10 best applications for Sample Creators, Audio Engineers and Music Producers
The top applications to speed up your audio editing, processing and managing of large amounts of audio files. Apps to help sample producers, mixing engineers and/or all-round sound tinkerers to create an efficient workflow.
While DAW:s make it easy to handle arrangements of songs and create complex edits of your recorded audio, they do not handle the editing or processing of large sets of sound files. Anyone who has ever tried to get large amounts of editing done, past simple import based file conversion, a change in bit-depth or sample rate, has probably noticed the lack of functionality. A DAW is simply not built for this purpose. It handles the edit of wave-forms and arrangement of sound recordings, pitch shifting through plugins or even complex manual edits. But what if you had around 2500 sound files that all needed a certain shift in pitch? Just a nudge upwards of about 10 cents, then perhaps a change in pitch formant to counteract the …
Well, now we need a more specific tool, that also handles large sets of files, a batch processing tool, or audio batch processor.
A batch processing tool is usually an application (or a small part of a larger app) that either converts audio formats or lets you apply a number of processes on each audio file. Some just do the conversion, but they may be just as important as the ones that applies plugins or effects to your sound. Certain formats that are needed for certain applications or sampler formats may not be so easy to convert to or from. Also, if a format is supported, the specificity of which parameters apply, like what bit-depth is used, can often be lacking. Here is a list of batch audio editors and tools that do certain pieces of the whole cake, so you can use each tool with maximum rendered quality and efficiency in your work.
Audio Batch Processing and Editing Tools
iZotope RX — Swiss army knife of deep audio editing and batch processing
This app has been around for many years now and is one of the best audio post processing tools around. It has a mixed overlay of waveform and spectral view and makes it a very easy task to localize and delete unwanted sounds. You can select and edit with selection tools much like in Photoshop. It´s a visual app that has a swiss army style set of narrow tools to precisely pin point the type of edit you want to make, exactly in the range of frequencies and time frame of your choice. Completely not like your DAW. The batch processor can be used with all the tools available in single-edit work, plus it has a competent re-naming section and supports plugins as one or more of the processing steps. A must-have for anyone looking to make their work more precise and efficient.
Sound Forge is both an audio editor, DAW and a batch processing application for lots of different types of audio work. It´s been around for a long time and is loved by many producers, recording and mixing engineers.
Through the “Batch Converter” window you can add multiple files or folders and apply both conversion and plugin-chains to them.
Through Magix´s forensic editing software, SpectraLayers Pro, you can edit your files in much the same way as you would in iZotope´s RX software. These two are the best and most advanced pieces of software when it comes to getting into advanced frequency based work that take on a more CSI:ish form. You know, the black screen in the background with green or blue hacker-style graphics that no-one ever saw in reality, except for iZotope users, that is.
Magix SpectraLayers Pro takes a very deep and advanced approach to audio editing. In this application stairing at waveforms is the last thing you will do. Instead you will be working with spectral analysis graphics (indeed CSI background material :) and looking straight at a sound and all it´s over- and undertones and edit them in much more intuitive ways than you would in any DAW. In SpectraLayers you will see your sound, like in a photo in Photoshop.
Myriad by Aurchitect (formerly Audiofile Engineering)
(Same basic functionality as the now discontinued Sample Manager)
This app is the best addition to audio file batch processing on the market. With a simple interface you can add any number of file edits from the large number of actions available. Anything from audio file conversion to cutting out 2 seconds of the end, to normalizing, compressing and limiting can be done all in one go or in different groups. Also renaming can be done entirely in this app at any stage, also file saving to new versions.
Let´s say that you want to create different versions of the same edits, then rename them and save them to different folders. Given that your work now contains several hundreds or thousands of files, this becomes complicated and time consuming.
With Myriad, you add the files to a folder or group, add your first edit and then add a save to new files action. Then you do the same right after, to another edit and new folder. Press the button and they are all edited in one go. If you have thousands of files, have a coffee brake and come back and listen.
Myriad has many tools indeed, but some of the best audio normalizing tools around. For sample producers, the ability to RMS-level normalize as a group or individually is very useful. You can first normalize the files in relation to each other, then right after that set a level for the whole group. Either by RMS, Peak (dbFS) or by LU. Loudness unit defaults can be set in the preferences. The only thing that is lacking from my own perspective is being able to set a certain interval for the RMS analyzation, like the “Meta Normalizer” batch tool in Steinberg WaveLab. That really shines when normalizing peaks that have a large difference in loudness. Peak is sometimes not useful when normalizing certain sample types, like piano notes or Rhodes samples.
Steinberg Wavelab — mastering software with great batch tools
While the main feature in Wavelab is to edit audio in an individual fashion, like you would in any DAW, the application has always been popular with mastering houses as it contains many tools for loudness adjustment.
The finest part of the application for any sample producer is it´s batch processor. With a multitude of normalization and leveling plugins it does most of what other apps do not. And has done this for a long time. I mentioned the “Meta Normalizer” above and it does something most other RMS / Peak normlizer tools don´t, namely to give the user the ability to define an interval from the start of the file from which to calculate the RMS level (the average sound level). This is immensely useful for leveling out the differences between keys, notes or recordings.
While we got the topic close at hand, also have a look at our post regarding the differences between audio compression, normalization and leveling ->
Audacity — Free Audio Editor for PC & Mac
(Honorary mention — the open source cross-platform audio editor)
The above mentioned applications are all professional grade and do cost a bit to buy. For the audio professional on a budget, or at least when it comes to these automatable functions, Audacity (available and developed as open source software for Windows, Linux and MacOS) is a great tool for many jobs. In regards to audio batch processing I put down some good links below to get you started. Normalizing (currently only Peak), compression, limiting, volume/gain changes, fade-in / -out operations can all be done through the application´s functionality of “chains”, where one create a chain of effects or actions, then apply the same chain on multiple files.
Read a detailed description in this post:
.. or watch it in any of the following videos:
Audio Format Conversion Tools
Max — audio file and format conversion
Myriad will take care of the sample rate and bit depth conversion at a highest quality. iZotope RX as well, even a number of DAW:s will do this upon import (like Studio One or Pro Tools, Logic etc). But Max can convert them to instrument specific or platform specific formats. Say you are going to make an instrument that is for MacOS only, for GarageBand or Logic. You could make use of the CAF-format. This format handles AAC streams or ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Compression) both in 16, 24 and 32 bit. Using Max, you could convert 24-bit wav samples to CAF files that Logic and GarageBand would be able to load. For EXS24 formats or native instruments running in GB or Logic. Depending on your instrument size you could save a lot of space. This is the equivalent of using FLAC or any other audio format applying lossless compression. This is the only audio file converter I have ever found that handles lossless compression in .caf and .aif/.aiff files (a.k.a AIF-C).
Twisted Wave (Mac only)
This audio editing tool is a lot like Audacity, or a light version of Wavelab. It has what most audio editing apps need plus a very competent batch processor. It will convert sample rate, bit-rate, apply channel conversions, change pitch and speed, pitch correction, gain, fade-in or out, cut, normalize, apply audio plugins (vst & au) and also manipulate meta data, a less usual option.
Switch — by NHC Software
A well used audio format conversion tool for Windows, Mac, Android and Kindle. While applications like Myriad (Mac only) supports 13 high quality format conversions in a complex myriad (ba-dum-tsss :) of successions, for the mere job of converting from one format to another it may be too expensive and a tad overkill. NCHs Switch will do the job for around 30% of the price of Myriad, not that Myriad is in any way overpriced. On the contrary.
See the full list of Switch´s supported formats here:
File re-namers and file handlers
To view and handle large sets of files is always a hassle. My computer is a MacBook and the native app for files is the mac Finder application, which is fine, but it doesn´t handle file renaming. I do not know what file handlers are available on Windows, but I know that the Windows Explorer is not easy in regards to efficiency or automating anything. For PC users i´ve made this search instead.
MacOS specific system tools
(Windows / Cross-platform tools below)
Path Finder — advanced file viewing, renaming and management
This application makes browsing files, attributes and meta data a breeze. It has a modular view type of interface that makes you able to view almost any type of info and apply meta tags to large sets of files all at the same time. As an example, I recently used this to be able to tag some 1200 24-bit audio files with a “has pitch edit”, to make it possible to verify whether or not a file (that was later on renamed) has the specific edit I think I applied to it some 2 months ago. An intricate detail perhaps, but being able to apply metadata and later on search for this meta is very useful.
DaisyDisk — Finding large files and folders, fast!
Many times I find myself out of hard drive space. The initial reaction is to go into the movies folder and either delete stuff or just convert them to smaller versions. DaisyDisk makes it easy to find the largest folders and files (ISO, DMG, CDR etc) and let you drag them to a collective delete-button. Hugely time saving.
A better finder rename — rename files with speed and complexity
To rename files is a trivial pursuit, but can often in some apps be limiting, especially when handling sample sets. Sometimes they reside in different folders and a tool that looks at one folder only is tedious to use. A better finder rename is a tool for those occasions. In a jiffy you can take away the last 4 digits, whereupon you add 5 others, then remove the second occurrence of a token that exists multiple times in a file name (like “1”, a.k.a. any letter or number), all within the application and applying the same edits to files from any number of folders (key ingredient). Being able to see how many of the files of the entire list are affected for every batch edit before applying the edit makes it a breeze to use. This app does not handle meta data, for this you could use TwistedWave editor, which has options in the batch processing area. Myriad does as well.
Cross-platform tools for both Windows & MacOS
DupeGuru — does this file exist in any of these other folders?
Duplicates of files or folders can be an issue when, say, restoring a folder form a backup manually. It is more often than not best to manually handle restoration of files or folders you deleted by mistake or otherwise. For this reason duplicates will become an issue. DupeGuru can view the files, even after they have been changed by name or anything else. It can look at only file names or only at the actual file in question and analyze whether or not two files are actually the same file. They contain meta data and a specific file size that tell the app what is what. Very useful. For both PC and Mac (and Linux).
Got any tool you use to add to this list? Be sure to send me a message, either here or via a comment or via through KeyPleezer.com!
KeyPleezer is a producer of virtual studio instruments and Soundware for Samplers and DAWs on PC & Mac.
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