The loudness war is over – or so they say. Dynamic range is back in town and sophisticated measures of loudness are the order of the day, no more Mr Loud Guy. Steinberg’s gift? Wavelab 8 – with shiny new loudness metering, speaker management, and a bucket of plug-ins. How time flies – it really is well over two years since version 7 brought the ’Lab to OSX...
There are several subjects guaranteed to wind up your average couple on the sofa and one is certainly the loudness of adverts compared to normal programme material. So annoying is it that in 2010 the EBU published the R128 Loudness Recommendation with a view to restoring calm to couches everywhere. Wavelab 8 implements the EBU recommendations and enables an exacting and comprehensive approach to loudness control. Within the standard Wavelab edit workspace you have several display options with the dockable meter probably the best starting point. The meter displays eight different aspects of loudness from momentary loudness (aggregated over 400 milliseconds) through short-term loudness (3-second chunks) to integrated or overall loudness of the programme material so far. You also get a display of your ‘target loudness’ and the dynamic range of each of the three loudness measures. And with the ability to view loudness on a file-by-file basis in non-real-time, checking the compliance to these standards is a straightforward business. With loudness normalising available in both the edit workspace and the batch processor this is a real boon to radio stations with audio material from multiple sources all at different levels. Load them en masse into the batch processor, define your loudness standard, then hit start and boil the kettle.
Another new feature of version 8 is the ability to define up to eight different monitoring setups that are available only a mouse click away in the master section. Each preset can be stored including its own setting for the volume control. For multi-monitor setups in mastering rooms this is a real boon, making it easy to feed different speaker arrangements for painless comparisons of your master. Each set up has eight defineable outputs, making it capable of anything from mono to 7.1 surround.
For me it’s great to set up a channel swap setting and it’s also easy to use this feature as a custom ‘dim’ key, but actually an on-screen ‘dim’ key would be great too. If I can be allowed a little user interface niggle, I like a double click to set a pot to ‘zero’. I’m not against Ctrl-clicking, I just prefer a double click.
Superclips and Submontages
One of the major new features in version 8 is the ability to nest montages and ‘freeze’ clips with their effects into cached files so saving CPU horsepower. In any montage you can select a bunch of clips and designate them a ‘Superclip’. This Superclip is rendered and can be inserted in any montage (excluding itself of course). However if you later decide to change the effects applied to your Superclip or re-edit it in any way then you can simply call up the sub-montage, make your changes and then save them. Saving the montage renders the superclip and automatically refreshes the Superclip in any montage in which it is being used. Neat eh?
Superclips can be internal to your project in which case they are described as I sub-montages or they can be external or X sub-montages. These X-rated superclips can then be shared with other projects. You can nest sub-montages to any level to build up your finished product. If you are absolutely confident of your superclip then it can be frozen and rendered once and for all to produce a standard audio clip. The freezing process means the clip cannot then be edited as a montage. The Montage workspace supports montages from stereo up to 5.1 surround. You choose the channel format when creating the montage, and when working in a surround format the audio clips can be routed to the surround outputs using the surround panner.
The issue of surround is a slightly thorny one. In the Montage workspace you can work with as many tracks as you like and if you create a surround montage you can route the tracks to your various channels. However what you haven’t got is direct support for surround tracks and this is something you currently just have to work round. You can open a 5.1 surround file into a 5.1 surround Montage but the audio tracks are not synced together as they would be if you loaded a stereo clip into a stereo track.
Every incarnation of every DAW and editor needs to field some plug-ins to be taken seriously. The tricky bit is striking the balance between quantity and quality. In version 8 the new additions to Wavelab weigh in on the quality side of the scales. Advanced dithering and bit reduction is provided by Izotope’s MBIT+, a chunk of the Izotope Ozone 5 package. Izotope’s products come with a substantial reputation and the inclusion of its dithering algorithms is a nice bonus. Also bought in for version 8 is Voxengo’s CurveEq – a smooth-sounding EQ with a tidy feature set. The Curve’s party trick is the ability to copy and paste EQ curves from one piece of audio to another. To get the spectrum matching trick off pat you will need to be willing to spend some thinking time in the interface as there are quite a few options in there. However you can just click and add points to a curve or even just draw one freestyle if a more direct approach appeals
CurveEQ made an appearance in Cubase 7 as did the Tube Compressor and Brick Wall Limiter, which also make the short trip over to Wavelab. As you might expect the Tube Compressor is warm and comforting while the Brick Wall takes no prisoners. Both of these are welcome additions to the Wavelab audio armoury but with your newfound loudness metering you’ll want to be using these bad boys sparingly.
And The Rest
Steinberg claims over 150 improvements compared with version 7, and some of the handiest are in the edit functionality. The gain of a selected section can be raised with one click, volume handles offering easy editing of subsequent gain changes. Trim to selection makes it a snap to discard unwanted audio outside the selected audio area while you can also apply a sequence of plug-ins to the selected area with just one mouse click well after having defined your plug-in chain in the first place.
Version 8 also offers a comprehensive metadata-editing environment, including a template approach where you can set up a metadata preset for your recordings. With support for a raft of formats including CART and BWAV, Wavelab 8 offers a professional-grade metadata solution.
Having spent much of my life in multitrack DAW world I’ve always admired Wavelab, without being a signed-up member of the fan club. Despite a very productive time working on material from Tony Christie, Paul Carrack and Alabama3 in Wavelab in my younger days, I tended to hang out more in SADiE, Sequoia and Pyramix world. But things change; back then I was a big user of Word; now I’m a WriteMonkey monkey – simple yet powerful distraction-free text editing – it’s all about the content. And that, I think, is the attraction of Wavelab, yes it has a blizzard of options and powerful tools, but increasingly it’s the focus it brings to the content that I find more and more compelling. Wavelab 8 is all about the sound, and that is just fine by me.