Sonic Foundry ACID is
a legendary PC music looping & composition application that
is perhaps more responsible for Mac to PC defections than any other
music software. If not Mac to PC defection, than certainly PC envy
from many Mac computer musicians, as Acid has never been available
for the Mac. People have tried PC Emulators and such with mixed
results, but to this day Sonic Foundry only markets software for
I first discovered Sonic
Foundry Acid about 3 years ago when I "supplemented" my
2 Macs with a PC originally intended for "business use"
(web design etc.). I must admit, getting a PC was more than a business
decision, as I had long been envious at the variety of music programs
(and others) available for the Windows platform. Among the first
music applications that I tried on the PC was Sonic Foundry Acid.
I was immediately hooked. I remember those early days where I had
this "chip on my shoulder" rationalizing Acid as a toy
and thinking that music produced with Acid would all sound the same.
After all it was too easy for even non-musicians to create good
sounding songs with Acid. I could not have been more wrong about
Acid songs all sounding the same.
Yes, it is true that
if you use only the Acid provided libraries of loops and samples,
or only buy the most "popular" add on Acid loop libraries,
you could end up creating a song that may sound similar to others,
as Acid is a very popular program. That means a lot of folks have
the same Acid loops & samples and are cranking out tunes with them.
But then again, look at the huge industry that has grown of providing
fresh new libraries of loops for Acid, both from Sonic Foundry and
Third Party Developers. It has become big business and there are
so many great Acid loops & samples out there. The sheer amount
of loops available right there diminishes the likelihood of the
"sound alike syndrome" to some extent, as it provides
a larger base of sounds for us Acid loopers out there. PLUS, when
you begin to incorporate your own "HOME ROLLED CUSTOM samples",
and loops from other non Acid sources (sampling cds and such), the
world opens up and along with it INFINITE POSSIBILITIES for unique
compositions produced with Acid. Also of note, Sonic Foundry is
very generous in giving away free loops with both the get media
feature within the program (offers monthly updated loop packs for
registered users!), and the free
samples on the loop library description pages.
Acid Pro 3.0
So, my initial concerns
about the "toy factor" and Acid songs sounding similar
shattered long ago as I began to experiment with the vast amount
of loops available, as well as adding my own. I soon realized it
is possible for a tool that makes composing EASY to be utilized
to make unique original music. So, it didn't take long and I realized
the power of Acid is not just about the loops and samples, but rather
the flexibility of the features that Acid provides a composer. It
enhances the creative possibilities and often even makes the impossible
possible. Acid is a tool that offers extreme flexibility in composing,
especially when used with loops, one shot samples and then further
complimented by other various tools like sequencers (Cubase, Logic
etc.) and audio editors (Sound Forge etc.), not to mention loop
tools like Fruity Loops.
Love You I Hate You"
songs composed with the aid of Acid and Reaktor.
Granted, there are people
out there churning out cool tunes with nothing other than Acid and
the stock loops, but the real fun comes when you use Acid as a tool
along with other music creation software. More on that later.
So what exactly is Acid
Pro 3.0??? Acid Pro 3.0 ($399.96
packaged or $349.97 downloadable from Sonic Foundry store) is
the top of the line loop based music creation tool in Sonic Foundry's
line up which also consists of Acid Music 3.0 ($59.97),
Acid DJ ($29.97),
Acid Techno ($29.97)
and Acid Xpress (the
free version available online).
Now you're likely saying
- "wow - why would I spend $399. when I can get Acid Music
for only $59.???". We thought that too, and will attempt
to explain the differences in the programs and the benefits of Acid
Pro versus Acid Music along with detailing the features similar
to all versions.
First off, the Acid line
of looping software allows you to "paint music" using
loops and samples. It's as simple as that. It's very intuitive and
simple to audition loops in your library with Acid's "browser"
and then paint them into the multi track timeline adjusting volume,
panning, pitch and more. With Acid you can easily create original
royalty free music with a simplicity that should be a model for
all music software. It allows the beginner to easily construct "original"
songs, yet allows the more advanced user to create complex musical
compositions with unlimited possibilities. Your only limitation
is the amount of loops in your library and/or the capabilities of
your other music creation software to contribute loops and samples
to use with Acid. Acid Pro can be used standalone or in conjunction
with other midi and audio applications.
The magic of Acid is
it's unique ability to automatically detect and alter the tempo
of various loops and match them to fit the tempo of your current
project. This is all done behind the scenes and allows you to use
loops of varying tempos and tunings and instantly place them in
your compositions. So long as your material is "loopable"
("Loops" are audio files that are trimmed to repeat seamlessly
over and over again.), Acid will automatically do all the work and
adjust tempo and loop seamlessly according to the area you "painted"
for each track on the timeline. Ideally loops used will be "acidized"
which means they have the original tempo and key/pitch info embedded
in the file. All Acid libraries have samples that are "acidized",
however most standard Wav files work just fine (there are exceptions).
You can also record audio tracks and add midi as well, but more
on that later.
Acid is so intuitive
and easy to use almost anyone can instantly churn out good tunes
with the provided library of samples and loops. All versions allow
for Multi Track composition with auto matching of pitch and tempo,
application of effects (Acid Pro with Direct X Plugins) and then
a final mix down to a stereo master.
Composing a song in Acid
usually begins with auditioning of loops in the BROWSER and then
adding the ones you like to the multi-track timeline. Then you "paint"
the loops across the timeline as desired and hit PLAY. Voile, your
tracks are all in time. Then you shift them around to build a song
and trim and add more until your composition is to your liking.
Acid is particularly well suited to create music beds and soundtracks
for video and commercials, as you can easily change the tempo and
song length to perfectly fit your project.
Both Acid Pro and Acid
Music 3.0 now have the Beatmapper Remixing Tool feature. Previously
only found on the Pro version, this feature allows you to add tempo
information to song-length files so you create your own remixes
and combine music loops with songs. It's simple. Just import a song,
add some beats and give it a powerful new edge. You can even change
the tempo of your song without affecting the pitch.
Acid Pro 3.0 Beatmapper & Chopper
So what are the differences
in the various versions of Acid you ask???
Here's the important
Acid Pro has a maximum
bit depth of 24 bit vs 16 bit for Acid Music. If you are working
with a 24 or 32 bit digital audio midi application like Cubase VST,
then this will be very important to you. Acid Pro also has a
maximum sample rate of 192 khz versus 48 for the other versions.
Acid Pro supports
DirectX plugins whereas Acid Music just has a few built in effects.
We wish this also included VST effects, but that is where the other
programs come in to enhance your Acid compositions, I reckon. It
is also possible to use a "vst wrapper" to gain access
to VST plugins, however we have not tested and verified this possibility
Acid Pro includes
the Chopper Editing Tool. The Chopper enables you to easily
navigate through a file, select and create sub-sections of that
file, and quickly place those subsections as new events on the ACID
timeline. It works on any type of ACID track, but is especially
useful for creating remixes with Beatmapped tracks. There are many
ways to make use of the Chopper, including adding those really cool
drum roll buildups so popular in Techno and Dance music. Plus you
can extract single hits like cymbals from your loops.
Other features unique
to Acid Pro are: Effect envelopes, MIDI record/external playback,
Generate MIDI Time Code (MIDI Sync), Generate MIDI Clock, Adjustable
stretching properties, Save each track as single file, Export loops,
Assignable effects/audio busses, Multiple sound card I/O, includes
Sound Forge® XP 5.0, includes 1,001 sound effects clips, includes
Vegas® Audio LE.
See the ACID
FAMILY COMPARISON CHART for all versions.
Of particular note is
Acid Pro's ability to EXPORT each track as a SINGLE FILE in one
easy step. This enables you to take all the files at the project
tempo and drop them in your audio editor or sequencer (at 24 or
32 bit resolution) for further polishing, adding VST effects etc.
While you can accomplish this by exporting the tracks one by one
in Acid Music, Acid Pro makes this a one step process saving you
lots of time and effort, plus the files are at 24 bits if you desire.
You are then able to use VST PLUG INS and EQ and if desired adding
automation to the mix if your application is capable.
ACID PRO 3.0
So is the extra $290.
-$340. worth it for Acid Pro versus Acid Music??? That's a tough
one. If it were 100 or 200 bucks, we'd enthusiastically say yes
- it is worth it. But $290. - $340. more than Acid Music is steep.
But then again if you are a professional and it is important
to have the highest possible quality it would be worth having the
capability to utilize 24 bit audio, as well as export all tracks
in one batch. The CHOPPER is also cool and nice to have as well.
Plus the other benefits listed above are important. Which version
is a personal decision you have to make based on your budget and
needs. We're glad we have Acid Pro and highly recommend it if you
can afford it. At the very least, your bag of tricks must include
Acid Music. At $59. Acid is an incredible value and loads of fun.
Sonic Foundry Acid Pro
3.0 In Use.
Acid Pro 3.0 is as easy
as pie to install. (Why is pie easy???). You'll be up and running
in no time and the learning curve is minimal.
We particularly like
to use Acid Pro in conjunction with Sonic Foundry Sound Forge 5.0,
which complement each other beautifully. In particular Sound Forge
has tools to make looping in Acid a fun time. Sound Forge allows
you to easily find loop points, double or halve your selections
and more. Sound Forge will also "acidize" your personal
loops and allow you chop them in finely tuned pieces with all the
cool Sound Forge effects and extensive sound shaping options. (Sound
Forge review coming soon).
We particularly enjoy
creating our own original loops with other programs and utilizing
them in Acid. This opens up a whole world of possibilities and allows
for some truly unique and original compositions in Acid. We use
programs like Reaktor, Rebirth, Tassman, Battery, Pro 52, Reason
and Waldorf PPG among others to create 24 bit loops in Cubase VST,
Fruity Loops and more. Then we often drop the exported samples in
Sound Forge and trim the loops, maximize the volume with normalisation/compression,
chemically alter and often chop up into pieces for use in Acid.
This is a lot of fun and yields some incredibly original tunes.
Then in Acid Pro we'll
build a basic composition, letting Acid do the chore of matching
tempos and then export it back in Cubase where additional instruments
are added, as well as VST effects and a final mixdown.
Acid is particularly
adept at allowing the immediate auditioning of loops that was previously
impossible. You can easily mix and match your loops in the timeline
and browser until you find something that works well together. It's
a blast just to open up Acid and browse through loops and see how
things work together. You can layer different drum loops together
to form new loops. Use the Chopper to add hits, rolls and isolate
shorter fragments. You can do everything from just working on sections
all the way to creating entire compositions.
Be sure to check out
the GET MEDIA FROM THE WEB option in Acid Pro's file menu. Each
month they feature free new loops for registered users, which is
also a great way to sample the available Acid Loop Libraries. We've
found some really cool stuff!
As much as we love Acid,
we do have a few niggles. We can't believe Sonic Foundry has resisted
adding VST effects. This is a shame and almost forces you to export
your projects and finish them in a sequencer like Cubase VST or
It'd also be great to
be able to use VST or even DXi instruments along with midi within
Acid. This is a feature that has made the newcomer Sonar so popular
(unreviewed as of yet). Perhaps with a new competitor like Sonar
taking some of Acid's strong points and integrating them into a
sequencing environment, will force Sonic Foundry to reconsider adding
these overlooked features.
Also, as much as we like
Beatmapper & Chopper, it'd be really nice to have further slice
and dice functionality ala a REX type application like Recycle built
into the program. Fruity Loops integrates this feature nicely with
their Beat Creator feature. It'd be great to be able to open a loop
within Acid and randomize and shuffle the fragments around plus
apply processing to the whole file or individual slices. No program
is more deserving of this than Acid.
Also, what about ASIO
support??? We were able to get Acid to work with our MOTU 24i, but
only using the "classic" WAVE DRIVER, which in all fairness
does seem to work fine. We haven't had latency issues but suspect
it could be a problem in some instances (perhaps with DirectX effects
Another feature we'd
like to suggest is an integrated pitch correction tool with options
to create pitch changes and chord changes on samples with the click
of a button. A good example of this is the Kepler module in Arturia
Storm. You select a new chord and it automatically changes the pitch
of the sample. Even better would be the ability to program chord
Also we'd love if Acid
had the capability to record knob movements and automation the way
Cubase and Storm does. For example changing panning, volume, punching
samples in and out, tempo changes etc.
All in all it is very
easy to say that Sonic Foundry Acid Music and Acid Pro are among
the most significant developments to date in music creation applications.
Acid is among our favorite music making programs and is an indispensable
tool in our box of toys. It is the cream of the crop and has pretty
much remained unchallenged. There have been attempts to do something
similar on the Mac with Phrazer, however we have heard mixed reviews
on that program. Until recently, Acid has been the only loop based
composition program to offer seamless transparent automatic tempo
and pitch correction on the PC, although several new players have
incorporated similar capabilities, most notably Cakewalk Sonar and
Arturia Storm. While we haven't had the opportunity to test Sonar,
we have played with Arturia Storm, and although it has some cool
features regarding auto tempo and pitch detection, it is a very
different program and hard to make a comparison. It has Acid-like
features, but in no way matches the multi-tracking capability and
loop composing capabilities of Acid.
If we only had 5 programs
to take to our desert island, Acid Pro would surely be one of them.
Beat Mode enthusiastically gives Acid Pro 3.0 a Beat Mode 9 out
of 10 rating. If you haven't yet experienced Acid, we say it is
a must for any musician or composer. At the very least try
out the FREE Acid Xpress and you will be hooked!
Pro 3.0 gets a Beat Mode rating of 9 out of 10
"INDISPENSIBLE - MUST HAVE! CREAM OF THE CROP!"
links & resources:
Acid Pro 4.0 Video Tour
Pro 3.0 Specifications at the Sonic Foundry site
- weekly packs of free Acid Loops
tips from Keyboard Mag
Review of Acid
Review of Acid Pro 3
Looping and Sequencing with Acid - review
Reports - Acid Audio File Samples
out our free
Atmospheric Samples - recorded using Reaktor!
out our review of Native Instruments