MultitrackStudio 4

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Just released today, MultitrackStudio version 4! Lets take a fly-over view of this new version.

MultitrackStudio, one of my personal favorite tracking applications in the $100 price neighborhood ($69 for "Professional", $119 for "Pro Plus") for the Windows platform, has released version 4.

Don't let the relatively low price of the application fool you, MTS is a very powerful program, and is fully capable of producing professional sounding recordings. It has a 32-bit audio processing engine, supports MME, DirectSound and ASIO sound cards, with the Pro Plus version supporting simultaneous, multichannel recording. The Professional version supports 44.1 and 48 kHz sample rate recording, while Pro Plus supports that and much higher sample rates up to 192 kHz. MTS allows unlimited track number and unlimited undo history.

As it has since I first looked at MTS, it comes bundled with a nice collection of proprietary effects (I still wish they would make DirectX or VST plugins out of them) and the new version retains the old-school hardware look and feel to its interface. A huge list of improvements and new features have been added to version 4, below is an overview of the big ones, but definitely not an all-inclusive list:

  • mp3 acm codec encoding compatibility has been improved
  • All rotary knobs now go to center automatically if clicked while holding shift key (I found this handy in a few instances while playing with panning)
  • Normalize function for track editors (long overdue)
  • Added a guitar modeling effect that emulates three different vintage amps (Pro Plus only)
  • Mix down to master 'offline' rather than in real-time.
  • Playback the mixed down file easily.
  • Most selector windows, like VST plugin selector, now have a 'search' box (super cool idea)
  • A new folder is created for each new song automatically based on configuration rules set up by user
  • Closing a new song without saving it optionally invokes the Find Unused Files tool, so you can delete your experiments (happiness is a clean hard drive)
  • Pro Plus version features full automation
  • You can bounce MIDI tracks to audio for CPU power savings
  • Level meters are now in stereo for each track if the signal is detected as a stereo signal
  • Guitar tuner
  • Mouse wheel can control knob and faders
  • You can stick labels to the mixer section, which comes in quite handy now and then
  • Drag n' drop data between track editors
  • Audio tracks show stereo channels separately, though they can not be edited separately
  • Balloon hints, great for a new user, if an experienced user gets annoyed they can be turned off in the preferences
  • Tempo editor can import tempo from audio and MIDI tracks

There are, of course numerous other features, fixes and toys that go along with version 4.

The Interface

MultitrackStudio hasn't had a major interface facelift that I remember since I have first tried it, which was back in the version 2.x days. Certain aspects of the interface have been updated to give a more 3d type appearance, but no major changes, this being good and bad. I like the old school interface, it's familiar, it's easy to understand the basics and get up and running. That said, I really like a straight, standard "mixer view". MultitrackStudio uses it's single interface as track view and mixer view, and I have to say, of all the applications that take the route of one single view, MTS does it best. With its collapsible tracks to hide the wave or MIDI edit window, it collapses into a strictly mixer view, the main difference being that it's horizontal instead of vertical like the standard mixer. It's a compromise, and maybe it's just me being stuck in my ways but I like mixers to be vertical.

Editing audio is very easy and logical, just click the "edit" button to drop down the wave/MIDI window below the track to be edited and select, cut, copy, paste, repeat, fade in, fade out or normalize...easy as that.

MIDI data is the same, even step time editing, just click the "edit" button, it'll drop down the edit window, the difference is with MIDI the dropdown window shows the standard piano roll MIDI view rather than wave data, and with the simple click of the mouse you place notes, remove notes, edit velocity and duration of the notes and all that good stuff. I am actually very impressed with the simplicity of the MIDI features in MTS yet it retains the powerful capabilities of MIDI sequencing.

The big changes in MIDI for this release, is, of course, the ability to bounce MIDI softsynth tracks to audio to "freeze" the track and thereby taking additional load off of the CPU. Track freezing is becoming quite common in higher end applications, it's very cool to see it in a more affordable application like MultitrackStudio. Also, the addition of freehand drawing to the MIDI editing window for more power step time sequencing, which non-synth players like me really like.

Processing and Sound Quality

MultitrackStudio supports both DirectX and VST plugins and softsynths, and also comes packaged along with its own set of proprietary plugin effects including all the common effects such as reverb, compression, delay and others. The bundled effects, to me, have always been one of the coolest features of the app, I love the compressor, always have, and have always encouraged MTS to make them a standard DirectX or VST package and sell them separately, but that will never happen, which is a drag.

The sound quality of MTS is good, it support standard MME and DirectSound drivers, but I don't personally recommend ever using them as MTS also supports ASIO, which is a much lower latency, higher performance driver type and is far more recommended for recording use. I would like to see MTS support WDM driver types as well, but thus far have not seen it. Some devices, if they have well written WDM drivers, can out-perform ASIO. It's not common from my experience, but it does happen. Based on the competitive nature of the standards, it seems supporting both would be beneficial.

Comments

Anyone who is a regular at HRC knows that I stack up MTS along with the best audio applications in its price range, even more expensive ones in some cases. With the version 4 upgrade of the application it's only gained more of my confidence as a recommendation.

The application's interface has stayed essentially the same, which is great for current users as they will get to work right away. The biggest changes in version for are details and tweaks to current functions making many easier to use, and options easier to find. Workflow and usability are much improved and work can get done quicker.

All in all, very worthy upgrade to an already worthy application.

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