As a long time Acid user (since ver. 2) I was very interested to see what the software had in terms of updates and improvements. Acid's time stretching and looping tools have always been flawless and in version 6 Sony added multi-tracking capabilities, thus making Acid Pro 6 a recording workstation.
According to Sony, version Acid Pro 7 offers improvement of the midi and tracking sections of the software as well as some welcome additions in terms of plugins such as Garritan Aria, Acid Pro Effects Rack by iZotope, Native Instruments Guitar Combos and Submersible Music KitCore. Sony have added an audio and midi mixing console, input busses, real time rendering and midi track freeze, features that a lot of users were hoping to see in version 6. There are also a few features under the hood that enhance the user experience as well and we'll get into these details later.
Acid Pro 7 requires the user to register online and to obtain a key code via a challenge and response system. Fairly straightforward and after registering I got my codes and was good to go in under 5 minutes. The software plugins take a bit longer to load, especially the Garritan Aria for Acid since it has quite a few sample files. Overall the installation was pretty forward and streamlined, no surprises there and I was good to go in almost no time.
Sony has kept the standard features of the older versions, so right away it feels familiar. The standard Acid layout is still there, the looping portions are also still there with Beatmapper and the Chopper. They come with some new enhanced capabilities such as elastique time stretching and pitch shifting, which adds some extra level of detail and quality to tracks that require that treatment. The Beatmapper also has some new enhanced features which allow users to edit clip properties and Beatmap songs with varying tempos and time signatures.
Acid has also introduced a new feature called Tempo Curves which allows users to set the type of transition between two tempo changes, for example slow buildup to the new tempo. These features are controlled by fade types. As earlier Acid Pro users were complaining of the lack of metronome, Sony has added a robust metronome feature in version 7, with multiple configurations and countoff settings.
On the audio side Sony have added the much needed signal level meters missing from previous versions, track/clip/event switches including Normalize, Invert Phase, Mute and Lock. A much needed Mixer window has been added with customizable views.
There has also been some improvement to the Plug-In management window, allowing for customizable categories, also displaying by brand and a few other views, thus making it easier to navigate.
Acid Pro 7 has added support for additional file formats such as FLAC, AAC, AC-3 Studio and MPEG-2.
Acid 7 is Windows Vista certified so it is guaranteed to work on Vista.
The package comes with vast assortment of loop content, MIDI samples with over 3,000 ACIDized music loops, over 1000 MIDI files, 90 DLS instruments and 25 DLS-based projects. The bundled software includes the Garritan Aria player sample library which alone retails for about $250, an iZotope Effects Rack with plugins such as flanger, phaser, analog delay and dynamics, Native Instruments guitar emulation software valued at about $100, and Submersible Music KitCore drums for beat creation.
To test Acid I loaded a few raw .wav tracks of unmixed material, lined it up in the software and gave it a spin. The mixing process was already familiar since I've worked in Acid before. Version 7 of the software comes with a dedicated mixer, which in previous versions the user had to create from scratch and it took some time. Acid felt natural to use for mixing and in no time I had good working mixes of the material. Compared to some other DAWs I felt that Acid was more immediate and its layout was no-nonsense crisp and utilitarian, no cheesy color gimmicks like some of its competition, everything on one screen in front of the user all the time. Everything that I needed was there at a touch of a button. Tracking was also a breeze as now the software has tracking meters and several options when it comes to monitoring with effects and without effects. In some cases I used Amplitube 2 VST guitar plugin which ran without a glitch in real time, thus allowing me to record a clean DI guitar track and reamp later if needed. The built-in plugins performed well with little CPU overhead and the new additions to the bundle by iZotope and Garritan also added some needed depth to the package. I felt that Acid could use a better reverb plugin but that was easily supplemented in my case with 3rd party reverb plugins and my outboard effect which integrated nicely with the real-time rendering function. Real-time rendering can mix external sound modules in real time with your DAW's tracks and add that input into your finished mixdown files. So far I can't think of any other DAW that has this feature, so big kudos to Sony!
I enjoyed using the Tempo Curves feature and it did create a far more pleasant transitions and buildups than me having to program them in real time or in small chunks of tempo changes like I did in the past. In this case the tempo changes became smoother and more refined, and let's not forget - less time consuming!
When I had questions regarding some of the new capabilities of the DAW, Sony's tech support forum turned to be an invaluable asset. All my queries were solved rather quickly by tech. support and unlike some other software forums that are abandoned to the mercy of the user, Sony's techs were there helping users with a very impressive response time.
There were some minor things that seemed to be missing in comparison to other DAW software. For example the midi support could be better. I could get my job done with MIDI in Acid, but compared to the ease and effortlessness of Cubase and Digital Performer's midi editing it felt very backward. It has definitely improved from previous versions but still it is not very pleasant to work with. Compared to other DAW's there isn't a dedicated file editor so if you want to draw and alter the track audio files directly like in Sonar and Cubase - it can't be done in Acid but it isn't hard to open the file in a 3rd party audio editor or Sony's Sound Forge, which for some users could also be a blessing in disguise as you can use your audio editor of choice. A little quirk that I found annoying was the fact that I couldn't get the tracks to scroll with cursor when playing and recording as I was forced to keep the screen smaller sometimes than what I would've liked.
Sony have managed to improve on the file saving algorithm. Whereas old versions of Acid will mass dump files in one directory. In version 7 the user has the option to do per-project file folders as an option, thus saving files to a predetermined folder, making things much easier when you need to back up and move projects around, and having no need to bundle sessions like in older versions of the software.
I am particularly impressed by the wide media support in Acid. I didn't have a problem getting any possible file format imported or exported. A nice touch is the bundled mp3 encoder, something that one has to pay in order to get in other DAWs. I didn't need to render files for surround projects at this time but it is good to know that this capability is also available at no extra cost to the user.
I am very impressed by ACID Pro 7.0. For the price ($149 Upgrade, $314.95 Direct Box) I believe that Acid Pro 7 is a must have upgrade that makes it a worthy competitor in the DAW market. Its simplicity and ease of use, and at the same time overall robustness are a reminder that a no frills design can increase productivity as I found myself happily zipping along and having everything on the same screen only a click away.