fact that there were some great bootlegs around that people were willing to pay good money for and soon the whole thing went overground and straight into the charts.
At the time, most bootleggers were using two pieces of software. Sonic Foundry’s Sound Forge to extract acappellas and instrumentals from the original tracks and Sonic Foundry’s Acid to mash up the results.
Like the 303 & 909 before it, when Acid was conceived and produced, it was not with the intention of creating a whole new musical genre. Essentially, Acid was a loop manipulation tool that let you change the pitch of a samples, without changing their tempo (or visa versa). Not a new idea…you could do it with samplers, but it meant spending ages in front of a tiny LCD display and the results could be bit hit or miss. So when Acid came on the scene and enabled you to do this almost instantaneously and with consistent results, it was evolution, revolution and revelation all rolled into one. In fact, it became such a big hit that Sony Media ended up buying the company.
Over the past couple of years pretty much every major professional sequencing package has added Acid style loop manipulation to their list of features, despite which Acid has kept a loyal following (especially amongst bootleggers). Now with the release of Acid 5 Pro, Sony are turning the tables by adding much of the audio and midi functionality found in other sequencers.
The list of new features is impressive and includes: Improved audio time stretching and beat detection (no less than 19 user definable time stretch modes), groove mapping quantization tools with groove cloning, a customizable user interface that includes nestable folder tracks and customizable project media folders, VST & Direct X effects support, VSTi soft synth support, a bypass all effects command, an audio plug-in manager, bus-to-bus routing for complex submixes, automation, real-time track reverse, a metronome for playback and record , rewire support (as a mixer and as a device), a media manager, Flash (.swf ) file format import and Integrated disc-at-once CD burning.
So does Acid sound as good as it…sounds? Well with 24/192 resolution Acid certainly sounds good and for what is, lets face it, a major upgrade, it also seems to be remarkably stable. As you might expect, it is also very good at manipulating audio without introducing glitching or artifacts.
However, not everything is sweetness and light. For example, the beat mapper can be very hit and miss (as opposed to hit and hit). When it works, which to be fair is the majority of the time, it’s pretty much spot on and makes working with imported audio a breeze. But when it doesn’t (most frequently on acappellas) Acid lacks the finesse to be able to adjust audio to the extent that is necessary, making the days of creating loops with an Atari ST and an S1000 seem easy by comparison. The media manager, which allows you to assign tags to your catalogue of samples for easy searching is a great idea in theory, but if you have more than a couple of hundred, where are you going to find the time?…added to which the media manager is dependent upon Microsoft SQL Server (which places an unnecessary burden on system resources)…it’s bad enough having to use windows as it is, without having to rely on yet more of Microsoft’s garbageware! And while the supplied effects do the job, they are just square pop up boxes with basic sliders for parameters and look amateurish compared to even the most cheap and basic of third party FX plug ins (but if you already have or plan to get third party plug ins, then who cares). Also, while some elements of the user interface are very cleverly simply and economically designed, this is spoiled by others which appear in tiny non expandable windows typical of…windows (the Beatmapper being a case in point).
However, these are, for the most part, niggles, rather than serious failings. Acid Pro 5.0 is a major leap forward in terms of design, functionality and stability that, for the first time, takes it out of the bedroom and into the studio and while it’s far from being a fully mature package that can compete head on with the likes of Logic, Cubase, Sonar etc., it goes a long way towards what appears to be that goal.
For anyone who is currently an Acid user, this is a must have upgrade. For anyone wanting to get in on the bootlegging act, Acid is still the tool of choice and merits serious consideration for anyone looking for a loop based midi sequencing package at an affordable price. For those whose work revolves around sequencing and/or audio mutitracking this is probably not for you, especially if your software of choice already offers similar audio loop manipulation technology, however, you may still want to download the demo version from here and make up your own mind.
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