ALISTAIR McGHEE likens
Steinberg’s new software to
taking a walk in a park –
and then finding there’s a whole
world out there to explore.
Wavelab’s version 7 is an update
that just keeps on giving
When Wavelab 7 landed on OSX you might
have expected a wave of thanks giving to
break on the shores of Castle Steinberg.
Wavelab being one of the big beasts of the
edit jungle and all. Actually there was bit of whinging – you
know the sort of thing, ‘I’ve been a Mac user since 1947 and
I’m insulted by the insinuation that there’s any need or
desire for applications born on the dark side. If McWaveEdit
was good enough for my grandfather to cobble a fade on
to the back of his Now That’s What I Call Music Hall Volume
0.1, then it’s damn well good enough for me.’
I think that’s died down a bit now we’re a year or so
in and, to be fair to Steinberg, it keeps pumping up the
volume and the Lab is now at 7.2.
For Windows users Steinberg has moved to a
7-up policy. That is, it’s only guaranteed to work with 7,
although plenty of people I see are running it on XP and
presumably Vista if you like your shirts on the hairy side.
Just remember it’s designed for 7. I had both 32-bit and
64-bit versions running on my Win 7 machine and both
ran without a hitch.
Suppose you’re wondering why Wavelab? I already
have a DAW and a workflow and I don’t need another a bit
of software. I think there are some compelling reasons to
consider – if you’re already a user just bear with me.
First ‘You can’t have too many options.’ Well you can
of course, but just as a guitar player ‘needs’
17 guitars I think there’s something to be
said for having a range of tools in the
box. If you’re serious about the business
that is. Secondly, while a DAW is your first
choice of tool you may want more focus.
I’m composing this review on WriteMonkey.
It turns my PC into a typewriter. Why?
Because sometimes you need Word, and
sometimes you need to be alone with your
words. Not that Wavelab is feature light, far
from it, it’s got more knobs than a Top Gear
studio audience. It just allows you to think
in a very focused way about the audio you’re working on
The interface has had some major structural changes,
and the most striking is ‘Switcher’ – a floating palette
that allows you to instantly switch between files that
are work in progress, montages, batch processing, and
podcast creation. If you like that sort of thing (you do
get the choice) the Switcher can be layered on top of
other applications, so that nagging edit that needs to be
finished will always be just a click away. Me, I have a bad
enough conscience and I don’t want to be reminded of
unfinished business, but inside the Wavelab app Window
Switcher is brilliant.
In the new workflow – the tab is king, and it’s easy
to build a suite of tabbed tools and processes ready for
deployment. The windows themselves can be fixed or
floating, and can be workspace specific or shared across
multiple workspaces. If it sounds complicated it’s because
it’s comprehensive – you can build the workflow you want.
As ever, bigger screens are better, and two are better
The analysis tools in WaveLab continue to be class
leading – the 3D frequency analysis is a programmer’s
dream – if you like picking beats apart bar by bar you
can spend hours breaking your sounds down by time
and frequency, and rotate those graphs all night long.
And best of all, use the tools to look at what other
people are doing and borrow their great ideas.
Under the hood, WL7 now makes better use
of your cores, and for users with quad or more
machines you should see improvements of up
to four or five times the amount of CPU power
available. I have a middling i5 system, and I
was able to apply all three of the Sonnox noise
removing tools, two instances of Roomworks
reverb, the GEQ 30, the vintage compressor, the
maximiser and the dynamics tool, and a delay
without slowing the machine at all. It sounded
terrible, but that’s not the point. If you were
counting that’s all ten slots full.
Yes, if you want to use more than ten slots
you’ll need to render. I think this limitation might
annoy some, so I think Steinberg should remove
it. Ten is a biblical number, but then again, so is 40.
In normal use WL7 offers you the opportunity of
‘saving with’, so save your file and also the master
section settings without having to render.
The quality of bundled effects is a topic in its
own right. The Sonnox stuff is a cut down version
of the full price package. The sound is good – sure
we’d always like the full fat effect, but then the
full price Sonnox Restore suite is nearly twice
the street price of WL7. Wavelab 7 shares many
of the same effects with Cubase and Nuendo
– and you get 34 VST3 plug-ins plus 23 Legacy
plug-ins (PC only); and in case you haven’t noticed,
whatever people build in, there’s still a flourishing
market in plug-ins. So you get plenty of bells in
the box, but I would expect mastering engineers
to still want to use their favourite whistles/
In Montage you can build your multifile
edifice – or CD track listing, add effects in
the Master section or apply different plug
ins to each individual file via the effects tab.
If you’re looking to output to disk, version 7
has a shiny new burning engine and DVDAudio
and pro DDP support right out of
the box. To be honest I didn’t have major
problems with the previous burning engine,
but Steinberg is also promising better
hardware identification and that is worth
having. The DDP stuff will be a killer feature
if you live in that world – I don’t, but I like
to know it’s there if I need it, and it’s the
sort of thing that is expensive to add on
Time stretching and pitch shifting
has also had a makeover with the latest
technology from Dirac. There’s a range of
processing options – to be honest with a three
minute song, applying the highest quality
processing took less than fifteen seconds and
the results are very good indeed. Check out
dspdimension.com – and when you have a quiet
afternoon and a clear head, have a read of the
beginners guide to formant shifting. I never knew
there was so much in it. And if you’re the sort of
person who enjoys that, well, batch processing in
WL7 will be right up your street. I have to confess
even I was excited about meta normalising.
Where can you stuff a load of files into your
audio mincer, and they all come out at the same
loudness? Or do they..? I stuck in a load of files
including AC/DC Dog Eat Dog and Steven Isserlis’s
haunting performance of Tavener’s Protecting
Veil. And of course that’s an impossible task – the
relationship between loudness and dynamic
range being what it is. However, Dog Eat Dog to
The Pretenders 2000 Miles worked much better.
And given the extensive file support of WL7 –
I chucked wav, ogg, flac, and mp2 files at it – it’s
a handy feature.
And of course no
hip software today can
be released without a
nod to the cloud. If you
have a SoundCloud
account you can upload
your masterpiece to the
cloud directly from a File
If you own version 6
you’ll be familiar with
the Podcast workplace,
here you can choose
the files you want
to publish and play
with the extensive
meta-data options. There’s an iTunes editor
page, which allows you to comprehensively
describe and categorise your podcast audio.
It’s comprehensive and easy to use.
A Walk In The Park
For me WaveLab 7 is a bit like rambling through
the countryside or a country park on a grand
scale. There’s acres and acres of it, and you can
wander happily round for hours discovering
new features and vistas (remember, Vista is not
officially supported). Some people don’t like
that; they want bonsai software or maybe a more
formalised flowerbed approach. I understand that,
and I see its appeal, but a walk in the park is still
a walk in the park.
There’s no doubt that such a wealth of features
means a steep learning curve, and the very
flexibility of the interface means you do need to
put the hours in to hone your set-up and get just
the workflow you want. Having said that, there’s
always something you can add – how about plugin
automation and a comprehensive crossfade
editor? I don’t think Wavelab 7 is a casual piece
of software – this is kit for doing real work, and it
feels like a professional solution.
ALISTAIR McGHEE began audio
life in Hi-Fi before joining the BBC
as an audio engineer. After ten
years in radio and TV, he moved
to production. When BBC Choice
started, he pioneered personal
digital production in television.
Most recently, Alistair was
Assistant Editor, BBC Radio Wales
and has been helping the UN with
broadcast operations in Juba.